Senior U.S. military officials have announced the first court martial procedure against one of seven American soldiers who allegedly abused detainees at Iraq's now-infamous Abu Ghraib prison.
In a Baghdad news conference (Sunday), Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt said Specialist Jeremy Sivits, a low ranking soldier, will face American military justice later this month.
"Charges were referred against Specialist Jeremy Sivits to a special court martial empowered to adjudge a bad conduct discharge. The three charges against Specialist Sivits are: conspiracy to maltreat subordinates and detainees, dereliction of duty for negligently failing to protect detainees from abuse, cruelty and maltreatment, and maltreatment of detainees," he said.
The military trial is scheduled for May 19th, and is expected to be held in the same large Baghdad complex where General Kimmitt and other U.S. officials hold regular news briefings. The general said the procedure would go forward in an open and transparent manner.
Specialist Sivits and other U.S. soldiers who performed guard duties at Abu Ghraib prison are accused of humiliating and torturing Iraqi detainees.
Graphic photographs of the treatment have sparked outrage and provoked widespread condemnation. Another picture has surfaced on the Internet site of the New Yorker magazine showing guards with attack dogs apparently taunting and threatening a naked prisoner.
President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have expressed deep regret for the abuse, but said they remain committed to U.S. goals for a peaceful, democratic Iraq.
For many, apologies and statements of regret are not enough. Speaking on the U.S. television, CNN's "Late Edition" program, Iraqi Governing Council member Ahmed Chalabi called for tearing down the Abu Ghraib prison, which he noted had been used for torture under the former regime of Saddam Hussein.
He said, "It (Abu Ghraib) has a very bad connotation in the minds of the Iraqi people. It is the place where great monstrosities took place against the Iraqi people. And I think it should be raised to the ground now."
Meanwhile, U.S. military commanders say American forces have killed 19 Iraqi insurgents in Baghdad. The insurgents were said to be backers of a radical Shi'ite Muslim cleric (Moqtada al-Sadr) who opposes the coalition occupation of Iraq.
A blast at a Baghdad marketplace has also killed several Iraqi police and civilians. Another blast in the southern Iraqi city of Basra left three coalition troops wounded.