Cablegate: Are the Iraqi Prisons Working Yet? -- An Assessment Of


DE RUEHGB #2384/01 2470838
O 040838Z SEP 09




E.O. 12958: N/A


SUBJECT: Are the Iraqi Prisons Working Yet? -- An Assessment of
Ministry of Justice/Iraqi Corrections Service (ICS) Operations

(SBU) SUMMARY: While the Iraqi Corrections Service (ICS) has made
tremendous strides over the past six years, moving from
non-existence to a very solid foundation for further development,
there are still significant obstacles ahead for the creation of a
sustainable and effective corrections system. Working within the
Embassy's Rule of Law Coordinator's Office, the International
Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (DOJ/ICITAP) will
continue to play an essential role in advising the Ministry of
Justice (MOJ) on organizational and physical capacity building as
well as continuing to institutionalize the precepts of international
human rights standards.

--------------------------------------------- ---
Empty Prisons, Corrections Chaos: Historic Background
--------------------------------------------- ---

1. (SBU) In October 2002, Saddam granted unprecedented amnesty to
virtually all prisoners in Iraq releasing to the street as many as
100,000 convicted criminals. He publically stated this release was a
'thank you' to his countrymen for endorsing him as President in a
national referendum. With the collapse of the corrections system
and the subsequent Coalition advance, nearly all documents on the
organizational structure and operation of the correctional
facilities were lost or destroyed. Many officials with direct
knowledge of facility operations disappeared, and Iraqi families had
moved into abandoned prison and detention facilities as squatters.
By the spring of 2003, most prison assets-once a key element of
Saddam's security apparatus-- were either stolen or destroyed.

2. (SBU) In May 2003, a multi-national team of corrections
professionals comprised of three INL-funded ICITAP selected former
U.S. state corrections directors and three experts from Great
Britain and Canada, deployed to Iraq and produced a comprehensive
report on the state of the Iraqi corrections system. Issued on June
15, 2003, the report found that the Saddam regime maintained prisons
in harsh and inhumane conditions ignoring international human rights
standards while offering no professional training for officers and
staff. These recommendations became the basis for the development of
a strategic plan to establish a new Iraq Corrections Service (ICS).

3. (SBU) Further, the report noted that rampant corruption
victimized inmates, inmate's families, and often, lower-level staff.
With 15 specific recommendations for the establishment of a
professional, secure, and humane correctional system to support the
Iraqi criminal justice system, the DOJ/International Criminal
Investigative Training Assistance Program, or ICITAP, was deployed
to develop a corrections system using international standards and
best correctional practices conforming with Iraqi Law and Coalition
Provisional Authority orders.

4. (SBU) Funded by the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law
Enforcement Affairs (INL), the corrections program at one time
maintained 80 contract correctional advisors. (Comment: There are
now 40 ICITAP advisors which will reduce to 37 by February 2010 with
further reductions throughout 2010 due to funding reductions for the
program. Additionally, the Department of Defense currently has an
inter-agency agreement with ICITAP for the employment of four
Corrections Advisors for their Security Detention program. End

5. (SBU) Over the last 6 years, the ICS, under the MOJ, has
successfully expanded to include 12 prisons and 6 detention
Qsuccessfully expanded to include 12 prisons and 6 detention
facilities. Over 14,000 Iraqi Correctional Officers (ICOs) have been
trained. A national headquarters was established as well as a
National Training Academy exclusively for ICO training. To combat
abuse and corruption, an internal affairs section was formed to
investigate any and all allegations of abuse, corruption and fraud.

6. (SBU) Since their initial assessment of the Iraq prisons in
2003, ICITAP's mission has been to assist the GOI in the
establishment and development of safe and secure correctional
facilities for the humane care, custody, and treatment of persons
incarcerated in the Iraqi Corrections Sevice as a means of enhancing
the public safety for the citizens of Iraq under the rule of law.

7. (SBU) ICITAP has functioned largely in a
training/consulting/advising capacity at all levels of the MOJ
assisting in the development of an ICS organizational structure;
establishing standardardized policies, procedures and practices;
assisting in the formulation of a professional organizational
culture; assisting in the improvement of current facilities as well
as the design and construction of new USG funded facilities.

