Cablegate: (Sbu) Karbala's Largest Jail Bursting at Seams.

DE RUEHGB #2421/01 2170543
P 040543Z AUG 08



E.O. 12958: N/A

(U) This message is Sensitive but Unclassified. Handle
Accordingly. Not for Internet distribution.

(U) This is a PRT Karbala reporting cable.

1. (SBU) Summary: Karbala's largest jail (technically a
pre-trial detention facility) is filled beyond capacity.
Because the province does not have a prison and the regional
prison in al-Hillah also is full, Karbala's jail also houses
post-trial detainees, including ten people (one female)
convicted of capital crimes. The facility -- a converted
office building -- is in good condition and well-run, and
there have been no complaints of human rights violations.
The long-term solution to alleviate the overcrowding is the
construction of a larger, modern jail in Karbala. End

Chief Judge's Perspective

2. (SBU) On June 22, PRT officers met Karbala Chief Appellate
judge Abid Nour Farhan al-Fatlawi at his office near the
Government Center complex. PRT Karbala has a good working
relationship with Abid Nour, who is a candid critic of
Karbala's shortcomings. Abid Nour described the jail as
badly overcrowded, but clean and safe. He said convicted
felons unfortunately are housed with other inmates, but that
this so far has produced no incidents.

3. (SBU) Abid Nour stated that Karbala's investigative judges
are required to visit the province's jails to assess
conditions, something they reportedly do several times per
month. Asked about changes or improvements implemented
recently, Abid Nour said that in response to complaints about
the food, a new contractor was hired and the inmates are now
satisfied with their meals. A new generator provides power
24/7. He noted that another complaint is access to medical
care, but doctors and other health care professionals now
visit the jail more frequently. (Note: We heard from other
contacts that scabies is widespread at the jail and that the
chief complaint was a lack of medicine with which to treat
it. End Note.)

Full House

4. (SBU) PRT officers visited the jail, which occupies the
ground floor of a converted office building approximately 500
meters from the Government Center (the top two floors of the
three-story structure contain police offices). According to
jail officials, the prison was built to accommodate a maximum
of 250 persons. However, it currently houses 354, including
seven women. Ten of the inmates are awaiting execution for
capital crimes, including a woman convicted of murdering her
husband. Because of the lack of space, convicted felons are
housed with those convicted of lesser offenses.

5. (SBU) All seven women occupy a segregated, windowless ward
secured behind a locked gate on the north side of the
building. It has one toilet and one shower, and the women
sleep on foam mattresses on the floor. The bulding's main
entrance is on the west side, and processing of arrestees is
undertaken at the intake holding area on the east or back
side. The south half of the building contains four cells
varying in size from 25 to approximately 40 square meters.
The two smallest cells house those awaiting trial. Each
contains some 50 men and one toilet. The two larger cells
house those convicted of misdemeanors and felonies. Each
contains about 125 inmates, two toilets, and two showers. As
with the women, the men sleep on foam mattresses on the
floor. Jail officials allowed PRT officers to take

A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

6. (SBU) The prison has a small outdoor exercise area
enclosed within a cage. The building is clean and has been
recently painted. Light and air conditioning provided by the
new generator was ample; however, the electrical system
itself appears potentially hazardous.

7. (SBU) In his cramped office, the warden told PRT officers
that the inmates are able to exercise once per day -- in
shifts -- for approximately an hour. He confirmed that the
regional prison (technically a post-trial facility) in
al-Hillah is full, commenting that 20 convincted felons sent
there from Karbala recently had been returned because of a
lack of space. He noted that because the police are
scrupulous when it comes to respecting human rights, there
have been no complaints of abuse. Asked what he thought was
necessary to improve the jail, the warden was blunt: Only a
new facility can solve the overcrowding. The current

BAGHDAD 00002421 002 OF 002

building was not designed to be a jail and cannot be expanded.


8. (SBU) Karbala needs a larger jail and the south central
provinces need an expanded regional prison. Both are
long-term fixes for problems likely to worsen in the near
term. Karbala's status as a holy place renders the
construction of a prison in the city as a non-starter. The
province is fortunate not to be subject to complaints of
human rights abuses, but overcrowding at the jail -- and
particularly the mingling of hardened criminals with lesser
offenders -- make an unfortunate incident likely. The
likelihood of ramped-up arrests as the Shabaaniya approaches
later this month will add further pressure to a facility
already bursting at the seams. End Comment.

© Scoop Media

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