How Far Have Iraqi Prisons Come?

The Iraqi government says the treatment of its prisoners is a far cry from the old days.

CBS News correspondent Kimberly Dozier reports that Iraqi officials opened a prison to CBS News cameras to silence the critics – and raised more questions.

The police say that three men who were blindfolded next to a car were caught red-handed, driving the vehicle packed with explosives. The men say they were innocent.

The Iraqi police say they found a remote control device inside the car. It's operated by a cell phone. There are also three large shells in the trunk that are wired to blow. The guy driving and the two men with him say they never saw any of this.

The driver said his cousin gave him the car a day earlier.

Does he think anyone is going to believe him here?

God knows, he says. All three say no one has tried to force them to change their minds.

The cops insist the old Saddam ways of making suspects talk are no longer acceptable.

In another room, 50 prisoners were packed in a small space. Dozier asked if any had been tortured.

Not a word — at least, none they'd share with officials close by.

In another room, Dozier was given a few moments alone.

Some said they'd been pushed around, but nothing more.

Iraq's justice minister says his country has come a long way from Saddam's "special courts" where 100 men could be sentenced and executed in an hour.

He showed pictures from a recent high-profile prison raid, downplaying the abuse, and insisting most of it happened during the chaos of raids and arrests.

The minister showed a picture of a bruise to demonstrate his point.

"We seem to have different definitions of what's okay," Dozier said. "That's bruising all over."

The photos of bruising matched others recently released by Sunni groups, of other ex-prisoners.

U.S. commanders tell CBS News that Iraqis are trying hard, but there is still a vast cultural divide to bridge. One U.S. police trainer told us the first thing he teaches new Iraqi recruits is, "No torture during interrogation."

And the first question every new class comes back with is "Why?"
  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for CBSNews.com

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