U.S. hand­ing over last Amer­i­can-run prison to Iraqis

Austin American-Statesman - - WORLD & NATION - By Tim Arango

BAGHDAD — The United States plans to­day to trans­fer to the Iraqi govern­ment the last U.S.-run prison in Iraq, an­other mile­stone in the wind­ing down of the war but also dredg­ing up mem­o­ries of one of its most se­ri­ous mis­deeds.

A day be­fore a cer­e­mony to turn over Camp Crop­per — a max­i­mum-se­cu­rity prison on a U.S. mil­i­tary base near the Baghdad In­ter­na­tional Air­port that houses about 1,700 de­tainees — an Iraqi govern­ment of­fi­cial said Wed­nes­day that sev­eral for­mer mem­bers of Sad­dam Hus­sein’s govern­ment, in­clud­ing Tariq Aziz, a Cabi­net min­is­ter un­der Sad­dam who was of­ten the pub­lic face in the Western news me­dia of the regime, had been trans­ferred to Iraqi author­ity.

The United States will re­tain con­trol over about 200 pris­on­ers, in­clud­ing some for­mer mem­bers of Sad­dam’s govern­ment who have been sen­tenced to death, and some mem­bers of al Qaeda in Iraq and other mil­i­tants, said Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. mil­i­tary com­man­der in Iraq.

The United States is in the mid­dle of a long process of re­duc­ing its troop lev­els in Iraq, to about 50,000 by the end of next month from about 165,000 at the height of the troop surge in 2007. The trans­fer of Camp Crop­per is an­other step to­ward Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s vow to end the war, but one that comes with in­evitable re­minders of the abuse scan­dal at Abu Ghraib prison, as well The U.S. mil­i­tary to­day is trans­fer­ring con­trol of the prison at Camp Crop­per to the Iraqi govern­ment. The U.S. mil­i­tary has also re­cently handed over many high-pro­file pris­on­ers, in­clud­ing for­mer Cabi­net min­is­ter Tariq Aziz and sev­eral other mem­bers of Sad­dam Hus­sein’s in­ner cir­cle, to the Iraqis. as lesser-known al­le­ga­tions of abuse at Camp Crop­per in 2003 that were made by the In­ter­na­tional Com­mit­tee for the Red Cross.

Odierno re­flected on that legacy this week.

“Abu Ghraib was a les­son that we weren’t pre­pared to han­dle large masses of de­tainees when we came in to this op­er­a­tion back in 2003,” he said. “We made some real er­rors in think­ing that it would be like Desert Storm and we would just hold pris­on­ers of war for a pe­riod of time and we’d re­lease them.”

He added: “We didn’t prop­erly an­tic­i­pate a coun­terin­sur­gency which would re­quire us to han­dle a large num­ber of de­tainees for a sig­nif­i­cant amount of time. And frankly we weren’t trained or pre­pared to do it. And we ended up hav­ing sig­nif­i­cant is­sues. But we’ve learned from it. We’ve moved on from that.”

The Iraqi govern­ment has also abused pris­on­ers dur­ing the war, and in April news broke that a branch of the se­cu­rity forces that an­swered di­rectly to Prime Min­is­ter Nouri al-Ma­liki had been run­ning a se­cret prison where of­fi­cials tor­tured dozens of Sunni Mus­lims from north­ern Iraq.

Odierno said the U.S. had been work­ing closely with Iraqis, train­ing them to run Camp Crop­per. “We have been work­ing for a year on the turnover of Camp Crop­per, so this isn’t some­thing that hap­pened overnight,” he said.

Aziz, 74, whose health is fail­ing, was sen­tenced last year to 15 years in prison for his role in the ex­e­cu­tions of sev­eral Iraqis for prof­i­teer­ing when the coun­try was un­der in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions in the 1990s. He was ac­quit­ted on a more se­ri­ous charge re­lated to the killings of Shi­ite pro­test­ers.

Aziz’s lawyer, Badea Araf Azzit, said that Aziz fears for his life now that he is in the hands of Iraq’s govern­ment.

Azzit said that Aziz had called him this week and said, “I am sure they are go­ing to kill me.”

Maya Alleruzzo

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