Iraq reopens Abu Ghraib, promises to follow international standards

The Iraqi government has reopened the prison formerly called Abu Ghraib, promising to operate the facility by international standards and allow inspections by humanitarian groups. In a tour for members of the media Feb. 21, officials said they hoped to temper the strong feelings many Iraqis hold toward the prison with a new name, Baghdad Central Prison, and renovations including fresh paint, exercise equipment, and a library. The facility currently holds 300 prisoners, but officials expect to reach a capacity more than 12,000 once improvements are complete.

The prison was the site of torture and executions under Saddam Hussein and gained further notoriety due to detainee abuse by US soldiers. Officials announced the prison’s reopening in January. In December, the Senate Armed Services Committee reported that senior US officials were responsible for the use of abusive interrogation techniques against detainees held in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantánamo Bay. The bipartisan report stated that the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib “was not simply the result of a few soldiers acting on their own” but grew out of interrogation policies approved by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other top officials. The prison was returned to the Iraqi government in late 2006. (Jurist, Feb. 22)

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