Iraq reopens Abu Ghraib prison with promises to follow international standards

[JURIST] The Iraqi government has reopened the prison formerly called Abu Ghraib [CBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], promising to operate the prison by international standards and allow inspections by humanitarian groups. In a tour for members of the media Saturday, officials said they hoped to temper the strong feelings many Iraqis hold toward the prison with a new name, Baghdad Central Prison, and renovations [NYT report] including fresh paint, exercise equipment, and a library. The facility currently holds 300 prisoners, but officials expect to reach a capacity more than 12,000 once improvements are complete.

The prison was the site of torture and executions under Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] and gained further notoriety due to detainee abuse by American soldiers. Officials announced [JURIST report] the prison's reopening in January. In December, the Senate Armed Services Committee [official website] reported [text, PDF] that senior US officials were responsible [JURIST report] for the use of abusive interrogation techniques against detainees held in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay. The bipartisan report stated that the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib "was not simply the result of a few soldiers acting on their own" but grew out of interrogation policies approved by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld [JURIST news archive] and other top officials. The prison was returned to the Iraqi government [JURIST report] in late 2006.



 

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