Iraq will reopen the notorious Abu Ghraib prison next month, but it’s getting a facelift and a new name, a senior justice official said.
The heavily fortified compound has come to symbolize US abuse of some prisoners captured in Iraq after photos were released showing US soldiers sexually humiliating inmates at the facility. The scandal stoked support for the insurgency and was one of the biggest setbacks to the US military effort to win the peace in Iraq.
The renovated facility will be called Baghdad’s Central Prison because the name Abu Ghraib has left a “bitter feeling inside Iraqis’ hearts,” Deputy Justice Minister Busho Ibrahim said on Saturday.
Abu Ghraib, which was a torture center under former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, has been closed since 2006.
The prison will house 3,500 inmates when it reopens in the middle of next month and will have a capacity for about 15,000 by the end of this year, Ibrahim said in a telephone interview.
The announcement comes as the US military has begun handing over about 15,000 detainees in its custody to the Iraqis under a new security agreement, prompting concern about Iraq’s judicial system. The UN warned in a recent human rights report about overcrowding and “grave human rights violations” of detainees in Iraqi custody.
“We have crowded prisons and the opening of Baghdad’s Central Prison will help ease the problem,” Ibrahim said, adding that the facility would be run according to international standards.
Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said yesterday that sectarianism was behind “the destruction of the country” and that Iraqis need to tackle the roots of the problem. He said Iraqis must focus on rebuilding efforts.