- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 12, 2008

BAGHDAD | U.S. military authorities in Iraq are crediting prisoner review boards and programs for Iraqis accused of terrorism-related offenses or security violations for an uptick in detainee releases this year and a recidivism rate that they say is as low as 1 percent.

Gen. David H. Petraeus, quoting figures from the detainee handling unit TF-134, said recently that more than 10,000 Iraqis in U.S. custody have been released in 2008 compared with 8,900 for all of 2007.

Task Force 134 said that for every 30 Iraqis picked up on average each day for security offenses, 45 leave Camp Bucca in southern Iraq and Camp Cropper near Baghdad for special release ceremonies in their home districts that include the signing of good-behavior agreements.

“Before I received this assignment, I was a member of a review board at one of the facilities,” said Maj. Geoff Greene, executive officer of the 1st Battalion, 68th Armored Regiment at Coalition Outpost Callahan in northeastern Baghdad. “Of the 220 or so cases I handled, I recommended release for about 40 percent of them.

“I don’t feel threatened or worried about releasing the ones I released. The reason is, I believe, some people simply got caught up in being arrested” - wrong-place, wrong-time incidents - and the others committed minor offenses and probably won’t do so again.

Another little-noticed factor in reduced recidivism is that several detainees eligible for release are asking to stay in jail to complete studies begun behind bars.

The U.S. military offers a wide range of educational programs to the 23,000 or so detainees - adults and juveniles - being held at its two detention facilities, Camp Cropper near Baghdad’s international airport and Camp Bucca near the southern port city of Basra.

Some parents of juvenile detainees, too, have asked that their children remain behind bars so they can continue their schooling, Maj. Gen. Douglas Stone told reporters in Baghdad.

Gen. Stone, the commanding general for U.S. detainee operations in Iraq, said U.S. forces would prefer that detainees leave when their time is finished.

U.S. forces detain Iraqis under the auspices of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1790, which comes up for renewal in late December. It allows multinational forces to “take all necessary measures to contribute to the maintenance of security and stability” of Iraq.

In August last year, the U.S. military formed Multi-National Forces Review Commission (MNFRC) panels for Iraqis in indefinite U.S. custody.

They review official records, witness statements and other evidence. They also assess any changes or additions to that information and new circumstances affecting the prisoner’s status, including behavior while incarcerated. The boards, composed of U.S. military officers or noncommissioned officers, can recommend release or continued detention.

Between September and March, said Gen. Stone, about 6,000 detainees were released from Camps Cropper and Bucca.

“Only 12 of these have been recaptured,” he told Agence France-Presse, adding that this represented the lowest rate of recidivism over a seven-month period since the U.S.-led invasion five years ago.

The first MNFRC review occurs at about six months into detention and every six months thereafter.

Story Continues →