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Abu Ghurayb Prison

The Abu Ghurayb, [Abu Ghraib] prison, located approximately 20 miles west of Baghdad, is where Saddam Kamal (who was head of the Special Security Organization) oversaw the torture and execution of thousands of political prisoners. The prison was under the control of the Directorate of General Security (DGS) also known as the Amn al-Amm.

As many as 4000 prisoners were executed at Abu Ghraib Prison in 1984. At least 122 male prisoners were executed at Abu Ghraib prison in February/ March 2000. A further 23 political prisoners were executed there in October 2001.

The facility occupies 280 acres with over 4 kilometers of security perimeter and 24 guard towers. The prison is composed of five distinct compound each surrounded by guard towers and high walls. Built by British contractors in the 1960s, Abu Ghraib is a virtual city within a city. The political section of Abu Ghraib was divided into "open" and "closed" wings. The closed wing housed only Shi'ites. The open wing held all other varieties of real or suspected activists. The "closed" wing was so named because its inmates -- at least until 1989 -- were permitted no visitors or outside contact. Cells measured approximately four meters by four meters and held an average of 40 persons.

As of 2001 Abu Ghraib prison, west of Baghdad, may have held as many as 15,000 persons, many of who were subject to torture. Hundreds of Fayli (Shi'a) Kurds and other citizens of Iranian origin, who had disappeared in the early 1980's during the Iran-Iraq war, reportedly were being held incommunicado at the Abu Ghurayb prison. Such persons have been detained without charge for close to 2 decades in extremely harsh conditions. Many of the detainees were used as subjects in the country's outlawed experimental chemical and biological weapons programs.

As of early 2002 the Iraqi government reported to the US that sum of 12.2 million Iraqi dinars had been earmarked for the construction of six prison blocks, four in the Abu Ghraib prison and two in the governorate of Babil prison, to accommodate 7,200 prisoners. The work had already begun. Ongoing construction activity, apparent as of mid-November 2002, suggests that Iraqi regime was planning for an increase in prison population either due to increased repression or an increase in anti-governmental activity. Four new prison compounds appear to be in the early stages of construction. The foundation and footings are either being dug or concrete has been poured.

Saddam Hussein declared an unprecedented amnesty to thank the Iraqi people for their "unanimity" in the referendum of October 2002, which extended his powers for another 7years. The "full and complete amnesty" applied to any Iraqi imprisoned or arrested for political or other reason but reportedly murderers on a death row will be released only with consent of the victims' families. Iraq's Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), the state's supreme authority, issued an amnesty to all prisoners in Iraq.

When Saddam announced his general amnesty for virtually all the nation's prisoners, the mob that assembled outside the Abu Ghraib prison started what looked like a traditional anti-American rally. They chanted praises to their dictator and shouted "Down Bush!" But the mood changed once it became clear the prisoners could bust through the gates without any resistance from guards. One guard turned toward an American photographer, smiled, stuck a thumb up and said, "Bush! Bush!"

Abu Ghraib prison was reported to be deserted following the amnesty. However, many prisoners remained unaccounted for and according to one report Iraqi TV acknowledged that there was no freedom for those convicted of "the crimes of spying for the Zionist entity [Israel] and United States" although it fails to give numbers. According to another news report authorities claimed that 13,000 inmates were released from Abu Ghraib prison, however numbers were unconfirmed.

There have been several press reports of mass graves within the perimeter or near the prison, but this is not apparent from imagery alone. Further analysis using ground truth imagery and human sources may help confirm the existence and location of any mass graves.

This commercial satellite imagery should prove valuable to human rights groups and the effort to bring those guilty of abuses and war crimes to trial in the future.

The Iranian dissident group Mujahedeen Khalq was based at Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad, but the MEK Camp is a separate and distinct facility.

On May 24, 2004, and following the continued scandal posed by abuses of detainees at Abu Ghraib, President G.W. Bush announced in a speech that the Abu Ghraib prison would be destroyed upon the completion of a new, modern prison to replace it:

"A new Iraq will also need a humane, well-supervised prison system. Under the dictator, prisons like Abu Ghraib were symbols of death and torture. That same prison became a symbol of disgraceful conduct by a few American troops who dishonored our country and disregarded our values. America will fund the construction of a modern, maximum security prison. When that prison is completed, detainees at Abu Ghraib will be relocated. Then, with the approval of the Iraqi government, we will demolish the Abu Ghraib prison, as a fitting symbol of Iraq's new beginning"

Baghdad Central Detention Center (BCCF)

Baghdad Central Detention Center was formerly known as Abu Ghurayb Prison.

