With a draft "Status of Forces" agreement having been accepted by Nouri al-Maliki's cabinet, the timetable for US withdrawal is close to being set. American forces will pull out of Iraqi cities by next June and will leave the country entirely by January 2012. The agreement next must be approved by the Iraqi parliament and a three-member presidential council before it becomes law. But with things seemingly on course for official approval, new concerns have arisen over one of the draft agreement's provisions: the transfer of insurgent detainees form US to Iraqi custody.
Basil al-Azawi, head of the Baghdad-based Commission for Civil Society Enterprises, is calling for amendments to the agreement, ensuring that detainees will be protected from abuse. From al-Azawi:
As parliament represents the Iraqi people, it should act in line with the interests of Iraqis... Absolute justice must be achieved and Iraqi and international laws must be implemented when dealing with those detainees in Iraqi prisons... A suitable life inside the prisons must be guaranteed according to the Iraqi constitution and law. More visits to Iraqi prisons must be allowed by international and local human rights activists, and the treatment [of prisoners] must not be based on their sectarian background.
Under the draft agreement, anyone captured by US forces must be turned over to Iraqi custody within 24 hours. There are already 17,000 detainees in US-run detention centers in Iraq.