Pentagon won’t reopen inquiry into Reuters’ abuse allegations

New York, March 22, 2005—The Pentagon will not reopen a military investigation that cleared U.S. troops of allegations that they abused three Reuters employees in Fallujah in January 2004, the news agency said today.

Lawrence Di Rita, special assistant to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, said in a letter to Reuters dated March 7 that the initial investigation was adequate.

Reuters said military investigators never interviewed the three employees—cameraman Salem Ureibi, journalist Ahmad Mohammad Hussein al-Badrani, and driver Sattar Jabar al-Badrani. Following reports of abuse at Abu Ghraib prison, the Pentagon told Reuters it would review the Fallujah case to determine whether it should be reopened.

The three Reuters employees, along with Ali Mohammed Hussein al-Badrani, a cameraman working for NBC, were covering the aftermath of the downing of a U.S. helicopter when they were detained by U.S. troops on Jan. 2, 2004. The four were taken to a U.S. base near Fallujah and released three days later without charge.

The Reuters employees allege that while detained, they were beaten and deprived of sleep. They said they were forced to make demeaning gestures as soldiers laughed, taunted them, and took photographs, Reuters has reported. Two alleged they were forced to put shoes in their mouths, and to insert a finger into their anus and then lick it.

“No investigation can be considered complete or credible when the accusers are not interviewed,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “The U.S. government has an obligation to carry out a fair and thorough investigation into allegations of such severity.”