SAN FRANCISCO, Oct 27: The American Civil Liberties Union has said that 44 autopsies and death reports of detainees held in US facilities in Afghanistan and Iraq indicate that many of them died while being interrogated.

The autopsies and death report documents were released by the Department of Defence in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the ACLU, the Centre for Constitutional Rights and Physicians for Human Rights.

The documents show that detainees were hooded, gagged, strangled, beaten with blunt objects, subjected to sleep deprivation and to hot and cold environmental conditions. There is no question that US interrogations have resulted in deaths, said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU.

The documents also show that detainees died during or after interrogation by Navy Seals, Military Intelligence and ‘OGA (Other Governmental Agency) — a term, according to the ACLU, that is commonly used to refer to the CIA.

According to the documents, 21 of the 44 deaths were homicides. Eight of the homicides appear to have resulted from abusive techniques used on detainees, in some instances, by the CIA, Navy Seals and Military Intelligence personnel.

The autopsy reports list deaths by ‘strangulation, ‘asphyxiation and ‘blunt force injuries

An overwhelming majority of the so-called ‘natural deaths were attributed to ‘arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease.

While newspapers have recently reported deaths of detainees in CIA custody, the documents show that the problem is pervasive, involving Navy Seals and Military Intelligence too.

The ACLU pinpointed six specific cases of detainees who died during interrogation.

A 27-year-old Iraqi man died while being interrogated by Navy Seals on April 5, 2004, in Mosul, Iraq. During his confinement he was hooded, flex-cuffed, sleep deprived and subjected to hot and cold environmental conditions, including the use of cold water on his body and hood. The exact cause of death was ‘undetermined, although the autopsy stated that hypothermia may have contributed to his death.

Another detainee died on Jan 9, 2004, in Al Asad, Iraq, while being interrogated by ‘OGA. He was standing, shackled to the top of a door frame with a gag in his mouth at the time he died. The cause of death was asphyxia and blunt force injuries.

A detainee was smothered to death during an interrogation by Military Intelligence on Nov 26, 2003, in Al Qaim, Iraq.

A detainee at Abu Ghraib prison, captured by Navy Seal Team number seven, died on Nov 4, 2003, during an interrogation by Navy Seals and ‘OGA.

An Afghan civilian died from ‘multiple blunt force injuries to head, torso and extremities on Nov 6, 2003, at a Forward Operating Base in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

A 52-year-old Iraqi man was strangled to death at the Whitehorse detention centre on June 6, 2003, in Nasiriyah. His autopsy also revealed bone and rib fractures, and multiple bruises on his body.

The ACLU has previously released autopsy reports for two detainees who were tortured by US forces in Bagram, Afghanistan, believed to be Mullah Habibullah and an Afghan man known as Dilawar.

These documents present irrefutable evidence that US operatives tortured detainees to death during interrogations, said Amrit Singh, an attorney with the ACLU.

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