8. (SBU) Throughout the recent history of the ICS, there have been

significant senior management challenges. The first Director
General (DG) of the ICS was removed in a management coup by his
Deputy, who then served approximately four years before being
arrested. He had become significantly influenced by the Jayash
al-Mahdi (JAM) militia and ultimately controlled by their demands.
This control turned to complicity and culminated in the arrest of
both him and his Deputy in May 2008. These arrests marked the end
of a period of increasing corruption. An acting DG was appointed,
but was replaced within 45 days by another acting DG, Sharef
Abdul-Mutalb Jasim al-Murtadha (recently named the official DG).
This appointment was made by acting Minister of Justice, Dr. Safa
al-Safi. Sharef has no corrections background or experience.
(Comment: Al-Safi was not experienced in correction operations, was
a noted sectarian, and did not work cooperatively with coalition
forces and support personnel. His ineffective leadership crippled
the growth of the ICS. Specifically, he refused to hire and train
an adequate number of ICOs to fill vacancies in northern
prison/detention facilities while over-hiring ICOs in the south,
where his allegiance rested. End Comment.)
9. (SBU) The current Minister of Justice, Dara Nour al-Deen Baha'
al-Deen, (confirmed on February 19, 2009) demonstrates a firm
dedication to ensuring the ICS applies and enforces the rule of law
in the prison system. The MOJ is a former Iraqi judge who, in 2002,
was imprisoned in Abu Ghraib for issuing a judicial opinion contrary
to Saddam's direction. Since assuming duties as the MOJ, he has met
frequently with the US Embassy RoL personnel, and has specifically
requested briefings and corrections recommendations from ICITAP
advisors. This cooperative working relationship has already
produced a number of positive changes in ICS operations. On August
9, 2009 a Diplomatic Note from the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs
expressed the need for continuation of services provided by ICITAP
to the Ministry of Justice/Iraqi Corrections Service, stating that
the "consultants work in managing prisons and have extensive
experiences that are needed at the present time by prisons
administrations in Iraq."
10. (SBU) The MOJ has placed a priority on hiring adequate numbers
of ICOs, and he recently joined in the ground-breaking ceremony for
the GOI national training academy for ICS personnel. On his own
initiative, the MOJ compelled the MOI to abide by Iraqi law and
judicial rulings by either issuing new arrest warrants on detainees
or approving their release from MOJ custody. Although far from
complete, this MOJ initiative is a significant application of the
rule of law in detention operations. This dedication to justice and
the rule of law was not demonstrated by the previous minister.
Unfortunately, unless nominated and re-confirmed by the GOI, the
MOJ's tenure is scheduled to end upon the election of a new
11. (SBU) Over the past 5 years, Deputy Minister of Justice (DMOJ)
Posho Ibrahim Ali Dizaye has weathered the storms of rotating
ministers, arrests of senior staff, and militia influence. DMOJ
Posho has always been a cooperative friend to ICITAP corrections
advisors and coalition forces. Nearing retirement age, he has made
fewer strategic decisions over the last few months and defers most
major decisions to the Minister or DG.

Repopulating the System: Current Status and Challenges of the ICS
QRepopulating the System: Current Status and Challenges of the ICS

12. (SBU) In sharp contrast with the past, prisons and detention
facilities in the ICS are generally well-run. Prisoners receive
humane and respectful treatment (although the physical condition of
many of the facilities is below international standards). The MOJ
ICS directly attributes this change to the ICITAP Corrections
Program and its advisors, who are directly responsible for
implementing prison reform in Iraq. Additionally, the new MOJ
recognizes the importance of the detention transition and supports
an aggressive, proactive ICS approach which increases the demand for
advisory input at critical levels. ICITAP advisors continue to
provide security and organizational advice and information to the
MOJ and his corrections staff regarding activation schedules,
staffing analyses of various prisons, policy and procedures,
prisoner population, and classification.
13. (SBU) There are currently 19,530 total prisoners in the MOJ ICS;
18,918 are adult male prisoners. The remainders are female and a
small portion are juveniles. The MOJ ICS operates 11 prisons (not
including the soon-to-be activated USG built Chamchamal Prison), and
6 detention facilities. There are 14,405 ICOs currently on the
books with a need for approximately 4,100 more for the activation of
three facilities and two additional renovation projects (Basra
Central Prison; Chamchamal Prison; Taji Prison; Ft. Suse;, and
Nasiriyah). There are only 1,800 authorized ICO positions
remaining, leaving a shortfall of 2,300 positions needed from the
Ministry of Finance.

