Thousands of Iraqis held without charge by the United States on suspicion of links to insurgents or militants are being freed by this summer because there is little or no evidence against them.
Their release comes as the U.S. prepares to turn over its detention system to the fledgling Iraqi government by early 2010. In the six years since the war began, the military ultimately detained some 100,000 suspects, many of whom were picked up in U.S.-led raids during a raging, bloody insurgency that has since died down.
The effort to do justice for those wrongly held to begin with, some for years, also runs the risk of releasing extremists who could be a threat to fragile Iraqi security.As part of an agreement between the two countries that took effect Jan. 1, Iraqi authorities have begun reviewing the cases of the detainees to decide whether to free them or press charges. About
13,300 remain behind barbed wire in U.S. custody in Iraq.
The U.S. detention policy has been unpopular in a country where many feel that thousands have been detained without cause, and where the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal will be remembered for a long time.
International law allows the capture and detention of people who are considered an “imperative” national security threat during times of war or conflict. However, human rights groups like Amnesty International have argued that the United States violated detainees’
legal rights by holding them without charge after Iraq was declared a sovereign nation in June 2004.
That argument largely became moot with the Jan. 1 agreement. The U.S. currently is referring up to 1,500 detainees cases to Iraqis each month for review.
Human rights groups worry about the detainees who will remain in Iraqi custody.