Commander Sees Positive Trends in Iraq Detention Operations
By Sgt. Sara Moore, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 24, 2008 The U.S. troop surge in Iraq and increased community involvement have helped improve coalition detention operations there, the U.S. commander in charge of those operations said yesterday.
Since the troop surge, the coalition has seen positive trends in the capture and release rates among Iraqi detainees, in detainee-on-detainee violence in coalition facilities, and in recapture rates among detainees who have been released from custody, Marine Maj. Gen. Douglas M. Stone, Multinational Force Iraq’s commander of detention operations, told reporters in Iraq.
The coalition has more than 23,000 detainees in custody, Stone said. This population size is largely due to the troop surge, he said, but it is declining because the detainee release rate has now overtaken the intake rate. In September, the coalition implemented a new engagement and assessment process under which detainees are evaluated and those who are deemed to no longer be a security threat are released.
Since that process was implemented, more than 6,000 individuals have been released, and only 12 have been recaptured and returned to custody, Stone said. One of the reasons the recapture rate is so low is because the detainees have committed themselves to rejecting violence and are joining communities that are embracing peace, he said.
“The peace in many of the communities -- brought on by the communities themselves -- the support of the communities by the community and by our forces, who have worked together to set an environment that will allow for the peaceful return of the detainees,” is what has influenced much of the success of the release program, Stone said.
Another factor that contributes to the low recapture rate among released detainees is the array of programs the coalition has in place to rehabilitate detainees while in custody, Stone said. The coalition employs counselors, psychiatrists, Iraqi clerics, teachers and others to determine the education level, occupational skills, motivation and morale of the detainees, which allows leaders to determine how best to relate to detainees, he said.
The coalition also offers basic education, pay-for-work programs, vocational training, religious discussion classes, and family visitation, “all of which together enable the development of good citizenship, and they deter released detainees from rejoining the fight,” Stone said. In addition, all detainees go before a case record review board, followed by a Multinational Force Review Committee every six months, which gives them a chance to individually discuss their case with coalition force members.
This interactive dialogue “helps assess the recidivist potential of the detainee. But more importantly, it ensures that the Iraqi citizens have both a voice in the process (and) a safe return of the detainees to their population,” Stone said.
While detainees are in custody, providing the highest quality care possible is a top priority for coalition force members, Stone said. Preventing violence between individual detainees or groups falls into this category, he said, and the guard force is vigilant and responds immediately in the case of an attack. These incidents have declined dramatically since the end of 2007, and it has been more than 17 weeks since an attack occurred at either Camp Bucca or Camp Cropper, he said.
Stone emphasized that the authority to detain individuals in the war on terror comes from a United Nations Security Council resolution, and the government of Iraq gives the coalition the authority to detain individuals. In all detention operations, respecting the individual dignity of each detainee is essential, he said, and the coalition remains committed to providing the highest level of care and custody possible.
“In every case, we not only meet the standards required by international law, but we seek to provide exceptional understanding that successes begin and end with the manner in which the internees themselves are treated and the environment in which the experience of detention reflects the values of this culture and of those of the coalition,” he said.