Americans won't hand over jails to Iraqis
Updated: 2005-12-26 09:19
The U.S. military will not hand over jails or individual detainees to Iraqi
authorities until they demonstrate higher standards of care, an American
official said Sunday, two weeks after the discovery of 120 abused Iraqi
Meanwhile, bloodshed claimed at least 18 lives across Iraq, including two
U.S. and five Iraqi soldiers killed by bombings in Baghdad.
Lt. Col. Barry Johnson said detention facilities in Iraq will be transferred
over time to Iraqi officials but they must first show that the rights of
detainees are safeguarded and that international law on the treatment of
prisoners is being followed.
"A specific timeline for doing this is difficult to project at this stage
with so many variables," said Johnson, a military spokesman. "The Iraqis are
committed to doing this right and will not rush to failure. The transition will
be based on meeting standards, not on a timeline."
He was commenting on a New York Times story Sunday that was the first to
report prison facilities wouldn't be handed over until Iraqi officials improved
Prisons have been one of the sore points between the Shiite Muslim majority
and Sunni Arabs, a long-dominant minority that saw its power evaporate with
Saddam Hussein's ouster. U.S. officials are pushing to heal the rift as a way to
weaken support for the Sunni-led insurgency.
U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said earlier this month that at least 120
abused prisoners had been found inside two jails controlled by Shiite-run Iraqi
Sunni Arabs long have complained about abuse and torture by Interior Ministry
security forces. Interior Minister Bayan Jabr contends torture allegations have
been exaggerated by people who sympathize with insurgents.
Johnson said that in preparation for the eventual handover of prisons, the
U.S. Department of Justice is training Iraqi prison guards. About 300 have
completed the course, he said.
American authorities suffered their own black eye over mistreatment of
prisoners when photographs surfaced early last year showing U.S. soldiers
abusing detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison on Baghdad's western outskirts. The
scandal led to convictions for nine Army reservists.