Prisoners Occupy Iraqis’ Minds as Eid Approaches

December 6th, 2008 - by admin

Fatih Abdulsalam / Azzaman & – 2008-12-06 08:48:33

Prisoners Occupy Iraqis’ Minds as Eid Approaches
Fatih Abdulsalam / Azzaman

(December 4, 2008) — Iraqis will soon mark the Eid –al-Adha, or feast of the sacrifice, with a long holiday, starting Monday.

But there will be very little for them to celebrate. As the Eid comes, the best present an Iraqi family can hope for is the release of a loved one from the scores of prisons the US and the Iraqi government have constructed across the country.

A look at major headlines of Baghdad newspapers in the past few days shows the scale of this humanitarian tragedy.

• New prisons under construction
• More prisons rehabilitated
• New contracts with advanced countries for the construction of new prisons
• U.N. appalled by deterioration in prison conditions in Iraq
• No exact figure on number of (Iraqi) detainees
• Promises to release prisoners are false

Four ministries are involved in the tragedy of Iraqi prisoners: interior, defense, justice and human rights. We exclude the United States whose only success story in Iraq has been the construction of ‘modern’ prisons. The US, under the new security deal, is supposed to hand over all Iraqi detainees in its custody to Iraqi authorities with the start of the New Year.

With relative quiet in most major cities in Iraq, one would have thought Iraqis have good reason to celebrate this year’s Eid. But unfortunately, many of them will not be able to do so.

The reason is clear. Unless the authorities close the prisoners’ file, there will no room for any form of festivity in the country.

The prisoner file has turned into a stigma of shame for the government. In the ‘democratic’ country they claim to have established, the number of prisoners held without trial increases daily, summary detentions are on the rise and human rights abuses of detainees aggravate.

What is tragic in the case of Iraqi prisoners, almost all of them are held without trial and kept indefinitely for no reason the prisoners are aware of. They are held merely on suspicion.

Their only bad luck is that they were born into a certain sect, tribe or ethnic minority. Their only sin is that they happened to be living in a certain area. Is not this one of the worst forms of human rights abuses?

The best present Iraqis can expect from the US and the Iraqi government is to set free all the detainees unless tried by a court and found guilty.

But they cannot do that because they have established themselves as the enemies of the Iraqi people and not its friends.

US to Hand Over its Iraqi Detainees to Government
Latif Ali / Azzaman

(December 1, 2008) — Iraqi detainees in US custody will be handed over to the Iraqi authorities by the end of they year in line with the security agreement the countries signed last month.

The US says there are 15,000 Iraqis in its prisons in Iraq. The Iraqi authorities are required to run these prisons also.

Some of these detainees are former high-ranking Iraqi officials. Apart from a few high-profile cases, almost all the detainees have been languishing in US prisons for years without trail.

It is not clear what will the government do with the detainees.

There are fears that it might execute senior officials who served under former leader Saddam Hussein. Tareq Aziz, the most high-ranking Iraqi diplomat is one of them.

The figure was much higher but more than 17,000 detainees have been released this year.

US troops say they are proceeding ahead with a plan to set 50 detainees every day, 1,500 every month. It is doubtful whether the government will adopt the plan when all the detainees become its sole responsibility.

Under the security agreement, US troops in Iraq have no right to run their own jails. And if they detain Iraqis they must handed them over to the authorities.

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