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IRAQ WAR -
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Iraq child prisoners abused by U.S. forces – Report

Posted in the database on Tuesday, August 02nd, 2005 @ 20:34:26 MST (13973 views)
from Aljazeera.com  

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More than 107 child prisoners, some as young as 10, are being raped and tortured by U.S. occupation forces in Iraqi jails, the Sunday Herald reported, citing witnesses.

One witness, Kasim Mehaddi Hilas, detailed how a U.S. soldier raped a "little kid" aged about 15 in the Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq. “The kid was hurting very bad and they covered all the doors with sheets,” he told investigators probing prisoner abuse in Abu Ghraib.

In another witness statement, former detainee Thaar Salman Dawod said: “[I saw] two boys naked and they were cuffed together face to face and [a U.S. soldier] was beating them and a group of guards were watching and taking pictures and there was three female soldiers laughing at the prisoners.”

The Herald also said that evidence of the arrest and detention of Iraqi children by occupation forces was revealed in a classified Unicef report, released in June.

More than 107 child prisoners, some as young as 10, are being held by U.S. forces in Iraqi jails

A key section on child protection says: “Information on the number, age, gender and conditions of incarceration is limited. In Basra and Karbala children arrested for alleged activities targeting the occupying forces are reported to be routinely transferred to an internee facility in Um Qasr. The categorisation of these children as ‘internees’ is worrying since it implies indefinite holding without contact with family, expectation of trial or due process.”

Another section reads: “A detention centre for children was established in Baghdad, where according to ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) a significant number of children were detained. Unicef was informed that the coalition forces were planning to transfer all children in adult facilities to this ‘specialised’ child detention centre. In July 2003, Unicef requested a visit to the centre but access was denied. Poor security in the area of the detention centre has prevented visits by independent observers like the ICRC since last December."

An Iraqi TV reporter Suhaib Badr-Addin al-Baz said he saw the children's wing at Abu Ghraib when he was detained by U.S. occupation forces while making a documentary. “I saw a camp for children there,” he said. “Boys, under the age of puberty. There were certainly hundreds of children in this camp.”

Between January and May this year, the Red Cross reported a total of 107 child detainees during 19 visits to six Iraqi jails. The aid organization's Rana Sidani said that they don’t know the exact ages of those detained or how they are being treated.

Like the Red Cross, Amnesty International is also outraged by the detention of children. It is aware of “numerous human rights violations against Iraqi juveniles, including detentions, torture and ill-treatment, and killings”. Amnesty has interviewed former prisoners who said they've seen boys as young as 10 in Abu Ghraib.

Alistair Hodgett, media director of Amnesty International USA, said that occupation forces must be “transparent” about their policy of child detentions, adding that “secrecy is one thing that rings alarm bells.” He added that even countries “which don’t have good records” allowed Amnesty to access their prisons. “Denying access just fuels the rumor mill,” he said.

Hodgett also said that occupation forces shouldn’t be holding any Iraqis, let alone children. “They should all be held by Iraqi authorities,” he said. “When the coalition handed over Saddam they should have handed over the other 3000 detainees.”

Moreover, senior Pentagon officials told the Sunday Herald that children as young as 14 are being held by the U.S. in Iraqi jails. “We do have juveniles detained,” one source said.

Officially, the Pentagon claims that it is holding “around 60 juvenile detainees primarily aged 16 and 17”. But when the Red Cross said the number is substantially higher, a source admitted “numbers may have gone up, we might have detained more kids”.

"Unacceptable"

The Norwegian government has slammed children detention and abuse by U.S. forces in Iraqi prisons. Odd Jostein Sæter, parliamentary secretary at the Norwegian PM's office, said: “Such assaults are unacceptable. It is against international laws… This is damaging the struggle for democracy and human rights in Iraq.”

In Denmark, Save the Children demanded its government to call for the release of child detainees.

And Human Rights Watch (HRW) said it was “extremely disturbed” that there were child prisoners in jails notorious for torture. HRW also criticized the policy of categorizing the children as “security detainees”, saying that doesn’t allow indefinite detention.

Unicef also said that it is “profoundly disturbed” by reports of children being abused and tortured in Iraqi jails. Alexandra Yuster, Unicef’s top adviser on child detention, said that under international law, children should be detained only as a last resort and only then for the shortest possible period.

She said that child prisoners should have access to lawyers and their families, be kept safe, healthy, educated, well-fed and not be subjected to any form of mental or physical punishment. Unicef is now “desperately” trying to get more information on the fate of Iraqi children held in U.S. custody.

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