Washington- The Pentagon has released 198 photographs linked to allegations of abuse of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan, many of them showing close-ups of cuts and bruises to arms and legs of prisoners held in US facilities.
The Pentagon was forced to release the photographs on Friday, in the culmination of a major court battle that has lasted for 12 years.
They are part of a cache linked to investigations of detainee’s abuse at 24 US military sites in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Pentagon said the photos came from criminal investigations into 56 allegations of misconduct by US personnel. It said 14 of those allegations were substantiated and even led to life imprisonment.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit more than a decade ago for the photos, said the images were part of a larger collection of 2,000 mostly unreleased photographs tied to American detainees.
“The still-secret pictures are the best evidence of the serious abuses that took place in military detention centers,” said ACLU Deputy Legal Director in a statement.
“The government’s selective disclosure risks misleading the public about the true extent of the abuse,” he added.
ACLU said it would continue to fight for publication of the remaining 1,800.
President Obama had initially supported the release of the photos, but famously backtracked on this in 2009 – claiming that the images would ‘further inflame anti-American opinion’ if made public.
The release follows a November decision by US Defense Secretary Ash Carter to not recertify the images under the Protected National Security Documents Act, thus allowing them to be made public subject to request.
The photos are part of a cache relevant to investigations of detainees abuse at two dozen US military sites around Iraq and Afghanistan, and perhaps Guantánamo Bay. Many showed detainees undressed having their bodies inspected, with rulers and coins held up for comparison and placement of injuries.
The photos released were unlikely to have the same impact as the images depicting abuse of Abu Ghraib detainees that emerged in 2004. Some detainees there claimed they endured physical and sexual abuse, infliction of electric shocks, and mock executions.