During the War in Iraq, human rights violations, committed from late 2003 to early 2004, in the form of physical, psychological, and sexual abuse, including torture, reports of rape, sodomy, and homicide of prisoners held in the Abu Ghraib prison (currently known as the Baghdad Central Prison) came to public attention beginning in early 2004 with Department of Defense announcements. These acts were committed by military police personnel of the United States Army together with those of additional US governmental agencies.
As revealed in the Taguba Report (2004), an initial criminal investigation by the United States Army Criminal Investigation Command had already been underway, in which soldiers of the 320th Military Police Battalion had been charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice with prisoner abuse. In April 2004, articles describing the abuse, including pictures showing military personnel appearing to abuse prisoners, came to wide public attention when a 60 Minutes II news report (April 28) and an article by Seymour M. Hersh in The New Yorker magazine (posted online on April 30 and published days later in the May 10 issue) reported the story.
The United States Department of Defense removed seventeen soldiers and officers from duty, and eleven soldiers were charged with dereliction of duty, maltreatment, aggravated assault and battery. Between May 2004 and March 2006, eleven soldiers were convicted in courts-martial, sentenced to military prison, and dishonorably discharged from service. Two soldiers, Specialist Charles Graner, and his former fiancée, Specialist Lynndie England, were sentenced to ten years and three years in prison, respectively, in trials ending on January 14, 2005 and September 26, 2005. The commanding officer of all Iraq detention facilities, Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, was reprimanded for dereliction of duty and demoted to the rank of Colonel on May 5, 2005. Col. Karpinski has denied knowledge of the abuses, claiming that the interrogations were authorized by her superiors and performed by subcontractors, and that she was not allowed entry into the interrogation rooms.
The public later learned of what have been called the Torture Memos, prepared in August 2002 and March 14, 2003 (shortly before the Iraq invasion) by the Office of Legal Counsel, United States Department of Justice, which authorized certain enhanced interrogation techniques (generally held to be torture) of foreign detainees who were enemy combatants. The March 2003 memo, written by John Yoo, the deputy in the OLC, said that federal laws on use of torture did not apply to American interrogators overseas. Several United States Supreme Court decisions, including Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (2006), have overturned Bush administration policy related to treatment of detainees and ruled that Geneva Conventions apply. In addition, these opinions were superseded by replacement opinions in 2009 by the President Barack Obama administration.
The abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib was in part the reason that on April 12, 2006, the United States Army activated the 201st Military Intelligence Battalion, the first of four joint interrogation battalions.