Military Wiki
Baghdad Central Prison
Abu Ghraib cell block.jpg
Abu Ghraib cell block.jpg
Baghdad Central Prison cell block
Former names Abu Ghraib prison
General information
Status Operational
Location Abu Ghraib, Baghdad Province
Coordinates 33°17′30″N 44°3′56″E / 33.29167°N 44.06556°E / 33.29167; 44.06556Coordinates: 33°17′30″N 44°3′56″E / 33.29167°N 44.06556°E / 33.29167; 44.06556
Other information
Seating capacity 13,000 - 14,000

The Baghdad Central Prison, formerly known[1] as Abu Ghraib prison (Arabic language: سجن أبو غريبSijn Abū Ghurayb; also Abu Ghuraib, lit. 'Father of Raven', or 'Place of Ravens'[2]) is in Abu Ghraib, an Iraqi city 32 km (20 mi) west of Baghdad. It was built by British contractors in the 1950s.

Observers estimated that in 2001, the prison held as many as 15,000 inmates.[citation needed]

In 2002 Saddam Hussein's government began an expansion project to add six new cellblocks to the prison.[3] In October 2002, he gave amnesty to most prisoners in Iraq. After the prisoners were released and the prison was left empty, it was vandalized and looted. Almost all of the documents relating to prisoners were piled and burnt inside of prison offices and cells, leading to extensive structural damage. After years of shared use by United States-led forces and the Iraqi government beginning in 2003 after the Iraq Invasion, the US transferred complete control of the prison to the Iraqis on September 2, 2006.


Known mass-graves related to Abu Ghraib

  • Khan Dhari, west of Baghdad - Mass grave with the bodies of political prisoners from Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. Fifteen victims were executed on 26 December 1998 and buried by prison authorities under the cover of darkness.[citation needed]
  • Al-Zahedi, on the western outskirts of Baghdad - Secret graves near a civilian cemetery contain the remains of nearly 1,000 political prisoners. According to an eyewitness, 10 to 15 bodies arrived at a time from the Abu Ghraib prison and were buried by local civilians. An execution on 10 December 1999 in Abu Ghraib claimed the lives of 101 people in one day. On 9 March 2000, 58 prisoners were killed at a time. The last corpse interred was number 993.[4]

United States-led coalition

File:Abu Gharyab Prison.jpg

Front gate of the prison seen from the highway

Until August 2006, the site known as the Abu Ghraib prison was used for detention purposes by both the U.S.-led coalition occupying Iraq and the Iraqi government. Since then, the Iraqi government has controlled the area of the facility known as "The Hard Site". The prison is used to house only convicted criminals. Suspected criminals, insurgents or those arrested and awaiting trial are held at other facilities, commonly known as "camps" in U.S. military parlance.

The US houses all its detainees at "Camp Redemption", which is divided into five security levels. This camp built in the summer of 2004 replaced the three-level setup of Camp Ganci, Camp Vigilant and Abu Ghraib's Tier 1. The remainder of the facility was occupied by the United States military. In the recent past, Abu Ghraib served as both a FOB (Forward Operating Base) and a detention facility. When the US was using the Abu Ghraib prison as a detention facility, it housed approximately 7490 prisoners there in March 2004.[5]

The current population of detainees is much smaller, because Camp Redemption has a much smaller capacity than Camp Ganci had. Many detainees have been sent from Abu Ghraib to Camp Bucca for this reason. The US initially holds all "persons of interest" in Camp Redemption. Some are suspected rebels, and some suspected criminals. Those convicted by trial in Iraqi court are transferred to the Iraqi-run Hard Site.

Picture of Satar Jabar, one of the prisoners subjected to torture at Abu Ghraib.

Reserve soldiers from the 320th military police battalion were charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice with prisoner abuse, beginning with an Army Criminal Investigation Division investigation on January 14, 2004.

In April 2004, U.S. television news-magazine 60 Minutes reported on a story from the magazine The New Yorker, which recounted US-sanctioned torture and humiliation of Iraqi detainees by US soldiers and contracted civilians. The story included photographs' depicting the abuse of prisoners. The events created a substantial political scandal within the US and other coalition countries. (For more information see Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse.)

On April 20, 2004 insurgents fired forty (40) mortar rounds into the prison. Twenty-two detainees were killed and 92 wounded. Commentators thought the attack was either as an attempt to incite a riot or retribution for detainees' cooperating with the United States.[6]

In May 2004, the US-led coalition embarked on a prisoner-release policy to reduce numbers to fewer than 2000. Despite numerous large releases and transfers to Camp Bucca, this goal has yet to be obtained. There continue to be numerous incoming detainees.

In a May 24, 2004 address at the U.S. Army War College in Pennsylvania, United States President George W. Bush announced that the prison would be demolished. On June 14 Iraqi interim President Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawer said he opposed this decision, followed by the ruling June 21 by U.S. military judge Col. James Pohl, who said that the prison was a crime scene and could not be demolished until investigations and trials were completed.

