US hands over last Iraqi jail
Baghdad, July 17, 2010
The US military handed over its last prison in Iraq yesterday ending an ignominious chapter of the 2003 US invasion that saw thousands detained without charge and triggered outrage after disclosures of abuse.
At a ceremony in a hangar at Camp Cropper detention centre near Baghdad airport, US military officials gave their Iraqi counterparts a giant, symbolic key and said they were confident no prisoner maltreatment would occur under Iraqi supervision.
They also acknowledged some past mistakes.
'To be perfectly frank, we have learned from our experiences here,' the US military spokesman in Iraq, Major General Stephen Lanza, was quoted as saying in our sister publication, the Gulf Daily News.
'We have learned from our experiences here in terms of detainee operations and from our inability to be prepared for what we encountered,' he said.
More than 90,000 people have been rounded up by US forces in the last seven years as suspected Sunni Islamist insurgents or members of Shi'ite militia.
Never charged, they were held for months or years in prisons like Cropper, or Camp Bucca, a sprawling compound in the southern desert near Kuwait that was closed down last year.
Disclosures in 2004 that US jailers had abused and sexually humiliated Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison on Baghdad's outskirts outraged many Iraqis and may have contributed to a growing insurgency at the time.
Several journalists, including a Reuters photographer and cameraman, have spent months in US military detention without ever being told what they were suspected of.
The US military lost the right to detain Iraqis under a bilateral security agreement signed in 2008 that paves the way for a full US withdrawal by the end of 2011.
Camp Cropper will remain open for at least two years under Iraqi control but will be renamed Camp Al Karkh.
The US will not be out of the prison business entirely.
At the request of the Iraqi authorities, US wardens will continue to guard around 200 of Cropper's 1,500 detainees.
'Obviously, there are former regime elements and Al Qaeda elements that have been identified in this population,' said Major General Jerry Cannon, deputy US commander of detainee operations in Iraq.
A car bomb targeting a police patrol exploded on a busy commercial street in Tikrit, killing six people.
The blast damaged about 30 shops in central Tikrit and pools of blood were seen in the street. The city, which is located about 150km north of Baghdad, is the capital of Salahuddin province and hometown of former dictator Saddam Hussein. – TradeArabia News Service