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Two more Iraqi-run jails show signs of overcrowding and abuse
Yahoo News/Reuters
By Will Dunham
December 30, 2005

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Inspections of two Iraqi-run jails, prompted by the recent discovery of a bunker packed with mistreated prisoners, found overcrowding and signs of prisoner abuse, a senior U.S. commander said on Friday.

Iraqi and American inspectors made the new findings at a Baghdad facility on December 20 and one in Tal Afar on Wednesday, a U.S. military official said. The findings suggest broader problems at Iraqi-run detention facilities at a time when the U.S. military is taking steps toward turning over to the Iraqi government thousands of detainees held by American forces.

"While there were overcrowded conditions, there were no signs of recent abuse," Maj. Gen. William Webster, who commands a 30,000-strong force responsible for security in Baghdad, told Pentagon reporters by teleconference from Iraq.

"There were detainees who talked about having been abused before, and some of them showed signs of that," Webster added.

Webster did not describe these signs of abuse. He said a committee of Iraqi government and U.S. officials was continuing its investigation and inspections of Iraqi jails.

A raid by U.S. forces last month at a secret Baghdad bunker found 173 men and teenage boys held by the Interior Ministry, many malnourished, beaten and showing signs of torture. The Iraqi government earlier this month said 13 prisoners at another Interior Ministry prison also showed signs of abuse.

The two new inspections also were at Interior Ministry facilities, Webster said.

The U.S. military said this week it is holding 14,600 detainees in Iraq and that its facilities were at 123 percent of "optimal capacity."

Officials said there is no timetable for turning over these detention operations to the Iraqis, but it will not be done until Iraqi forces meet standards of care and custody laid out in international law and respect detainees' human rights.

The United States drew international condemnation last year after photos surfaced showing American forces abusing inmates at Abu Ghraib prison.

'INSURGENCY IS WEAKER'

U.S. officials hope the December 15 parliamentary elections and the subsequent formation of a permanent Iraqi government will sap the insurgency's vigor.

"Since the elections, the Iraqi insurgency is weaker in terms of the types of attacks they're able to conduct, and the number of attacks is down since the elections," said Webster, due to return to the United States in the next month along with the 3rd Infantry Division after a yearlong stint.

Webster said the actual number of insurgent attacks has risen compared to a year ago, but the number of successful attacks has declined to 10 percent from 25 percent to 30 percent. Webster said the rate of U.S. casualties has not declined from a year ago.

The Pentagon said there have been 2,173 U.S. military deaths since the war began in March 2003.

Webster said Iraqi security forces are in charge of 60 percent of Baghdad "with support from us."

"I think until the government is seated and secure and the Iraqi security forces are relatively disciplined and fully trained that there will still be some chaos in the city. Many elements of the insurgency will benefit or attempt to benefit from this chaos because they think they're going to get ahead by conducting it," Webster said.

Webster said U.S. forces had reduced insurgent car bombs by half while also finding half the roadside bombs planted by the rebels.

Commentary:
We live in odd times. The Bush White House has systematically dismantled POW protections under the Geneva Conceptions on issues like murder, torture, abuse, overcrowding, etc. But, now we're led to believe that it's wrong for Iraq to do what we've been doing for years. It's amazing that this kind of story is printed without the authors laughing at the absurdity of it all.