14. (SBU) In practice, the correctional system in Iraq consists of

the ICS national system and an independently operated system in the
country's northern Kurdish Region. The Iraqi national system,
headquartered in Baghdad, consists of adult male and females
facilities under the authority of the ICS. Separate facilities are
maintained for juveniles under the authority of the Ministry of
Labor and Social Affairs (MoLSA). Today in the Kurdish Region,
correctional facilities for males, females, and juveniles are
operated by MoLSA. Jails are under the administrative and
operational control of the Kurdish Ministry of Interior and the
Kurdish Security Forces (Asaish). These interactions make the
mission more difficult because of the number of independent agencies
and ministries, as well as individual personalities, advisors work
with in developing their detention operations.
15. (SBU) Although substantial gains have been achieved over the
last five years, there are critical benchmarks ahead for detention
transition: Coalition forces have set a target date to divest
itself of security detainees by the beginning of 2010. This
includes completing the Taji Theater Internment Facility (TIF) and
staffing trained ICOs. Taji will house up to 5,600 prisoners, and
will be turned over to the GOI in early 2010. There are currently
fewer than 10,000 coalition force detainees who are scheduled for
release or transfer to the GOI. Weekly transfers from Cropper to
Rusafa of both convicted and detainees with detention orders and/or
arrest warrants began in May 2009. Rusafa Prison Complex, the ICS'
largest intake detention facility, will receive custody and control
of these coalition detainees pending resolution of their cases in
Iraqi courts.
16. (SBU) Task Force 134, Detention Operations, is constructing a
Corrections Training Center at FOB Future for eventual turn-over to
the MOJ ICS in March 2010. This center will become the National
Training Academy for pre-service ICO training, mid-upper level
management and leadership training, and ICS specialty training. The
MOJ has committed to staffing this facility and taking operational
control, and the National Headquarters of the ICS may also relocate
to this site.
17. (SBU) Comment: This relocation will have a significant effect
on the ICS. The DG currently is involved in routine prison
operations at Rusafa because of his proximity to the detainees. He
typically acts as a compound warden rather than a DG responsible for
all prisons nationally. Once relocated to the National Training
Academy, he can more readily focus on national issues, staffing,
budget formulation, judicial throughput, and strategic planning.
This is a highly important move which will benefit ICS
organizational leadership capacity. End comment.
18. (SBU) Additionally, there is momentum and pressure now to
implement Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA)directive 10 which
places full authority and control over all detention and prison
facilities with the MOJ. On June 25, 2009, the Prime Minister
ordered the Ministry of Defense to transfer all of its detainees
(approximately 2500) to the Ministry of Justice. CPA 10 may
incrementally take hold in the Baghdad Operations Command (BOC)
where there are two large, and persistently overcrowded, detention
facilities. There are MOI and MOD facilities within Iraq that hold
detainees without legal authority and under abusive and inhumane
conditions. Placing authority and control under the MOJ, will, with
Qconditions. Placing authority and control under the MOJ, will, with
appropriate resourcing, reduce abuse and contribute to reliable and
predictable case processing from arrest to post-trial incarceration.

19. (SBU) Comment: This will contribute to efficient detainee
population management and help reduce internal corruption and
inconsistent application of the rule of law. The major obstacle to
implementing CPA 10 is the lack of inter-ministerial cooperation
that is required to reallocate appropriate resources (funding,
personnel, and facilities) to the MOJ. The successful
implementation of CPA 10 will require a consistent application of
Iraq Executive Order 207 (detention and case processing procedures)
and personal emphasis at the Prime Minister/COR level. End comment.
20. (SBU) Newly constructed USG funded prisons and those still under
construction are not yet staffed or activated. Chamchamal Prison is
a 3,000 bed facility officially turned over to the MOJ on March
2009. Due to decisions made by the prior MOJ, and the delay in
passing the 2009 budget, this facility is slow to activate. There
are enormous requirements for the activation of a 3,000 bed
facility. Many of these requirements are physical resources
demanding human resource needs to set-up and organizationally
activate the prison.
21. (SBU) Further, there is a 1,189 bed construction project
on-going in Ft. Suse bringing that facility from 1,500 to 2,689
post-trial beds. Nasiriyah Prison is scheduled to double in size
adding another 800 beds by December 2009. Finally, Basra Central
Prison is scheduled for completion also by December 2009 adding
another 1,200 beds to the ICS inventory. Once all USG prison
construction efforts are completed, the ICS will have an additional
3,189 beds available for use in addition to Chamchamal (3,000 beds).
The MOJ, without coalition or USG support, brought 2,600 post-trial
beds on-line by renovating and re-opening Baghdad Central Prison

