Cablegate: State of Detention Facilities in Iraq: South

DE RUEHGB #2890/01 2520707
P 080707Z SEP 08



E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: There are still big problems with
overcrowding in detention facilities in southern Iraq, with
the consequent effect on supplies of food and medicine and
judicial processing delays. There is an immediate need for
more facilities, especially prisons, and more trained
corrections officers for new and existing positions.
However, there has been noticeable progress in the conditions
of southern Iraq detention facilities. Compared to reporting
from previous years, there are remarkably fewer reports of
torture and abuse in the detention facilities. When reports
of abuse arise however, the necessary actions are rarely
taken to punish violators. With ongoing GOI military
operations in 2008, detainee populations have risen, even
with passage of the Amnesty Law in February. There are not
enough investigative judges to process all cases in the
mandated time frame, and detainees often wait months and
sometimes years before their cases go to trial. The most
important measure that could improve prison conditions is for
the provinces to have more detention facilities, especially
post-trial prisons. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) PRTs and ePRTs around the country have increased
efforts to visit and inspect GOI detention facilities, and
this cable reports their findings by province. This cable
reports on those in southern Iraq. (Septel report on
conditions elsewhere in Iraq.) Detention facilities are run
by four GOI ministries. The Ministry of Interior (MoI) runs
pre-trial detention facilities, or jails, and also holds
detainees in hundreds of police stations. There are five MoI
National Police detention facilities and 275 Iraqi Police
facilities around the country, not including the KRG. The
Ministry of Defense (MoD) operates Iraqi Army (IA) detention
facilities. There are approximately 29 MoD facilities above
the brigade level. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs
(MoLSA) operates two juvenile facilities in Baghdad. (Note:
The Ministry of Justice runs the other seven juvenile
facilities outside of the KRG. Juveniles are also held at
various MoI facilities across the country, sometimes in their
own quasi-facility but generally in a separate cell from the
adults. End Note.) The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) runs all
post-trial prisons and some pre-trial facilities. On
September 1, the MoI had 8815 pre-trial detainees and MoD had
1,601 pre-trial detainees. There were 9,581 additional
pre-trial detainees and 10,522 post-trial prisoners in MoJ,
KRG, and MoLSA custody.


3. (SBU) Babil province has 14 MoI detention facilities,
two MoJ prisons, and several MoD facilities. PRTOffs are
restricted from visiting most of the facilities due to the
security situation. To monitor the situation of detention
facilities, PRTOffs gather information from sources in the
Iraqi Security Forces, journalists, and the General Manager
of south-central detention facilities. The PRT also meets
regularly with the Ministry of Human Rights office in Babil
and other human rights NGOs to discuss problems and
recommendations for improving the facilities. The PRT notes
that a major problem with detention facilities in the
province is a lack of long-term strategic planning and no
national focus on improving facilities and operations.

4. (SBU) Hillah Prison, an MoJ prison in Babil, was built
by the USG in 2006. The facility has a capacity of 700 and
houses about 1100 detainees from Karbala, Najaf, Kut, and
Diwaniya. The facility has been over crowded since it was
occupied and has struggled to provide necessary services and
maintain sanitary conditions. The facility has no ability to
transport detainees to and from court, which has caused
challenges in ensuring detainees attend their trials. Female
detainees are housed in a police station. In the MoI
facilities, there are problems with prisoners and detainees
being housed together, including convicted felons being
housed with those accused of minor crimes.

5. (SBU) The ePRT in North Babil has more ability to visit
MoI detention facilities. Detainees and police have reported
that physical abuse of detainees is an ingrained process in
investigations although it is not as blatant as a few years
ago. Detainees do not officially report abuse cases for fear
of police retaliation, even outside of the jail after
release. There does not appear to be accurate or efficient
recording of detainee identification and length of detention.
PRTOffs also note that Sunni detainees are held for longer
periods than Shi'a detainees. Families of detainees reported
that they bribe officials to accelerate the lengthy
identification process and possible release.


BAGHDAD 00002890 002 OF 003


6. (SBU) As reported reftel, Karbala's largest jail is
filled beyond capacity. Because the province does not have a
prison, and the regional prison in Babil is overcrowded,
Karbala's jail has to also house post-trial detainees,
including ten people (one female) convicted of capital
crimes. Twenty convincted felons sent to the prison from
Karbala recently were returned because of a lack of space.
The long-term solution to alleviate the overcrowding is the
construction of a larger, modern jail in Karbala province.
However, Karbala's status as a holy place does not allow the
construction of a prison in the city.

7. (SBU) The facility, a converted office building, is in
good condition and well run, and there have been no
complaints of human rights violations. The capacity of the
jail is 250 but currently holds 354. According to Karbala
Chief Appellate Judge Abid Nour Farhan al-Fatlawi, the jail
is badly overcrowded, but clean and safe. He said there have
been no incidents between convicted felons and other inmates.
Ten of the inmates are awaiting execution for capital
crimes, including a woman convicted of murdering her husband.

8. (SBU) Karbala's investigative judges are required to
visit the province's jails and reportedly visit several times
per month. According to al-Fatlawi, detainees complain about
access to medical care, but allegedly doctors and other
health care professionals now visit the jail more frequently.
The PRT has heard from other contacts that scabies is
widespread at the jail, and there is a lack of medicine.


