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Baghdad Central Prison cell block

The Baghdad Central Prison, formerly known[1] as Abu Ghraib prison (Arabic: سجن أبو غريبSijn Abu Ghuraib; also Abu Ghurayb, meaning 'father of the raven' or 'Place of Ravens'[2]) is in Abu Ghraib, an Iraqi city 32 km (20 mi) west of Baghdad. It was built by British contractors in the 1950s.

In 2001 the prison is thought to have held as many as 15,000 inmates.

The prison was reportedly abandoned just prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq when Saddam announced general amnesty for virtually all the nation's prisoners. An expansion project began in early 2002 that would add six new blocks to the prison.[3] In October 2002, Saddam Hussein gave amnesty to most prisoners in Iraq. After the prisoners were released, the prison was left empty to be vandalized and looted. Almost all of the documents relating to prisoners were piled and burnt inside of prison offices and cells, leading to extensive structural damage.


Known mass-graves related to Abu Ghraib

In the area of Khan Dhari, west of Baghdad

Mass grave with the bodies of political prisoners from Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. 15 victims were executed on 26 December 1998 and buried by prison authorities under the cover of darkness.

Al-Zahedi, on the western outskirts of Baghdad

Secret graves near a civilian cemetery with the bodies of almost 1,000 political prisoners. According to an eyewitness, 10 to 15 bodies arrived at a time from the Abu Ghraib prison and were buried by local civilians. An execution on 10 December 1999 in Abu Ghraib claimed the lives of 101 people in one day. On 9 March 2000, 58 prisoners were killed at a time. The last corpse interred was number 993.[4]

Under the US-led coalition

Front gate of the prison seen from the highway

Until August, 2006, the site known as the Abu Ghraib prison was used by both the U.S.-led coalition occupying Iraq and the Iraqi government for detention purposes. The area of the facility known as "The Hard Site" is now under the complete control of the Iraqi government. The prison is used for housing only convicted criminals, with suspected criminals, insurgents or those arrested and awaiting trial held at other facilities, commonly known as "camps" in U.S. military parlance. All detainees are now housed in an area known as "Camp Redemption" which is divided into 5 security levels. This recently built (Summer of 2004) camp replaced the three level setup of Camp Ganci, Camp Vigilant and Abu Ghraib's Tier 1. The remainder of the facility was occupied by the United States military. In the recent past, Abu Ghraib had served as both a FOB (Forward Operating Base) and a detention facility.

When the prison was being used as a detention facility it held more than 7,000 people at its peak. (In early 2004.) The current population however, is much smaller. This is in part because the new Camp Redemption has a much smaller capacity than Camp Ganci had. Many detainees have been sent from Abu Ghraib to Camp Bucca for this reason. All persons of interest being held by the United States military are initially housed in Camp Redemption, some of which are suspected rebels, some suspected criminals. Those who are convicted by trial in Iraqi court are then transferred to the Iraqi run Hard Site.

Picture of Satar Jabar, one of the prisoners subjected to torture at Abu Ghraib.

Reserve soldiers from the 320th military police battalion were charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice with prisoner abuse, beginning with an Army Criminal Investigation Division investigation on January 14, 2004.

In April 2004, U.S. television news-magazine 60 Minutes reported on a story from the magazine The New Yorker involving sanctioned torture and humiliation of Iraqi detainees by US soldiers and contracted civilians. The story included photographs depicting the apparent abuse of prisoners, and resulted in a substantial political scandal within the US and other coalition countries. For more information see Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse.

On April 20, 2004 forty (40) mortar rounds were fired into the prison by insurgents. Twenty-two detainees were killed and 92 wounded. The attack was viewed as either as an attempt to incite a riot or retribution for detainees cooperating with the United States.[5]

In May 2004 the US-led coalition embarked on a prisoner release policy to try to reduce numbers to fewer than 2000. Despite numerous large releases and transfers to Camp Bucca, this goal has yet to be obtained due to the number of incoming detainees.

In a May 24, 2004 address at the U.S. Army War College in Pennsylvania, United States President George W. Bush announced that the prison would be demolished. On June 14 Iraqi interim President Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawer indicated that he opposed this decision, and on June 21 U.S. military judge Col. James Pohl ruled that the prison was a crime scene and could not be demolished.

On April 2, 2005 the prison was attacked by 60 insurgents. In the two hours before they were forced to retreat, the attackers suffered at least 50 casualties. (Both killed and injured; according to the US military.) Thirty-six persons at or in the prison, including Marines, soldiers, sailors, civilians and detainees were injured in the attack. Al Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility for both of the strikes.[6]

During the week ending August 27, 2005, nearly 1,000 detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison were released at the request of the Iraqi government.[7]

On December 4, 2005, Reuters reported that according to John Pace, human rights chief for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), "Those held in Abu Ghraib prison were among an estimated 14,000 people imprisoned in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1546."

All prisoners in Iraq except those held by the Ministry of Justice are, technically speaking, held against the law because the Ministry of Justice is the only authority that is empowered by [Iraqi] law to detain and hold anybody in prison.


Transfer to Iraqi control

In March 2006 the U.S. military decided to transfer the 4,500 inmates to other prisons and hand over the Abu Ghraib prison to Iraqi authorities.[9] The prison was reported emptied of prisoners in August 2006.[10] On September 2, 2006, Abu Ghraib was formally handed over to Iraq's government. Ali al-Dabbagh, a spokesman for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, stated "The Abu Ghraib detention facility was handed over to the Iraqi government." The formal transfer was conducted between Major General Jack Gardner, Commander of Task Force 134, and representatives of the Iraqi Ministry of Justice and the Iraqi army.[11]

In February 2009 Iraq reopened Abu Ghraib under the new name of Baghdad Central Prison . It's initially design to house 3,500 inmates, and plans on increasing to 15,000 prisoners by the end of 2009.[12]

Notable detainees

See also


  1. ^ US releases scores from Baghdad prison, Google News / Agence France-Presse, February 12, 2009
  2. ^ Abu Ghrai translation
  3. ^ "Abu Ghurayb Prison". 2005. Retrieved 2006-03-11.  
  4. ^ Archaeologists for Human Rights
  5. ^ "22 killed in Baghdad mortar attack". USA Today. 2004. Retrieved 2006-03-11.  
  6. ^ Defend America (2005-04-13), "Marines Relate Events of Abu Ghraib Attack", Defend America,  
  7. ^ "Nearly 1,000 Abu Ghraib detainees released". 2005. Retrieved 2006-03-11.  
  8. ^ "America 'abusing' mandate in Iraq". The Age. 2005-12-06. Retrieved 2006-06-09.  
  9. ^ "US to transfer Abu Ghraib prisoners". Fairfax Digital. 2006-03-10. Retrieved 2008-06-30. "Abu Ghraib prison[...]'s 4,500 inmates will be transferred to a new facility at the nearby Baghdad airport military base and other camps. [...] Abu Ghraib, where US soldiers abused Iraqi detainees, will be handed over to Iraqi authorities once the prisoner transfer to Camp Cropper and other US military prisons in the country is finished."  
  10. ^ Nancy A. Youssef Abu Ghraib no longer houses any prisoners, Iraqi officials say McClatchy Newspapers August 26, 2006
  11. ^ Associated Press (2006-09-03). "Inmates transferred out of Abu Ghraib as coalition hands off control".  
  12. ^ Associated Press (2009-01-25), "Abu Ghraib set to reopen as Baghdad Central Prison", International Herald Tribune,  

External links

Coordinates: 33°17′30″N 44°03′56″E / 33.291667°N 44.065556°E / 33.291667; 44.065556

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