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Abuse of detainees uncovered

August 1, 2003 | Page 2

EVEN THE Justice Department admits that its treatment of September 11 detainees amounted to little more than thuggery. According to a report released by the department's inspector general in July, in the first six months of this year, there were 34 credible complaints of abuse about the treatment of detainees under the USA PATRIOT Act--including multiple complaints that Muslim and Arab prisoners were beaten.

In one instance, a federal prison doctor told an inmate during a physical exam, "If I was in charge, I would execute every one of you" because of "the crimes you all did." In another case, about 20 inmates complained about abuse by an officer at a detention center--who allegedly told one Muslim inmate to remove his shirt so the officer could use it to shine his shoes.

This latest report comes on the heels of another, released a month earlier, which found that hundreds of illegal immigrants were subjected to abuse and mistreatment when they were caught up in the system following the September 11 attacks. All told, from December 16 to June 15, the inspector general's office received more than 1,000 complaints of abuse related to detentions under USA PATRIOT.

But most were dismissed as "impossible to prove"--and hundreds more victims are likely too afraid to even file a complaint.

"Once again, the Department of Justice is being called on the carpet by its very own inspector general," said Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. "The recent findings coupled with the earlier inspector general report show that there was a pattern of violating rights, and that policies set at the highest level were responsible for such violations."

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