BAGHDAD (Reuters) – The U.S. military in Iraq has released more than 10,000 detainees so far this year, it said on Saturday, at least a 12 percent increase on the total number freed in 2007.
A spokesman said the military was detaining people at the rate of about 30 people a day — or roughly 6,500 for the year to date. Less than 1 percent of those released have been detained again, the military said.
American forces hold just under 21,000 detainees in Iraq, with the average detention time of 330 days, the military said in a statement. Almost all detainees are Iraqi.
The U.S. military’s right to detain Iraqi prisoners is a major point of contention in talks between Baghdad and Washington on a new security pact that will lay the legal foundation for U.S. forces to operate when a U.N. mandate expires at the year-end.
The military says it has the right under the U.N. mandate governing the presence of foreign forces in Iraq to detain anyone considered a security risk indefinitely.
The detainee population in U.S. military custody is falling at a time when violence in Iraq has dropped to four-year lows.
Iraqi courts have ordered around 20,000 prisoners be freed under a sweeping amnesty law aimed at reconciling the country’s divided Shi’ite and Sunni Arab communities. The law does not apply to inmates in U.S. military prisons.
Reuters this week urged the U.S. military to immediately release an Iraqi cameraman working for the news organization or to publicly produce evidence to justify his detention.
The military detained Ali al-Mashhadani, who also works freelance for the BBC and Washington-based National Public Radio, a week ago in Baghdad. It said he was being detained because he had been assessed to be security threat.