The U.S. and Iraq are currently negotiation a security agreement that would replace a U.N. mandate that allows their presence in Iraq. Of course there are a series of problems with Iraq wanting to prosecute U.S. soldiers and the U.S. wanting to protect Americans from Iraqi courts.
Iraq has had little power to protect its citizens from foreigners following heinous crimes inside Iraq. Following the killing of 17 civilians last year by Blackwater, security contractors that protect diplomats, the Iraqi government could do nothing. When a teenage girl was raped and her family killed, south of Baghdad, by a U.S. soldier, the Iraqi government could do nothing.
While the negotiations continue and seem to be hitting a wall we've forgotten about the detainees.
Right now the U.S. military is trying to pare down the number of Iraqi detainees in custody before the U.N. mandate expires at the end of the year. They've reduced the number by almost 10,000 since last year; currently there are 17,000 people in U.S. custody. Most are detained and are never charged or go on trial, many are held for months or years until they are no longer deemed a threat. If and when a security agreement is actually in place the U.S. will have to transfer the remaining detainees to Iraqi custody.
Human Rights Watch issued a statement today calling for the protection of detainees who fear abuse and toture in Iraqi prisons once they are transferred from U.S. custody.
Human Rights Watch and many journalists have documented abuse, torture and ill-treatment in Iraqi prisons. The organization ask that the U.S. military be responsible and put into place a process in which an Iraqi can ask not to be transferred for fear of torture.
“Since the United States made itself synonymous with abuse of detainees in Iraq during the Abu Ghraib scandal, the least it can do now is assure that a security agreement does not pave the way for further abuse,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
Iraqis prefer to be detained by U.S. forces these days because of the terrible treatment in Iraqi prisons. But even there they often don't get access to legal council or a right to their day in court. Recently I interviewed a police chief in Fallujah who told me that since he took over everything was much better fo inmates in his jails.
"We feed them now," he said.