Release of Iraqi prisoners welcomed
Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq have welcomed the announcement by Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority, Paul Bremer, that 506 Iraqi prisoners are to be released from detention camps.
In a statement CPT said that it hoped this would "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, the news of the releases follows a dossier produced by CPT which looked at seventy-two cases of detention. Only twenty-seven of these had been charged with a crime against the CPA, and none had been charged with civil crimes. Another twenty-four had been released, typically after a period of nearly two months.
CPT said in their statement; "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 of the detention camps.
"It is clear that these problems cause frustration for their families and for Iraqis in general" the CPT statement says. "
"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."