U.S. military hands over last internment facility to Iraqis

14:09, July 16, 2010      

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The U.S. military handed over control of its last detention center in Iraq on Thursday to Iraqi authorities after transferring hundreds of prisoners, including some top officials of Saddam Hussein's government, to Iraqis.

In a ceremony held in the detention center of Camp Cropper in west of Baghdad, Major General Jerry Cannon, head of the U.S. detention facility, said that the detention is now holding 1,500 detainees.

"This is the first day of a new era, in which all Iraqis in the criminal justice system are able to start their role in providing safety and security for the Iraqi people," Cannon told the ceremony.

However, despite the handover of Camp Cropper, Cannon said that the U.S. army will keep 200 detainees, including eight of Saddam's aides, in the U.S. custody at a separate part of the facility called Compound 5.

Earlier, an Iraqi official told Xinhua that during the past three days, the U.S. army handed over dozens of detainees, including Saddam Hussein's ex-deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz and some other top aides.

"They have been transferred to a prison run by the Iraqi Ministry of Justice and they will be treated according to the Iraqi law," the official added, without saying to which prison the prisoners were transferred.

Aziz was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in jail for crimes against humanity over the killing of dozens of Iraqi merchants in 1992, and again was sentenced to seven years in prison for his role in the ethnic forced displacement of Kurds in northern Iraq during Saddam's rule.

He is the only Christian in Saddam's Muslim regime, who was known as a fierce American critic after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent 1990-1991 Gulf War.

Camp Cropper is a tented internment facility for security detainees near Baghdad International Airport. The facility was initially established as a high-value detention site run by the U.S. army.

Later the site was upgraded and its capacity increased from 163 to 2,000 detainees after the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in 2004 when dozens of pictures publicly circulated by the media showed Iraqi prisoners naked and humiliated by their U.S. guards.

The notorious Abu Ghraib prison was returned to the Iraqi authorities in February last year after years of being seen by Iraqis as a torture center under the regime of Saddam Hussein and later a symbol of U.S. abuse of some Iraqi prisoners.

Camp Cropper handover is part of a U.S. plan to cut its troops in Iraq to 50,000 soldiers by Sept. 1, before the final withdrawal of all U.S. troops from the country by the end of 2011, according to a pact signed between Baghdad and Washington late in 2008.

Source: Xinhua

(Editor:石希)

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