January 8, 2006
In December, 2002, Mullah Habibullah and a man named Dilawar died
while being held for interrogation at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan.
Their deaths were ruled homicides, caused by blunt force trauma. In
other words, they were beaten to death.
An investigation ensued but the military would not release the details.
Subsequently it was revealed that both died while shackled to the
ceiling of their cells, after repeatedly being kneed in the legs. (More
details of their beatings and deaths are below.)
Capt. Christopher M. Beiring,
then the leader of the military police company guarding the prisoners,
was charged with lying to investigators and being derelict in his
duties. He was the only officer charged in the deaths.
Friday, the military announced that charges against Beiring have been dropped.
"The collapse of the case is the latest and most
embarrassing of several setbacks for the team of Army prosecutors that
has been working for more than a year on the deaths, which occurred at
the military detention center in Bagram, 40 miles north of Kabul."
"Captain Beiring is the third member of the 377th Military Police
Company, based in Cincinnati and Bloomington, Ind., to have had charges
dismissed before trial. Four enlisted soldiers in the unit have been
acquitted, two others pleaded guilty to assault and one was convicted
of assault, maiming and other charges."
How did Dilawar, the 22 year-old father of two, die? The New York Times reported, having reviewed the FOIA documents obtained by the ACLU:
The prisoner, a slight, 22-year-old taxi driver known only
as Dilawar, was hauled from his cell at the detention center in Bagram,
Afghanistan, at around 2 a.m. to answer questions about a rocket attack
on an American base. When he arrived in the interrogation room, an
interpreter who was present said, his legs were bouncing uncontrollably
in the plastic chair and his hands were numb. He had been chained by
the wrists to the top of his cell for much of the previous four days.
Mr. Dilawar asked for a drink of water, and one of the two
interrogators, Specialist Joshua R. Claus, 21, picked up a large
plastic bottle. But first he punched a hole in the bottom, the
interpreter said, so as the prisoner fumbled weakly with the cap, the
water poured out over his orange prison scrubs. The soldier then
grabbed the bottle back and began squirting the water forcefully into
Mr. Dilawar's face. "Come on, drink!" the interpreter said Specialist
Claus had shouted, as the prisoner gagged on the spray. "Drink!"
At the interrogators' behest, a guard tried to force the young man
to his knees. But his legs, which had been pummeled by guards for
several days, could no longer bend. An interrogator told Mr. Dilawar
that he could see a doctor after they finished with him. When he was
finally sent back to his cell, though, the guards were instructed only
to chain the prisoner back to the ceiling.
"Leave him up," one of the guards quoted Specialist Claus as saying.
Several hours passed before an emergency room doctor finally saw Mr.
Dilawar. By then he was dead, his body beginning to stiffen.
It would be many months before Army investigators learned a final
horrific detail: Most of the interrogators had believed Mr. Dilawar was
an innocent man who simply drove his taxi past the American base at the
28 U.S. soldiers faced charges over the deaths,
but only three have been held accountable. One is James P. Boland,
charged with assault and dereliction in the deaths. Another, Pfc.
Willie V. Brand, was charged with striking Dilawar 37 times and maiming
him. He was convicted, after which his rank was reduced to private. (This NYT article reports that even if Dilawar had lived, both his legs would have had to have been amputated.)
As to Captain Beiring, the same New York Times article reported:
An Army report dated June 1, 2004, about Mr. Habibullah's
death identifies Capt. Christopher Beiring of the 377th Military Police
Company as having been "culpably inefficient in the performance of his
duties, which allowed a number of his soldiers to mistreat detainees,
ultimately leading to Habibullah's death, thus constituting negligent
At Captain Beiring's Article 32 hearing in December, this was some of the testimony:
Maj. Jeff Bovarnick said that after a detainee known as
Habibullah died in December 2002 he ordered Beiring to make sure his
MPs stopped chaining detainees with their hands above their heads, a
common practice that he said was not illegal. He did not think his
order was followed, Bovarnick said.
"I had 0.0 percent confidence that Captain Beiring had done anything or
told anyone about this, so I went over his head," Bovarnick said,
referring to a conversation he had with a higher-ranking commander
after a second detainee, a man known as Dilawar, died at the Bagram
Why were charges dropped against Captain Beiring? The Washington Times has this quote from the Article 32 hearing findings of Lt. Col. Thomas S. Berg, who made the recommendation:
I see no evidence ... that Capt. Beiring failed to perform his duty to the best of his ability. As a newly classified MP, newly
assigned to command MP guard company that was going off to war to do an
ill-defined mission for which it was not designed for or even
notionally trained, in a crud-hold like the [Bagram Collection Point]
in 2002 with [military intelligence] calling the shots, Capt. Beiring
was sorely challenged at every step."
Bagram was a torture facility. The New York Times had more horrific details here.
Still, President Bush tells us, the U.S. does not torture. And thanks to Sen. Lindsay Graham and Carl Levin
who effectively gutted the McCain torture amendment, detainees can no
longer bring cases involving conditions of confinement, including
torture, to federal court.
This is beyond shameful. Dilawar and Habibullah and who knows how
many others deserved better. So do Americans, in whose name these
disgraceful acts have been committed.