RAMADI, Iraq — Spurred by complaints of detainee abuses in Iraqi-run jails, U.S. Marines here have launched a training course for corrections officers. The first class of 17 graduated June 5.
The five-day course is meant to address what U.S. officials see as the main problem at Anbar province’s 50 detention centers, which hold about 1,200 detainees. The jails are staffed by Iraqi police officers, and in most cases those officers have not received any training in jail work. In many cases, they alternate between the jails and patrolling the streets.
"Very few have any correctional background," said Marine Corps Lt. Col. Michael Callanan, who works with "rule of law issues" for Multi-National Force—West. "We’re trying to adjust the conditions closer to international norms."
As the U.S. military tries to transfer the responsibility for detainees throughout the country to Iraqis, training new guards has taken on greater importance. There are several training facilities run by the U.S. throughout the country, including at the detention facility at Camp Cropper in Baghdad.
There, Iraqi guards man the catwalks surrounding the detainee blocks, among other duties.
Lt. Col. John Mayfield, an Army civil affairs officer attached to the Marines in Ramadi, described the course as "very basic" and said it was designed to train Iraqi officers who could, in turn, train other Iraqis.
He said the curriculum ranged from classes on human rights and the Geneva Conventions to record keeping, key control and hands-on classes in riot and prisoner control.
Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Bruce Hall, who led the 17-member group of trainers, said a few of the Iraqi officers from the provincial detention center in Ramadi were knowledgeable, but that officers from other facilities had "no standard operating procedure for handling detainees."
Most, he said, were "totally unfamiliar with the Geneva Conventions and human rights laws."
Hall said his trainers tried to impress on the Iraqis that the treatment of detainees would go a long way toward determining how those detainees would act once they were released.
"I’m not sure how receptive they were on the human rights," he said.