U.S. hands last detention camp to Iraq

July 16, 2010 at 9:54 AM
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BAGHDAD, July 16 (UPI) -- Camp Cropper, the last detention center under U.S. control in Iraq, was turned over to Iraq's justice minister, officials said.

Human rights groups and Iraqis now say they're worried that detainees will be subjected to abuse in Iraq's prison system, The Washington Post reported Friday.

During the last two years, Iraq's Human Rights Ministry confirmed hundreds of torture cases in Iraqi facilities and this year the presence of a secret prison where inmates were beaten and sodomized was revealed.

"Unfortunately, Iraq is prone to detention and torture abuses, whether it's the former regime (of Saddam Hussein), the occupying powers or now the Iraqi government," Samer Muscati, an Iraq expert at Human Rights Watch, told the Post. "Under international law, you're not supposed to transfer detainees if they will get tortured. But how long can the Americans hold on to them? There is no ideal solution, but the Americans have a responsibility."

Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, said his forces still will train Iraqi security officials and prison guards to respect human rights. He called past abuses by U.S. forces mistakes resulting from a lack of training and preparation.

"Abu Ghraib is a lesson that we weren't prepared (for)," Odierno said during a briefing this week. "We made some real errors. We've learned from it and we've moved on from it, and that's the most important thing."

Even after transferring Camp Cropper and its 1,500 detainees to the Iraqi government Thursday, U.S. military will retain control of about 260 detainees considered exceptionally dangerous, the Post said. Among Cropper's detainees are eight officials from Saddam's government who are on death row.

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