Two Decades On No Justice for Iraqis Tortured by U.S. Forces

In the early 2000s, a dark cloud shadowed the global image of the United States as images from Abu Ghraib prison flooded the media, revealing the horrifying torture of Iraqis by U.S. forces. Fast forward two decades and the victims are still gasping for the air of justice, their pleas and anguish reverberating in the emptiness of accountability.

In a stark report released by Human Rights Watch (HRW), the survivors of these heinous acts paint a somber picture of their continued struggle for redress and compensation from the U.S. government. Taleb al-Majli, a victim who endured 16 months of torture only to be released without charges, recalls his brutal ordeal, his voice echoing the collective trauma of many. He was part of the iconic, horrific photo of naked, hooded Iraqi prisoners, piled by U.S. forces into a human pyramid. His life, he says, changed irreparably, leading to self-harm and the destruction of his family’s future.

Despite the egregious abuses suffered by al-Majli and countless others, their pursuit of justice remains unfulfilled. The Pentagon’s glaring silence in response to HRW’s inquiries into their plans for compensating the tortured Iraqis is a chilling reminder of the bleak path faced by these victims in seeking accountability.

In a striking irony, two decades ago, then-U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, amid the exposure of the Abu Ghraib atrocities, pledged to find a way to provide “appropriate compensation” to the detainees who suffered brutal abuse. However, this commitment has crumbled in the face of reality, as HRW reveals a glaring absence of evidence pointing towards any compensation, apology, or redress made by the U.S. government to the victims of detainee abuse in Iraq.

Despite attempts to apply for compensation under the U.S. Foreign Claims Act (FCA), the tortured Iraqis’ hope for redress dwindles. The claims drowned in legal barriers and a stark lack of transparency, further highlight the tortuous path of justice faced by these victims.

In the wake of these revelations, the poignant words of Sarah Yager, HRW’s Washington director, resonate powerfully: “U.S. officials have indicated that they prefer to leave torture in the past, but the long-term effects of torture are still a daily reality for many Iraqis and their families.”

The struggle for justice, recognition, and compensation rages on, amidst the overwhelming silence and dismissal from the corridors of U.S. power. The fight transcends beyond the individuals, standing as a collective call for accountability, transparency, and an unwavering commitment to human rights and dignity. In an era marked by a global reckoning for justice and equality, the tortured Iraqis’ unyielding quest for redress remains a stark testament to the resilience of the human spirit, echoing across the sands of time, demanding justice, accountability, and the acknowledgment of their irrevocable pain and suffering.

As the world watches, the echoes of the past intertwine with the burgeoning cries for justice, accountability, and redress in the present, uniting in a resonant call for the United States to confront the shadows of its actions, and ensure the tortured Iraqis’ pleas for justice do not dissolve into the annals of forgotten atrocities. The beacon of hope, justice, and accountability burns resiliently, illuminating the path forward in the global pursuit of human rights, dignity, and the unwavering commitment to the sanctity of every human life.