Coalition Holds 2,000 Prisoners in Umm Qasr; 7,000 Others Released
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 8, 2003 Seven thousand captured Iraqis have been released from the American internment facility at Umm Qasr, officials there said today. Roughly 2,000 remain captive.
Most of those released have been civilians captured during the confusion of war or low-level Iraqi soldiers, said Army Col. John Della Jacono, deputy chief of staff for the Coalition Forces Land Component Command. Della Jacono and Col. Karl Goetzke, CFLCC's staff judge advocate, spoke to reporters in the Pentagon today by telephone from the Iraqi port.
Della Jacono explained that Army Criminal Investigation Command agents, military lawyers and intelligence specialists vet everyone captured in Iraq to determine their status. Captives are put into one of three categories: enemy prisoner of war, illegal combatants or criminals.
Low-level prisoners of war, generally enlisted men, are routinely paroled roughly 3,700 to date, Della Jacono said. Parolees sign an agreement that they won't take up arms against American or other coalition forces. They are allowed to return to their military units but only perform administrative or medical duties. They are also required to carry their parole documents with them.
More than 3,000 civilians have been released as well. "As you know, during the fog of war, you might pick up these noncombatants (who were) at the wrong place at the wrong time," Della Jacono said. After the vetting process, these individuals are released.
Parolees and civilians are provided clothing, food and either transportation or money to get to their hometown or place of capture commercially, generally about $5, Della Jacono said.
Senior military officials and unlawful combatants are not released. Others are being held because they are deemed to warrant "further interrogation by (military intelligence) screening teams" and other investigators.
The internment facility is also holding 178 individuals who were caught committing crimes in Iraq.
Goetzke described illegal combatants as individuals who were not wearing uniforms and not carrying arms in an open manner. "In other words," he said, "engaging in tactics and techniques that were not in accordance with the law of armed combat." He said more than 200 of these individuals are foreign fighters, mostly from other Gulf countries.
Della Jacono explained that enemy POWs are segregated from illegal combatants. Criminals are also kept separate from the other populations. Prisoners are further segregated by rank and gender. The facility is holding one woman, who has been classified an illegal combatant.
The 800th Military Police Brigade, a reserve unit out of New York, runs the internment facility in Umm Qasr. About 1,700 military members staff the facility. Military police officers staff another internment facility in Baghdad. Della Jacono mentioned that some of the reserve MPs are corrections officers in their civilian jobs.
The 17 individuals who have been captured from among the so-called "most wanted" deck of cards are held in a separate facility in Baghdad. Della Jacono said they are being guarded by MPs and kept separate from each other.
"They're being treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention with dignity and respect," he said, but stopped short of calling them prisoners of war. Instead, he said, they are "special category detainees."
The two officers report no decisions about the prisoners' disposition. "No determinations have been made whatsoever in terms of the disposition or the manner in which we intend to review their cases after we have ascertained their status," Goetzke said. "That's an issue we will look at."