CPT responds to CPAs announcement that it will release 506 detainees

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[Note: The report referred to in this release that documents human rights abuses inflicted by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) on Iraqi detainees and their familis is available for downloading here.]

CPT-Iraq welcomes the announcement by Administrator Paul Bremer of the Coalition Provisional Authority’s planned release of 506 Iraqi prisoners from detention camps.

As reported by the Associated Press Wednesday afternoon, the CPA will begin today by releasing 100 prisoners from the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad and will continue releasing others over the coming weeks.

CPT hopes that this will begin to address the serious problem of more than 13,000 persons held in detention centers around Iraq, many of whom have not been charged with any violation. Although CPT has no specific knowledge about the prisoners to be freed, CPT recently released a case report on seventy-two persons, about whom the team did have specific information. Only twenty-seven of them have been charged with a crime against the CPA, and none have been charged with civil crimes. Another twenty-four have been released, typically after a period of nearly two months. That leaves about one-third in a state of limbo: not charged, yet not released. The CPA needs to sort out which have committed crimes and which have not. Our concern, as stated in the earlier report, centers on the treatment of these persons while they are in detention.

The lack of family visits is especially troubling. The CPA never offers information about the health or whereabouts of detained persons to family members, although in thirty-three of the seventy-two cases they did provide that information to families who were persistent. In only eleven of the cases were family members able to visit detainees.

Other concerns include the health of detained persons with special needs as well as the overcrowded conditions, and worse, reported in some of the detention camps. Further details are given in the CPT report. It is clear that these problems cause frustration for their families and for Iraqis in general. It is also clear that a process that is transparent, efficient, and that upholds basic legal rights is essential for establishing a secure and democratic society in Iraq.

We sincerely hope that this release of prisoners will be the first of many steps to remove the backlog of people trapped in the limbo of the CPA penal system, to release the innocent, and to ensure humane treatment under the 4th Geneva Convention for those who continue to be held.

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