When was the last time you had to live with nightmares, even after standing for the truth? When was the last time you had to worry about you and your family’s safety because you stood against the wrong? When was the last time you had to run away from your friends to tell the rest of the world about their ill-doings, because you wanted to fight for the truth? Well, Sergeant Joseph M. Darby has seen and done it all, in his years of exposure at Abu Gharib, Iraq.
It all started when Joe Darby, serving as an MP at Abu Gharib prison in Abu Gharib, Iraq accidentally came across a couple of CDs from his unit’s camera buff, prison guard Charles Graner. Darby, in his deepest of nightmares never imagined that the pictures stored in the CDs were going to change the course of his life, once and for all.
At first, when he saw the pictures of abusive posing and torturing, he thought it was some American soldiers’ goof up. But then he realised it was the prison, and these were prisoners and the persons torturing them were some of his friends and colleagues. “Disbelief,” as he says to 60 minutes, “I tried to think of a reason why they would do this.”
As the pictures and the happenings’ reports suggest, there was a clear human right violation in the form of physical, psychological, and sexual abuse, including torture, reports of rape sodomy and homicide of prisoners held in the prison. These acts were committed by military police personnel of the US army along with additional US government agencies.
As soon as Darby had these pictures and came to know about the facts, he realised he has to turn it in. He knew he had to hand them over to the Criminal Investigation Division, but he wanted to remain anonymous, because he knew these people were going to prison anyway, and once they know it’s him, they will come after him till the end of the world.
The process got over with six of the seven persons convicted, people who were torturing the Iraqis at the prison behind the bars. But Darby still failed to sleep in peace because he knew one of them will come after him, and his family. Though he doesn’t regret exposing the truth about Abu Gharib prison. In the process, he had to testify some of his friends and colleagues working at the prison. But as he says, “They broke the law and they had to be punished. To actually know what they are doing, you can’t stand by and let that happen”
The United States Department of Defense removed seventeen soldiers and officers from duty, and eleven soldiers were charged with dereliction of duty, maltreatment, aggravated assault and battery. Between May 2004 and March 2006, eleven soldiers were convicted in courts martial, sentenced to military prison, and dishonorably discharged from service.
In 2010, the last of the prisons were turned over to the Iraqi government to run.
Joe Darby received a John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award on May 16, 2005, in recognition of his courage in exposing the abuses at Abu Gharib.