In late April 2004, a number of photographs surfaced which depicted abuse and torture of Iraqi prisoners held at the Abu Ghurayb prison while in US custody. Some of the pictures published depict US soldiers, both men and women in military uniforms, laughing and giving thumbs-up signs while posing with naked Iraqi prisoners made to stand, stacked in a pyramid or positioned to perform sex acts. This follows the March 2004 announcement by the US Army that six members of the 800th Military Police Brigade were being investigated for allegedly abusing about 20 prisoners at Abu Ghurayb.

As of early May 2004, the 16th Military Police Brigade and the 504th Military Intelligence Brigade had been assigned responsibility over Abu Ghurayb, with the chain of command changed with both unit reporting directly to the U.S. commander in charge of the military's prisons in Iraq, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller.

As of mid-September 2004, the facility was reportedly equipped with a new $26 million hospital.


Camp Vigilant Compound

Camp Vigilant is a tented area that can hold 600 detainees. Each unit in Camp Vigilant consists of five 40-foot long tents. As of July 2004, this compound was the least populated of the facilities contained within Abu Ghraib. It was under the complete control of the US Armed Forces.

Camp Ganci / Ganci Encampment

Camp Ganci is a tented area that consists of eight encampments with a total capacity of 4,800, and, as of May 2004, held 3,200 detainees. The camp was named after a New York City firefighter who died on September 11, 2001. Detainees held at Camp Ganci were housed in 25-man tents; each tent being surrounded by sandbags stacked three high on all sides, and each cellblock fitted with several concrete bunkers to protect detainees from mortar attacks. Mortar attacks from outside the prison were one of the biggest threats facing the detainees. Each cellblock has a detainee "mayor" who helps resolve issues. Detainees held at Camp Ganci all were allowed to retain their civilian clothing.

As of August 2004, only 500 detainees remained in Camp Ganci. Many of the other detainees had been moved to Camp Redemption. Camp Ganci will be razed to make way for a new compound to hold detainees who are about to be released.

Camp Avalanche/Camp Redemption

In May 2004 many prisoners from Camp Ganci and Camp Vigilant were moved to a new tented area, called Camp Avalanche. The prisoners live in tents on concrete, reducing the level of dust. Fans are used for cooling and the camp has more showers for prisoners.

In May 2004, detainees at Camp Ganci were moved to the newly-opened detention facility, Camp Redemption, also located at Abu Ghurayb Prison. There was some confusion on whether Camp Avalanche and Camp Redemption were the same or two separate camps within Abu Ghraib. It appears that, as of May 27, 2004, Camp Avalanche was renamed Camp Redemption at the suggestion of a visiting member of the Iraqi Governing Council. Camp Redemption has the capacity to hold about 3000 detainees.

Camp Redemption featured several improvements over Camp Ganci in order to make the detainees more comfortable. For starters, Camp Redemption is covered in gravel whereas Camp Ganci was all mud. In addition, tents here have wooden floors, and prisoners are provided with cots. The number of showers available to the detainees will also increase. And most importantly, as a result of having access to electricity, Camp Redemption has heating and air conditioning in the tents. Camp Redemption also contains at least one "U-bunker," which is an aboveground concrete bomb shelter. This bunker, along with sandbags stacked around the detainees' tents, serves as some protection from outside attacks, such as mortar attacks.

During visits with families, a US soldier will take a picture of the detainee with their family. The detainee and their family are each given copies of the photo.

Hard Site

The Hardsite was what the US military called the cell box complexes of Abu Ghraib prison that had been refitted to US military specifications.

The Hardsite is the part of the Abu Ghurayb Prison in which the abuses of Iraqi detainees described in the Taguba Report took place. According to DoD, only the most dangerous prisoners and those most valuable in terms of intelligence value are held in the hardsite.

As of mid-May 2004, the hardsite also housed the prison's only five women prisoners and about 1,400 Iraqi criminals, who were managed by the Iraqi corrections system. The women prisoners at Abu Ghraib were guarded by at least two female military police officers each shift to ensure modesty, though two of them were set to be released in a matter of days.




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