Enemy POWs Captured in Iraq Are Getting Good Treatment
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 9, 2003 Enemy prisoners of war captured in Iraq are being well taken care of.
That's the message Army Col. John Della Jacono, a military policeman, imparted today from Umm Qasr, Iraq, to reporters at the Pentagon, in Kuwait and Qatar via satellite-teleconference.
"You have seen the care and humane treatment that our forces -- from the [Army] combat infantryman or Marine on the ground, to the MP back here in the Theater Internment Facility" at Umm Qasr -- have provided to enemy prisoners of war, Jacona told reporters. He is the deputy chief of staff for the Coalition Forces Land Component commander.
Jacono, who had EPW administration experience during the Gulf War and Afghanistan conflict, noted enemy POWs had been captured "since Day One" of the 21-day-old Iraq war.
The British, he remarked, had early in the war established a detainment facility at Umm Qasr for the POWs they had captured in Iraq and those secured by U.S. and other coalition troops.
The American military took over administration of the Umm Qasr facility from the British two days ago, Jacono said, noting that members of the U.S. Army's 800th MP Brigade are now manning the facility.
Handling enemy POWs is an MP function, Jacono explained. Captured EPWs, he continued, are expeditiously removed from the battlefield and transferred to the Umm Qasr detainment facility, where they are processed and segregated according to rank.
The prisoners are housed in large tents, he continued, with about 15 to 20 POWs assigned to each tent. The prisoners are provided food, medical treatment and other appropriate care, he added, according to the Geneva Conventions.
"We do medically treat all injured EPWs," Jacono pointed out. He noted that 236 wounded prisoners are currently being treated at medical facilities and battlefield field hospitals across Iraq and aboard the U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort.
Upon capture on the battlefield the POWs "are given water, MREs (meals- ready-to-eat)," the colonel remarked. He pointed out that the Umm Qasr facility has a dining hall that provides the POWs with two hot meals per day, including rice, fruit, tea, juice, bread, vegetables, meat and stew.
"They are being fed well here. They are being well taken care of all the way from Baghdad down to this location," Jacono emphasized, noting that upon arrival at Umm Qasr the POWs are given a box lunch.
Some prisoners have volunteered information on Iraqi unit morale and other details, Jacono noted. There are no plans, he added, to transfer any Umm Qasr POWs to the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detainment facility.
As soon as supplies arrive, Muslim-faith EPWs at Umm Qasr will be provided prayer rugs and Korans, Jacono remarked, noting, "We accord them their religious rights and practices."
Jacono said the POWs at Umm Qasr are slated to soon undergo an Article 5 tribunal hearing and vetting process to determine their status as either regular enemy POWs or a civilian internee who might be subject to criminal prosecution.
After the prisoners are vetted, the colonel continued, "they are either fully accorded EPW status at that point in time or they might at a future point be turned over for criminal prosecution for a crime committed against the coalition or against the Iraqi people."
There are now about 7,300 enemy POWs in custody throughout the country, Jacono pointed out. Improvements are now being made at the Umm Qasr facility, he added, to enable the accommodation of up to 24,000 detainees. That capacity, he noted, can be expanded if necessary.
International Committee of the Red Cross officials had recently spent three to five days inspecting the Umm Qasr facility when it was under British administration, Jacono pointed out. He said the British "did an outstanding job."
The ICRC gave the facility satisfactory marks at that time, the colonel continued, and will return on a regular basis for more inspections.
The EPWs will remain at Umm Qasr "until the end of hostilities," Jacono explained, at which point "a decision will be made on the procedures for repatriation, to either an interim authority" or a new Iraqi government.