UNITED STATES and Iraqi forces are holding a record 17,000 men and women -
most without being formally charged - and with those in Iraqi-controlled jails
living often in deplorable conditions, said US and Iraqi officials.
About two-thirds are locked up as “security detainees” without any
formal charges in US-run facilities, Lieutenant Colonel Guy Rudisill, the US
military spokesman for Iraqi detention operations, told AFP.
The rest are incarcerated in Iraqi-run jails in conditions that fall well below
any international standard and are in dire need of reform, said Bakhtiar Amin,
Iraq's outgoing human rights minister.
“None of the Iraqi detention centres meet international standards for
cleanliness, food and the treatment of prisoners.
“Neither are the buildings up to standard. “We have asked for international
”Amin acknowledged problems in Iraqi security forces' treatment of detainees
following a pair of denunciatory reports by New York based Human Rights Watch
and the US State Department since January.
“We are aware of Iraqi security forces' tremendous sacrifices in their
struggle against criminality and terrorism.
“We cannot ignore the fact that some lose their life in combat, but this
does not stop us from criticising the abuses.
”Amin said his ministry would soon deliver a 20-page report on ways to
fix the woeful prison system.
There are currently 6,504 inmates in Iraq's 18 prisons, 2,573 of whom have already
been sentenced, Amin said, adding that they include both “common-law criminals
”At least 131 of the detainees are women, he said.
“In certain places, the situation is deplorable. In others, it is bad,
and in others, it is better.
”Not even the International Committee of the Red Cross has visited the
Iraqi facilities because they are considered such a high security risk.
US-run jails and detention centres hold a total of 10,708 people, Rudisill said.
Of those, 6,054 are in Camp Bucca in southern Iraq - scene of a riot this month
in which about 16 people were injured - and another 3,493 are held in the notorious
Abu Ghraib prison west of Baghdad, where US troops abused and humiliated naked
Iraqi prisoners, provoking international outrage.
About 114 high-level detainees, including ousted dictator Saddam Hussein and
several former top aides, are held at Camp Cropper at Baghdad international
airport and another 1,047 are locked up at other US military jails.
British troops are detaining 27 individuals, Amin added.
“It might not be the most desirable number, but it's a manageable number
for us,” said Lieutenant Adam Rondeau.
“We're always checking the detention facilities ... to make the conditions
”The increase in prisoner numbers resulted from what Rondeau called US
military “ongoing operations” before Iraq's January 30 election
and growing strength of Iraq military and police forces.
Last November, before US troops started fighting in the city of Fallujah which
was then dominated by insurgents, Iraq's total prison population stood at about
5000, according to prison officials at the time.
That figure followed the release of thousands of prisoners since the spring
2004 amid an effort to ease serious over-crowding in the US-run prisons after
the Abu Ghraib prison scandal that blotted the reputation of US forces in Iraq.
In the aftermath of that scandal, US military officers admitted that many detainees
were being held on weak evidence that would not stand up in a regular court
Rudisill said that before the Abu Ghraib scandal, the previous high for detainees
was about 8000.