Since the beginning of U.S. counterinsurgency operations in Iraq, the U.S. has operated several detention facilities within the country, and at one point held 26,121 Iraqi detainees captured during counterinsurgency operations.
Under the Deputy Commanding General Detainee Operations the 49th Military Police Brigade Tactical Command Post is responsible for the Cropper TIF, the last major United States Forces-Iraq detention facility in Iraq. The 49th TAC CP is in charge of the Cropper TIF and had a large role in the release and transfer of detainees in preparation for the transfer to GoI.
The 2008 bilateral U.S. - Iraqi Security Agreement requires the U.S. to either release all detainees in a
U.S. military attorneys play an active role in facilitating the legal process. Each attorney has a unique role. These legal experts spent a great deal of time reviewing detainee files, verifying identities, speaking with Iraqi investigators, attorneys, judges, and providing guidance when necessary.
“Our mission is to assist the Central Criminal Court of Iraq. First Platoon, Bravo Company, 1-141 Infantry Battalion brings us the detainees and the evidence, and then we assist the court with whatever they need in terms of supporting the legacy cases that have a U.S. nexus,” said Capt. Andrea La Torre, a USF-I judge advocate with the Law and Order Task Force assigned to CCCI. La Torre’s duties and responsibilities include ensuring the detainee is present for his hearing or trial, confirming the judge and investigator know that the detainee is present, and getting the detainees into court in a timely manner. She also answers any questions the Iraqi judge and investigators may have and provides quality control to ensure the correct legal documents are in the detainees’ files when they appear in court.
In fulfilling U.S. Forces obligations under the Security Agreement, several military attorneys provide legal support for both, the release of detainees who have received release orders, dismissals, amnesty orders from Iraqi courts and transferring other detainees to local courts in the Iraqi provinces pursuant to local court warrants. These transfers empower the Iraqi court system at a local level to increase their ability to handle more cases. Other military attorneys lend assistance to Iraqi investigators and prosecutors, as needed to help move criminal cases through the court proceedings. The attorneys’ help was necessary in order to increase the Iraqi courts’ ability to handle a large number of cases.
“By pushing cases to CCCI and local courts throughout the country, we have been building their capacity. This was not just about detainee operations, getting transfer orders and releasing people. It was also about building the capacity of the Iraqi Security Forces and helping them recognize the problem by saying, “these guys are really bad and you don’t want them on your streets””, said Capt. Andrew Atkins. “Then, the logical end state of that is if they have a successful investigation; as legal professionals our duty and responsibility was to support them,” added Atkins.
Atkins is a judge advocate for detainee operations at the U.S. Division Center under USF-I. He initially worked closely with Law Enforcement Professionals, USF-I Task Force 134 attorneys, USD-C subordinate brigade investigation teams, the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the U.S. Army Criminal Investigations Division to examine the most serious detainee cases at the Cropper TIF.
Just like Atkins, Capt. Andrew Boysen, detainee operations attorney with USF-I, has assisted the detainees’ transfer to the GoI. Boysen worked long hours to review detainee transfer files with the Iraqi Corrections Service and provided support to its legal document custodians.
“My job at the Cropper TIF is to help the government of Iraq, specifically the Iraqi Corrections Service, as they review the legal transfer paperwork for each detainee prior to the detainee’s transfer to GoI custody,” said Boysen. “If a detainee’s paperwork has errors, we are there to work with the ICS and develop a plan to get it corrected before that detainee is transferred, added Boysen.
Judge advocates will continue to work long hours until the TIF has been transferred to GoI. They will work hard to rule out any bewildering gray area when dealing with the transfer of detainees, pushing cases to the Iraqi courts or determining release status.
Once the transfer of the TIF is complete, the Iraqi Corrections Service will assume control of the facility and GoI will have to determine how to bring justice to the Cropper detainees.
“This isn’t just about getting the detainees out of the TIF in time before its transfer; and it isn’t about just complying with the Security Agreement, Article 22, Paragraph 4, meaning the transfer paperwork is a warrant or otherwise you are released,” said Atkins. “This was about building the rule of law by giving ISF experience at working tough or cold cases that are several years old, where people are afraid to testify, where they have to get out and search for leads that are long-since faded. They have to get forensics from CEXC (Combined Explosives Exploitation Cell) and from the JEFF (Joint Expeditionary Forensic Facility) lab, and their own labs to put this all together, go before a judge and convince a judge and continue the cycle,” concluded Atkins.
In the end, the guard force at the Cropper TIF consistently treats detainees with dignity and respect, while attorneys verify the detainees’ cases have legal sufficiency; every single ISN (Internment Serial Number) matters.