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New Report Finds Abuse of Muslim, Arab Detainees in US - 2003-07-21

A new internal report from the Justice Department has identified dozens of allegations of abuse targeting mainly Muslim or Arab immigrants detained in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The report was prepared for Congress by the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General, an internal watchdog on the various law enforcement agencies included in the department.

The report found 34 instances of possible civil rights or civil liberties violations targeting mainly Muslim or Arab immigrants detained in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon.

Under the sweeping anti-terror law passed by Congress known as the Patriot Act, it is up to the inspector general to investigate alleged civil rights violations involving Justice Department detainees. This latest report concluded that 34 cases of alleged abuse were credible and worth investigating out of more than 1,000 complaints lodged over the past six months.

Just last month, the Justice Department's Inspector General, Glenn Fine, detailed some initial findings on the abuse allegations before the Senate Judiciary Committee. "This abuse consisted of actions such as slamming some detainees into walls, dragging them by their arms, stepping on the chain between their ankle cuffs, twisting their arms, wrist and fingers and making slurs or threats such as, 'you will feel pain', or 'you are going to die here,'" he said.

Most of the alleged violations involve guards who work for the Bureau of Prisons at the detention centers where the detainees were held.

The initial allegations of abuse last month brought concern and condemnation from Republicans and Democrats alike. "Abuse of inmates, no matter what the actual or potential charges, is wrong," said Republican Orrin Hatch, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "It cannot be tolerated."

Justice Department officials say they take seriously the requirements under the Patriot Act to protect the civil rights and civil liberties of everyone, even those detained because of suspected links to terrorists.

The officials say the allegations brought forward by the inspector general's office will be thoroughly investigated. But they also note that hundreds of other accusations brought against the department in recent months were dismissed as either not credible or impossible to prove.