CAMP BUCCA: The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) demanded on Tuesday an investigation into a riot at the US-run Camp Bucca prison camp in southern Iraq.
"We are asking the US army to investigate the cause of the riot which happened at the detention centre," Camp Bucca, Rana Sidani, spokeswoman for the ICRC, told AFP. The US military announced early on Tuesday that 12 Iraqi prisoners and four US prison guards were wounded when inmates rioted at Camp Bucca on Friday, torching tents and hurling rocks in Iraq’s largest US-run detention centre. The riot at the desert camp in southern Iraq, where more than 6,000 prisoners are held, was first reported by radical Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr’s movement and confirmed by the ICRC.
The US military had said initially it was unaware of the violence and only came forward with details after the ICRC revelations.
The violence erupted when inmates "protested the transfer of unruly detainees to another compound," the military said.
"During the disturbance, the detainees chanted, threw rocks and set several of their tents on fire. The disturbance was brought under control with only minor injuries to four guards and 12 detainees."
The ICRC spokeswoman said at least 14 detainees were lightly wounded and possibly more when US soldiers fired rubber bullets to end the riot, which happened as an ICRC delegation visited the camp.
"We heard shots and saw smoke. It lasted one hour. We were a kilometre (half a mile) from the incident. We asked the American forces what happed and they told us they had problems with the prisoners," Sidani said. "The soldiers fired rubber bullets and at least 14 detainees were lightly wounded." The ICRC warned that a tense atmosphere existed in Camp Bucca, where many detainees are ignorant of their legal status and complain about living conditions.
"The detainees complained about their conditions at the camp where they are living in the desert in tents where it is hot in the day and too cold at night," Sidani said.
"Many of the detainees complained they were not aware of the reasons for their internment or its duration. The Americans consider them ‘security detainees’. There is no clear trial or legal process. In this climate, it takes one incident to ignite things."
The US military and Iraqi government reviews every 90 days the more than 10,000 detainees to determine whether they are still viewed as a security threat, should be forwarded to a criminal court or released. The prison population has swelled since the US-led offensive on Fallujah last November.
Sadr follower Saheb al-Ameri, secretary general of the Shahidallah charitable organisation, said the unrest was provoked by the refusal of prison authorities to give medical treatment to a detainee who had fallen sick and who was a member of the Sadr movement. Other inmates became violent and US soldiers then fired rubber bullets and beat some prisoners, wounding 70 to 100 of them, he said, adding that since the riot, inmates have had no water or electricity. Camp Bucca was the site of a huge riot on January 31 that spread through four compounds, housing more than 2,000 detainees, and ended with US soldiers firing into a crowd and killing four detainees.
The latest riot comes almost a year after details emerged of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal that sullied the reputation of the US detention system in Iraq. afp