On April 2, 2005 the prison was attacked by 60 insurgents. In the two hours before being forced to retreat, the attackers suffered at least 50 casualties. (Both killed and injured; according to the US military.) The attackers used small arms, rockets, and RPG's as weapons, and threw grenades over the walls. A Vehicle-Borne IED (VBIED) detonated just outside the front wall after Marines fired on it. Officials believe that the car bomb was intended to breach the prison wall, enabling an assault and/or mass escape for detainees. Insurgents also attacked military forces nearby on highways in route to the prison for reinforcement. They used ambushes along the roads. Thirty-six persons at or in the prison, including Marines, soldiers, sailors, civilians and detainees, were injured in the attack. Al Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility for both of the strikes.[7]

During the week ending August 27, 2005, at the request of the Iraqi government, the US released nearly 1,000 detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison.[8] On December 4, 2005, Reuters reported that John Pace, human rights chief for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), said, "Those held in Abu Ghraib prison were among an estimated 14,000 people imprisoned in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1546."

Transfer to Iraqi control

In March 2006 the U.S. military decided to transfer the 4,500 inmates to other prisons and transfer control of the Abu Ghraib prison to Iraqi authorities.[9] The prison was reported emptied of prisoners in August 2006.[10] The formal transfer was made on September 2, 2006. The formal transfer was conducted between Major General Jack Gardner, Commander of Task Force 134, and representatives of the Iraqi Ministry of Justice and the Iraqi army.[11]

In February 2009 Iraq reopened Abu Ghraib under the new name of Baghdad Central Prison. It was designed to house 3,500 inmates. The government said it planned to increase the number up to 15,000 prisoners by the end of the year.[12]

2013 Prison Break

A prison break occurred on 21 July 2013, and media outlets reported a mass breakout of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Reportedly, at least 500 prisoners escaped. A senior member of the security and defense committee in parliament described the prisoners as mostly those who were "convicted senior members of al-Qaeda and had received death sentences."[13][14] Al-Qaeda's branch in Iraq issued a statement on a jihadist forum claiming that they were responsible for organising and executing the prison break, which had taken months of preparation.[13] Al-Qaida also claimed that the attacks involved 12 car bombs, suicide bombers and a barrage of mortars and rockets.[13] They also claimed that they killed more than 120 government forces, though the Iraqi authorities claimed that 25 members of the security forces were killed, along with 21 prisoners and ten militants.[13] A simultaneous attack occurred at another prison, in Taji, around 12 miles north of Baghdad. The attacks were unsuccessful; however, sixteen members of the Iraqi security forces and six militants were killed in the attack.[14]

The breakout has raised fears that it would lead to further conflict between Shia and Sunni Muslims.[14]

Notable detainees

See also

  • Human rights in Saddam's Iraq
  • Human rights in post-Saddam Iraq
  • Battle of Abu Ghraib
  • The Prisoner or: How I Planned to Kill Tony Blair, a documentary about the imprisonment and abuse of one Iraqi journalist, Yunis Khatayer Abbas, and his two brothers at Abu Ghraib prison.
  • Standard Operating Procedure (film)


  1. US releases scores from Baghdad prison, Google News / Agence France-Presse, February 12, 2009
  2. Abu Ghrai translation
  3. "Abu Ghurayb Prison". Global Security. 2005. Archived from the original on 8 March 2006. Retrieved 2006-03-11. 
  4. Archaeologists for Human Rights
  5. General (Dept. of the Army), Inspector (2004). Detainee Operations Inspection. DIANE Publishing. pp. 23–24. ISBN 1-4289-1031-X. 
  6. "22 killed in Baghdad mortar attack". USA Today. April 20, 2004. Retrieved 2006-03-11. 
  7. Defend America (2005-04-13). "Marines Relate Events of Abu Ghraib Attack". 
  8. "Nearly 1,000 Abu Ghraib detainees released". 2005. Archived from the original on 2 March 2006. Retrieved 2006-03-11. 
  9. "US to transfer Abu Ghraib prisoners". Fairfax Digital. 2006-03-10. Retrieved 2008-06-30. "Abu Ghraib prison[...]'s 4,500 inmates will be transferred to a new facility at the nearby Baghdad airport military base and other camps. [...] Abu Ghraib, where US soldiers abused Iraqi detainees, will be handed over to Iraqi authorities once the prisoner transfer to Camp Cropper and other US military prisons in the country is finished." 
  10. Nancy A. Youssef, "Abu Ghraib no longer houses any prisoners, Iraqi officials say", McClatchy Newspapers, 26 Aug 2006
  11. Associated Press (2006-09-03). "Inmates transferred out of Abu Ghraib as coalition hands off control". The Boston Globe. 
  12. Associated Press (2009-01-25). "Abu Ghraib set to reopen as Baghdad Central Prison". Archived from the original on 2009-01-29. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 "Abu Ghraib Prison Break:Al Qaeda in Iraq Claims Responsibility for Raid". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 24 July 2013. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 "Iraq:hundreds escape from Abu Ghraib jail". Retrieved 24 July 2013. 
  15. Leader (18 March 1990). "Farzad Bazoft". Retrieved 3 September 2011. 
  16. Tucker, Michael (2007-02-20). "My Prisoner, My Brother". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 2008-06-11. 
  17. Risling, Greg (May 7, 2008). "Iraqi alleges Abu Ghraib torture, sues US contractors". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2010-02-11. 
  18. Hettena, Seth (17 February 2005). "Reports detail Abu Ghraib prison death; was it torture?". Retrieved 23 June 2009. 

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).