Koran Inquiry Reveals Pattern of 'Respectful Handling'
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 4, 2005 An inquiry into allegations of mishandling of the Koran by U.S. personnel at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, reveals "a consistent, documented policy of respectful handling" dating back almost two and a half years, the general who led the effort said June 3.
Army Brig. Gen. Jay Hood, commander of Joint Task Force Guantanamo, released results of his inquiry, which was launched following allegations in the media that U.S. personnel at the detention facility had flushed a Koran down the toilet.
The inquiry found no credible evidence that the flushing incident occurred, U.S. Southern Command officials said in a news release. "This matter is considered closed," the statement said.
Hood's extensive inquiry of documents and procedures at the detention facility related to alleged abuse of the Koran revealed "five incidents of apparent mishandling by guards or interrogators and 15 incidents of mishandling and outright desecration by detainees," Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita said June 3.
Four alleged incidents of mishandling by U.S. personnel could not be confirmed, Hood said.
The inquiry involved a review of 31,000 hard-copy and electronic documents covering 28,000 interrogations, Di Rita noted. In addition, Hood said the inquiry team reviewed 63 Habeas petitions for any incidents involving the Koran, as well as 38 press articles.
It also included a review of procedures involving the Koran. Since January 2002, Joint Task Force Guantanamo has issued more than 1,600 Korans and undergone thousands of cell moves that involved moving detainee effects, including Korans, U.S. Southern Command officials noted.
From those activities, the inquiry team identified 19 incidents in which U.S. personnel handled Korans. Ten of those incidents involved no mishandling, and simply touching of the Muslim holy book "during the normal performance of duty," the statement said.
"With the other nine incidents, there was either intentional or unintentional mishandling of a Koran," Hood said. He defined mishandling as "touching, holding or the treatment of a Koran in a manner inconsistent with policy or procedure."
"We have confirmed that five of these alleged mishandling incidents took place," Hood said. "After thoroughly investigating the four remaining alleged mishandling incidents, we cannot determine conclusively if they actually happened."
Hood's inquiry identified 15 incidents in which detainees mishandled the Koran. These involved using it as a pillow, ripping pages from it, attempting to flush it down a toilet, and urinating on it, SOUTHCOM officials said.
Hood called mishandling of the Koran by U.S. personnel at the Guantanamo facility "a rare occurrence" that "is never condoned."
"When one considers the many thousands of times detainees have been moved and cells have been searched since detention operations first began here in January 2002, I think one can only conclude that respect for detainee beliefs was embedded in the culture of the JTF from the start," Hood said.
Koran-handling procedures in force at Guantanamo Bay are "appropriate," SOUTHCOM officials said the inquiry concluded. However, they said, "a number of recommendations for minor modifications are under review."
"SOUTHCOM's policy of Koran handling is obviously serious, respectful and appropriate," Di Rita said. "The Hood inquiry confirms that."