(formerly Abu Ghraib).
22. (SBU) All the foregoing issues require significant oversight and
assistance to ensure a safe and orderly transition of detainees to
the GOI as expediently and professionally as possible. The
oversight, exclusively provided by ICITAP corrections advisors, will
ensure supervision and support of detainee population management at
ICS facilities and the application of humane treatment and respect
for detainees. The ICITAP corrections advisory program is funded by
INL through December 31, 2009 on the current interagency agreement
(IAA). A new IAA is expected to carry the mission through the end
of May 2010 at lower than requested staffing, and funding beyond
this date has not been identified. The program is expected to
require 40 advisors from now through January 2010, 37 through May
2010, and a gradual reduction to 11 advisors through March 2011.
All staffing projections are based on the challenges identified
below and do not account for any significant changes impacting the
ICS over the next year.

Prospects for the Future - ICS Ability to meet Challenges

23. (SBU) Executive leadership in the ICS is notably lacking. The
most consistent stable and cooperative force in the ICS has been the
Deputy Minister of Justice, Posho Ibrahim Ali Dazaye. DMOJ Posho is
nearing retirement age, and does not effectively make substantial
decisions. The lack of experienced correctional senior level
management is a handicap which limits a strategic direction for the
ICS. Unless re-nominated and confirmed by the Council of
Representatives, the Minister of Justice will step-down from his
position when national elections occur in January 2010.

24. (SBU) At the working level, although there is increasing
evidence that the ICS handles most emergency situations well, their
management of life- threatening situations still places detainees
and staff in jeopardy. For example, recently when a fight between
detainees broke out in Rusafa, the ICOs responded and separated the
detainees but failed to restrain them upon removal from the cell,
allowing one of the detainees to run and retrieve a piece of metal.
He returned swinging the 'club' at both the ICOs and the other

25. (SBU) With no template in place to ensure a seamless transition
under CPA 10, success relies on inter-ministerial cooperation that
reallocates and shares GoI resources to successfully transition
detention facilities to the MOJ. Security and prisoner
accountability during this transition is critical. Budgetary
constraints that limit ICO hiring/training, and the lack of
qualified supervisors to run the facilities remain a significant
concern in this transition. Strategically planning for the
transition of each facility must occur to ensure public safety and
maintaining human rights standards.

26. (SBU) The 2009 MOJ budget is woefully inadequate. Although
initially allocated with a sizable increase from 2008, the fall in
oil prices resulted in a 39.7% reduction, making the 2009 MOJ budget
less than last year's appropriation ($188M for 2008/$154 M for
2009). This reduction severely complicates the MOJ's ability to
implement timely prison activation requirements.

27. (SBU) The additional transfers of detainees from coalition
custody in the next eight months will burden an already taxed system
of chronic pretrial detainee overcrowding, detainee population
Qof chronic pretrial detainee overcrowding, detainee population
management, and the ability to ensure provisional care to detainees.
There is current overcrowding in existing pre-trial MOI facilities
in the Baghdad area, many are waiting for bed space at Rusafa.

28. (SBU) Case processing is not improving fast enough to keep pace
with GOI detainee intakes and the transfer of detainees from
coalition forces in the coming months. This is causing many
detainees to languish in detention for months or years. The GOI
detention system will, under this scenario, become more of a
warehouse than a detainee processing center for the courts. To
address this problem, significant resources must be allocated for
medical care and for programs that will offer adult basic education,
vocational training, and recreation opportunities for all


29. (SBU) Comment: When considering the positive impact ICITAP
corrections advisors have made upon the ICS, the question remains
whether the gains are sustainable in view of the additional
challenges ahead. Upcoming national elections,

inter-ministerial implementation of CPA 10, transfer of coalition
detainees to the GOI, slow judicial processing of detainees,
continuing GOI budget problems, lingering influence of the previous
acting minister, an inexperienced DG of Corrections, the drawdown of
coalition forces and ICITAP corrections advisors, and the enormous
task of transitioning the 5,600 bed Taji Prison and 3,000 bed
Cropper from coalition forces, present significant challenges for
the ICS.The GOI needs to maintain the political will to ensure a
humane, functioning corrections system that would befit it as an
emerging democracy.
The USG should continue to maintain managerial and organizational
support for the Iraqi Correctional Service during these challenging
events and engage other international partners for their assistance
to ensure success for the future. These actions will provide
assurance that international human rights are upheld and the rule of
law will continue to be an integral part of the Iraqi Correctional


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