Six sailors working as prison camp guards in Iraq face courts martial for abusing detainees, some of whom were sealed in a cell with pepper spray, the U.S. Navy said on Thursday.
Seven other sailors were given non-judicial punishments over the incident, which took place on May 14 at Camp Bucca, the vast desert camp in southern Iraq where the U.S. military houses 18,000 of its 21,000 prisoners.
Use of pepper spray in warfare is banned by international treaties on chemical weapons, but many governments say members of their armed forces are permitted to use it in war zones for law-enforcement duties.
Navy Fifth Fleet spokeswoman Commander Jane Campbell said the riot control agent was pepper spray. Two victims who were beaten by pepper spray required medical attention, she said.
The six facing courts martial have remained with their unit at the prison camp but were removed from duty: "They are no longer doing the mission of guards," Campbell said.
The courts martial will begin at Camp Bucca within the next 30 days.
The seven guards already subjected to the less-severe system of non-judicial punishment had mainly faced accusations that they failed to report the incident, rather than being accused of taking part themselves, she said.
Two had their charges dismissed and the rest were given reductions in rank, with some also docked pay or confined to base for 45 days.
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