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Iraqi justice system overwhelmed by additional detainees

[JURIST] Security plans [AFPS report] implemented since February by the Multi-National Force - Iraq (MNF-I) [official website] have contributed to overcrowding in Iraqi prisons, the Washington Post reported Tuesday. A UN report released in April estimated 20,000 detainees were held in Iraq-run facilities [JURIST report] during the month of March, indicating an increase of over 3,500 detainees from the end of January. Estimates of the number of detainees held in Iraqi-operated facilities are difficult to verify because various ministries operate multiple facilities with little coordination. Deputy Justice Minister Pusho Ibrahim Ali Daza Yei told the Washington Post that the Justice Ministry, which operates prisons for convicted criminals, have provided detention space for untried detainees under the custody of the Iraqi Army and that the military detainees account for over 15 percent of the Justice Ministry's prison population. An anonymous source told the Washington Post that the "tidal wave of cases" generated by the security plans have overwhelmed the Iraqi justice system, which is mandated by Article 19 of the Iraq Constitution [PDF text, in English] to submit preliminary investigations to "a competent judge in a period not to exceed twenty-four hours from the time the arrest has occurred."

Allegations of detainee abuse [JURIST news archive], particularly by the Interior Ministry, have also increased as officials have struggled to deal with the influx of detainees. The security plans, formally known as "Operation Law and Order" and commonly referred to as the "troop surge," are intended to increase security and stability in Baghdad and Al Anbar province, and were instituted shortly after Gen. David H. Petraeus [official profile] assumed command of MNF-I. The Washington Post has more.

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