U.S. Soldier Receives Maximum Sentence For Role In Iraqi Prisoner-Abuse Scandal

Specialist Jeremy C. Sivits to spend a year in jail.

Specialist Jeremy C. Sivits received the maximum sentence Wednesday for abusing Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison.

The 24-year-old U.S. soldier who took photos of naked Iraqi detainees being abused pleaded guilty to the three charges brought against him in the court-martial (see "When A Soldier Faces Court-Martial, What Does That Mean?"). According to reports, he was found guilty on two counts of mistreating detainees, neglect of duty for failing to protect them from abuse, and cruelty. He was sentenced to one year in prison, a demotion and a bad-conduct discharge

Sivits' lawyer reportedly petitioned the court for a less severe sentence, claiming that Sivits could be rehabilitated. Prosecutors, however, asked the judge to give Sivits the maximum sentence, citing his knowledge that abuse of detainees was banned by the Geneva Conventions (see "What Are The Geneva Conventions?").

"I have learned huge lessons, sir," Sivits reportedly told the judge. "You can't let people abuse people like they have done."

During the proceedings, Sivits was required to explain his role in the scandal. He told the court of the abuses that took place on November 8 involving six or seven other soldiers who beat the Iraqi detainees and forced them into sexual positions.

In his statement to the court, Sivits said, "I'd like to apologize to the Iraqi people and those detainees. I should have protected those detainees, not taken the photos."

Sivits went on to describe watching U.S. soldiers stomp on the hands and feet of detainees. He also reportedly named and illustrated the actions of specific U.S. soldiers including Private First Class Lynddie England — the woman seen in many of the photos released to the public — whom he saw pointing to the genitals of one Iraqi detainee and laughing. Sivits told the court that he watched one U.S. soldier, Specialist Charles Graner, punch an Iraqi detainee in the head so hard that the prisoner was knocked unconscious.

In an effort to show that the U.S. does not condone these actions, the U.S. military allowed selective press coverage of the court-martial. Thirty-four news organizations were allowed to have reporters — but no audio or TV recording devices — in the courtroom. Among them were nine Arab newspapers as well as Arab television networks al Jazeera and al Arabiya. The U.S. military hopes this will show the United States' determination to punish all guilty parties involved in the abuse scandal.

For more on the situation in Iraq, check out "War In Iraq: One Year Later"