U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has defended the military's response to allegations of prisoner abuse, saying those responsible for illegal conduct are being punished. Secretary Rumsfeld's remarks came after a major figure in the abuse scandal refused to testify in a court-martial involving soldiers accused of threatening prisoners in Iraq.
Secretary Rumsfeld told reporters at the Pentagon there have been 12 major investigations into allegations of prisoner abuse of detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
He says 250 people have been punished for inappropriate behavior and the investigations have shown that the Defense Department's policies call for humane treatment for prisoners under its jurisdiction.
"What they indicate is that to the extent abusive or improper conduct by military people took place, it has been investigated in every instance and where appropriate it has been punished and it has not suggested that there have been policies that authorized or approved of that," he said.
Secretary Rumsfeld's comments came after the Washington Post newspaper reported that Major General Geoffrey Miller, a key figure in the abuse scandal, has invoked his right not to incriminate himself during the court martial of two soldiers who allegedly used dogs to intimidate prisoners at Abu Ghraib.
The newspaper quotes military lawyers as saying this is the first time the general has given any indication there is evidence that could suggest he may have been involved in illegal activity.
An attorney representing General Miller says he decided not to answer questions, because he has been interviewed many times about his role at prisons in Guantanamo Bay and Iraq.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace, says military commanders are expected to tell the truth, but do not have to give up their rights.
"I don't know the facts in this case," he said. "I would simply tell you that we expect our leaders to lead by example, but we do not expect them to give up their individual rights as people."
Under military rules and the U.S. Constitution, witnesses are protected from being forced to incriminate themselves in legal proceedings.
General Miller once supervised the prison for foreign terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay and advised interrogators in Iraq before the abuse scandal erupted at the Abu Ghraib detention center near Baghdad.