9. (SBU) PRTOffs most recently visited the provincial
detention facility on July 29 in Diwaniyah city; it is one of
the only prisons under control of the MoI instead of the MoJ.
According to the warden, Hussein Jabbur Mushab, this
deviation causes a lack of coordination between the
ministries and results in any request for resources to one
ministry being directed to the other, with nothing ever being
done. This facility is the largest in the province and
houses sentenced prisoners and others awaiting trial or
sentencing. According to the warden, there should be no
sentenced prisoners in the facility; they should have all
been sent to Baghdad, where overcrowding has limited transfer
of detainees. It has a capacity of 250 but currently houses
over 480 detainees in crowded cells. There were 15 juveniles
housed in a separate room and nine women, with two children,
in a separate wing of the building.

10. (SBU) The facility is deteriorating and is in need of
rehabilitation. There are no beds in the facility, so
detainees sleep on the floor. There was no evidence of air
conditioning in the last visit. There is a kiosk on site for
prisoners to purchase small items such as tobacco. The
warden said that the most immediate need is a new prison
financed by the MoJ with prison personnel to remain under MoI
for salary and pension benefits.


11. (SBU) One of the major concerns in Basrah is the lack
of capacity to hold all the detainees in the existing
facilities. To address this, the USG is funding an $8
million 1200 bed prison, which will be complete in a year.
Other problems are the inadequate living conditions and lack
of basic necessities. Because funding for basic operations
should come from the responsible ministries, the PRT is
focusing on training for budget planning and execution for
police, prison officials, and the judiciary. There are also
reports of some detainees being denied access to legal
counsel. Due to security threats, PRTOffs have not been able
to visit the detention facilities in about a year but monitor
the situation through contacts in the local legal community
and officials from the MoJ. The PRT also tries to monitor
the situation through human rights NGOs, but their access to
the facilities has been limited by local prison officials.

12. (SBU) Basrah has two MoJ detention facilities.
Al-Minah prison has capacity for 450, but there are currently
about 560. Al-Maqil prison is designed to hold 200 but
currently holds at least 268. Women and juveniles are housed
in separate areas with relatively better conditions. Reports
indicate that both facilities are old and in poor condition.
There is inadequate ventilation, plumbing, food, medical
care, and potable water. There are no educational or
rehabilitative services due to a lack of space. The former

BAGHDAD 00002890 003 OF 003

regional head of prisons, Colonel Naeem, tried to improve
some basic conditions but was recently fired by Acting
Minister of Justice Safa al-Safi. The security situation has
improved to the point that the PRT plans to visit these
facilities within a month.

13. (SBU) The PRT has little visibility on MoI and MoD
facilities, as the Iraqi Army has been secretive about its
facilities. Detainees from Operation Charge of the Knights
are currently being held in the Shatt al-Arab hotel in
reportedly very poor conditions. There are inadequate MoI
facilities, and some pre-trial detainees are forced to be
housed in MoJ prisons.


14. (SBU) The most critical need in Wasit province is a
post-trial MoJ prison. There are no prisons in Wasit, and
post-trial prisoners are housed with pre-trial detainees in
overcrowded MoI facilities. There is currently no room for
any educational or rehabilitation programs in the facilities.
The PRT is aware of problems with the judicial process
system and has worked with the Chief Judge to resolve the
issues. Police are not provided with human rights or
continued professional training, and the PRT and military are
working to address this shortcoming.

15. (SBU) There are 27 MoI detention facilities in the
province. U.S. Military Police teams in Wasit make weekly
visits to five facilities (Wasit Central Jail, Wasit Criminal
Investigation facility, Al Aharar police station, al Kut Main
police station, and Vehicle Patrol headquarters) and report
on abuse and living conditions. In the last six months,
there have been no reports of abuse in these facilities, and
living condition concerns have been minor and properly
addressed by police commanders. The PRT has also conducted
inspections of Wasit Central Jail, Wasit Criminal
Investigation facility, and Wasit Major Crimes Investigation
facility. During these visits, there were no signs of abuse
or intolerable living conditions although there were
allegations of abuse following the March military operations.
The facilities are clean, and detainees have adequate access
to food and medical care. Women and juveniles are housed in
Wasit Central Jail, separate from adult males. There are
impending plans to conduct unannounced inspections of the
other 21 MoI police stations.


16. (SBU) While there are still nation-wide problems with
overcrowding and its consequent effect on supplies of food
and medicine and judicial processing delays, there has been
noticeable progress in the conditions of Iraqi detention
facilities. There is an immediate need for more facilities,
especially prisons, and more trained corrections officers for
new and existing positions. Compared to reporting from
previous years, there are remarkably fewer reports of torture
and abuse in the detention facilities. We do not have
visibility on all detention facilities and police stations,
especially in remote areas, but the PRTs and Military are
continuing to visit MoI and MoD facilities. MNF-I, MNC-I,
MNSTC-I, and TF134 have extensive inspection duties and
completed about 180 in July. Post will continue to report
separately on Baghdad facilities, including a comprehensive
assessment, and will encourage reporting on this issue from
PRTs not mentioned.

© Scoop Media

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