Iraqis take charge of last prison in U.S. control
BAGHDAD (AP) – Iraq assumed control of the last U.S.-run prison camp in the country on Thursday, a milestone that casts a spotlight on the Iraqi government’s troubled record of caring for inmates amid allegations of torture and overcrowding at Iraqi-run facilities.
The change in command at Camp Cropper – which was renamed Karkh Prison – marks the end of a troubling chapter in the U.S. presence in the country, which was marred in the early years by photographs showing American soldiers abusing inmates at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison.
It also raised questions about how well prepared the Iraqis are to handle the detainees. Inmates in Iraqi detention facilities have repeatedly complained about torture and beatings by the police, as well as overcrowding and poor conditions behind bars. Prisoners in U.S. custody, meanwhile, have benefited from reforms in the wake of the 2004 Abu Ghraib scandal.
“The main problem in the Iraqi-run prisons, whether in Baghdad or other provinces, is the incompetent administration,” said Abdul-Rahman Najim al-Mashhadani, head of the Iraqi human rights organization Hammurabi. “That leads to violations against prisoners, deliberate or not.”
With the handover of the maximum-security prison near the Baghdad international airport, Iraq has taken control of the last of three such prisons formerly controlled by U.S. forces. During a ceremony, the Americans symbolically handed over a key to the prison on the capital’s southwestern outskirts, which holds 1,500 detainees.