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Military Law Review

ARTICLE: What Remedy for Abused Iraqi Detainees?

Spring, 2006

187 Mil. L. Rev. 43


Major Julie Long *


43 I. Introduction

Both United States and international law prohibit murder, torture, and any degrading or inhumane treatment of any person detained by U.S. personnel. 3 It appears that U.S. servicemembers and other persons accompanying the force in Iraq may have violated these prohibitions in their treatment of some detainees in Iraq; 4 indeed, several U.S. service members have been convicted of crimes relating to the abuse of Iraqi detainees. 5 The appropriate remedy for breaches of these prohibitions by United States persons, whether service members or contractor personnel accompanying the force, is more problematic than simply recognizing that a breach occurred. Criminal prosecution is available under various U.S. federal statutes, including the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). 6 Although prosecution is important, it is unlikely to provide any compensation to the abused person and, as noted below, may be insufficient to meet international law obligations.

In a purely domestic context, civil suits for damages provide a remedy that fills the holes left by criminal prosecution. Civil suits compensate the injured, re-apportion the burden of the injury, and, perhaps most significantly in this article's context, help the alleged wrongdoer repair reputation and relational damage. 7 United States law provides various civil remedies to compensate those who have been injured by U.S. service members or contractors. 8 In fact, several persons alleging abuse at the hands of U.S. service members or contractors while detained in Iraq have filed administrative claims against the United States. 9
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