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Iraq deputy justice minister says prisons controlled by Shiite militia

[JURIST] Pusho Ibrahim Ali Daza Yei, Iraq's deputy justice minister, has said that Shiite militias [CFR backgrounder] control Iraq's prison system and that Iraq "cannot control the prisons." Yei said that Shiite militiamen free other militia members that have been convicted of major crimes, while executing Sunni inmates. In a letter to US Army Maj. Gen. John Gardner, commander of US-run prisons in Iraq, Yei asked US authorities not to transfer US-run prisons and detainees into the hands of Iraqi security forces, saying that the Iraqi Justice Ministry is not yet prepared to run the facilities and expressing fear that Shiite militias would take control of the transferred prisons. The US has announced plans to turn over four American-run prisons to the Iraqi government, including Abu Ghraib [JURIST news archive], but the plans have stalled [JURIST report] until Gardner can make sure that the Iraqi-controlled prisons would match the standards of US-run facilities. Gardner has said that US authorities will transfer Abu Ghraib in the next few months in a gradual handover, but not until "the Iraqi Corrections system have demonstrated the ability to maintain the required standards, especially in the areas of care and custody."

Iraqi-run prisons came under scrutiny when the US Army found tortured detainees at a secret Interior Ministry facility in central Baghdad [JURIST report] last year. Yei said that Shiite militias control the prisons run by the Interior and Defense ministries, and that the militias infiltrate the Iraqi government. Shiite militias including the Badr Organization and the Mahdi Army [Wikipedia backgrounders] enjoy the support of members of the Iraqi parliament because political parties back the militias. Jonathan Finer and Ellen Knickmeyer of the Washington Post have more.

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