The US military on Thursday transferred control over Camp Cropper [JURIST news archive] to Iraqi authorities as US troops prepare to withdraw from the country next month. Despite the transfer, the US will maintain advisers and inspectors [CNN report] in the detention facility to respond to any allegations of prisoner abuse and will still hold 200 prisoners, including eight high-ranking officials from the regime of Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] in a part of the camp called Compound 5. US military officials expressed their confidence [AP report] in the ability of the Iraqi forces to live up to human rights standards in managing the 1,600 prisoners held at the camp and stressed that even those prisoners still held by the US were under Iraqi jurisdiction. Iraq's justice minister announced Wednesday that 26 Saddam-era officials had been transferred [JURIST report] from US to Iraqi custody. The prisoner transfer, from Camp Cropper to Kadhimiya prison in Baghdad, included former foreign minister Tariq Aziz [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], former interior minister Mohammed Zumam and former oil minister Amir Mohammed, and followed the transfer of 29 other former officials 10 months ago. According to his lawyer, Aziz fears for his life [AP report] while in the custody of the current Iraqi government and plans to appeal to the Vatican to intervene on his behalf.
In March, the US military transferred Camp Taji prison [JURIST report] to Iraqi authorities. The US began to scale back its Iraq detention facilities in September when Camp Bucca [JURIST news archive] in southern Iraq was closed [JURIST report] pursuant to the Status of Forces Agreement [text, PDF]. According to the agreement, all US troops must be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of 2011, and the US must release all prisoners or transfer them to the control of Iraqi authorities. The Iraqi government must have arrest warrants or detention orders to accept transferred prisoners into Iraqi facilities, otherwise risking release. A fourth US-run prison, Abu Ghraib [JURIST news archive], was transferred back to Iraqi control [JURIST report] in 2006. The Iraqi government has recently faced criticism for its treatment of prisoners from Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website]. In April, the rights group claimed that Iraqi detainees were repeatedly tortured [JURIST report] in a secret prison in Baghdad.