IRAQ: Juveniles languish for months in US-run prisons in Iraq - HRW
BAGHDAD, 2 June 2008 (IRIN) - The traffic light turned to red and as cars stopped at one of Baghdad's central intersections, Haider Jassim Mohammed emerged with tissue boxes, urging drivers to buy one.
Seconds later, a roadside bomb targeted a US military convoy nearby and Mohammed was arrested.
"I was apprehended with seven others by American troops on suspicion of plotting the attack with insurgents and spent nearly six months in two prisons in Baghdad and Basra," Mohammed, 13, told IRIN in Baghdad.
He was accused of cooperating with the insurgents by notifying them about the convoy in the 2006 attack, a charge the US military could not prove and they released him.
On 26 May 2008, the Iraqi military said it had found six juveniles, aged between 14 and 18, in the basement of an abandoned house in the northern city of Mosul after a Saudi militant, who was training them for suicide bombings, was killed in a military operation. Mosul is about 600km north of Baghdad.
According to a military officer, who requested anonymity, the six juveniles were coerced into training by the Saudi militant who reportedly threatened to rape their mothers and sisters, destroy their houses and kill their siblings if they failed to follow his orders.
Since March 2003, the US army has detained 2,400 Iraqi children, some as young as 10, according to the New York-based Human Rights Watch.
In its 21 May statement, HRW said detention rates for children had risen drastically in 2007 to an average of 100 new cases a month from 25 a month in 2006.
As of 12 May this year, the US military authorities were holding 513 Iraqi children classified as "imperative threats to security", HRW said in a statement.
These children, held at the main US-run detention facilities, Baghdad-based Camp Cropper and Basra-based Camp Bucca, are not provided with lawyers, do not attend the one-week or one-month detention reviews and have very limited contact with their families, say rights groups.
"US forces in Iraq should ensure that children [taken] into custody are treated according to their status as children and given prompt judicial review and access to independent monitors," HRW said.
Mohammed said while in detention he was treated well by the Americans in terms of food, “but I was being subjected to some harassment from time to time from other boys and this is something the Americans couldn't stop”.
"They were taking my blanket or forcing me to sleep on the ground," he added. "I was able to see my mother only once during my detention period in which no-one interrogated me about the incident."
Samira al-Mousawi, head of the parliamentary committee on women and children, said the juvenile detainees needed special education and social treatment for their rehabilitation.
"They are treated well in regard to food and places to sleep," al-Mousawi told IRIN. "But these US-run detention centres lack appropriate programmes for these children in contrary to the Iraqi ones."
Clarisa Bencomo, Middle East children's researcher at HRW, chastised the US military for not doing what it calls for in other armed conflicts.
"In conflicts where it was not directly involved, the US has been a leader in helping child soldiers re-enter society," Bencomo was quoted in the HRW statement. "That kind of leadership is unfortunately missing in Iraq.
"The vast majority of children detained in Iraq languish for months in US military custody," Bencomo said. "The US should provide these children with immediate access to lawyers and an independent judicial review of their detention."
The US military did not respond to a request by IRIN for comment.
Theme(s): (IRIN) Children, (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Human Rights
Copyright © IRIN 2008
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
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