Middle East
US hands over last prison in Iraq
Iraqi justice minister promises to run a 'model prison' but others are concerned.
Last Modified: 16 Jul 2010 08:38 GMT

Rawyeh Rageh reports on a turnover that could mark the final chapter of US involvement in Iraq prisons.

The United States has handed over the last American-run prison to Iraqi authorities, a milestone in Iraq's push to reclaim sovereignty seven years after the US-led invasion.

Camp Cropper, near the airport of Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, is where the US held deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, prior to his execution.

Iraq's assumption of authority over the last prison controlled by US forces on Thursday marks an end to controversies which erupted after photos of US troops abusing Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison surfaced in 2004.  

However, some worry that sectarian tensions, a political deadlock four months after a close election and improper training could led to future prison abuses, including torture, by Iraqi forces.

But the US general in charge of detention facilities in Iraq says Iraqi forces are ready to take over the responsibility.

"There is overwhelming evidence they are equipped, prepared and poised to take over," Major General Jerry Cannon said.

In a ceremony, Cannon handed over a giant key of the prison to Dara Noureddin, Iraq's minister of justice.

'Model prison'

"We will make sure this prison is a model for all prisons," Noureddin said.

In depth

  Profile: Tariq Aziz           US troops begin leaving      Ministry enter 'secret jail'   Video: Ex-Saddam aide gets 15 years

The US continues to hold 200 other detainees, including eight members of Saddam Hussein's ousted government, in a seperate part of the prison dubbed Compound 5.

The high-security detention centre houses an estimated 1,500 detainees, excluding the 200 still held by the US.

With the exception of these 200 inmates, there are no more prisoners in US custody in Iraq, Cannon said.

A day before Camp Cropper's handover, Iraqi offficials said the US had turned over 55 former officials in Saddam Hussein's government since last year, including Tariq Aziz, the former foreign minister.

These former officials will "be treated fairly, transparently and truthfully" under Iraqi laws, Ali al-Dabbagh, a government spokesman said.

Aziz's son voiced concerns over how his father would be treated by Iraqi authorities.

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