Children Prisoners of the U.S. War of Terror

By Kenneth J. Theisen

February 1, 2010

Many people in this country are aware of the atrocious conditions and
treatment of adult prisoners in the U.S. war of terror. These prisoners
have been held at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, Bagram, and other hellholes
run by the U.S. But few are aware that thousands of children have also
been taken by the U.S. and its allies in this war of terror.

A few of these children have been held at Guantanamo and have received
some publicity, but most have been held in prisons in Iraq and
Afghanistan and have received very little notice from U.S. media. What
has and is happening to these children victims of the U.S. war?

As late as May 2008 U.S. authorities reported to the U.N. that they
were holding at least 513 Iraqi children in U.S.-run prisons as
"imperative threats to security." The U.S. did not report how many
children had been previously transferred by U.S. authorities to prisons
run by Iraqi puppet forces. Most of the children were held in the same
hellhole prisons that held adult prisoners.

In April 2008 the U.S. government reported "approximately 10 juveniles
being held at Bagram Theater Internment Facility as unlawful enemy
combatants. Bagram has been compared to Gitmo in the crimes committed
there by U.S. authorities.

The U.S. came under intense international criticism for its treatment
of children when these numbers were released. As a result the U.S.
government recently released a report claiming that as of December 2009
only five children were held by the U.S. in U.S. military detention in
Iraq and Afghanistan. The report did not say what happened to the other
children. It is unknown whether these numbers are true or not, but even
if they are, the report leaves unanswered the question of whether these
children have access to the protections guaranteed to them under
international law. It also fails to address the rights of children
transferred by the U.S. to Iraqi and Afghan authorities.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) expressed concerns on January
28th about the U.S. government report. It is likely that most of the
reduction may be attributed to the transfer of prisoners to Iraqi
authorities. It is well known that the Iraqi puppet forces run hellhole
prisons sometimes even worse that those of the U.S. The ACLU asked for
data on the fates of the detainees and sought assurance that all
current or former child soldiers and juvenile prisoners are being given
their rights afforded under international law.

Jamil Dakwar, Director of the ACLU Human Rights Program stated, "…the
public is entitled to know how these cases are being handled. We hope
that the U.S. can confirm how many of these detainees were released and
how many were transferred to Iraqi or Afghan authorities for
prosecution. The U.S. has a responsibility to ensure that any juvenile
detainees transferred to other authorities are still granted their
basic human rights, including consideration of their status as
juveniles and safe opportunities for rehabilitation and reintegration
into society."

The U.S. report did not include information about the treatment and
care for those who were under 18 at the time of their capture and who
are still in U.S. custody. Also current U.S. military policy allows the
U.S. to take up to two weeks to provide the International Red Cross
with names and access to all detainees, which is too long for the needs
of children in custody. The first weeks of detention are critical to
juvenile prisoners, and they should be accounted for and attended to as
soon as possible. Much of the abuse that prisoners experience often
takes place shortly after capture.

"The humane treatment of juveniles in U.S. military custody is critical
to restoring the rule of law and humanity to U.S. detention operations
overseas," said Jennifer Turner, human rights researcher with the ACLU
Human Rights Program. "…the government still lacks a comprehensive
policy regarding the treatment of juveniles still in detention and
their access to education, legal services and physical and
psychological services that are critical to their rehabilitation."

In November 2009, the ACLU sought updated data from the Department of
Defense on juveniles in U.S. military custody in Iraq and Afghanistan
and information on efforts to bring U.S. policy regarding the
treatment, detention and trial of juveniles into compliance with
international law. As of today no response has been received from the

Why is the Obama administration not releasing this information to the
ACLU and the public? What is being hidden? It is not enough to reduce
the number of juveniles held in the U.S. war of terror just by
transferring them to Iraqi or Afghan puppet forces. What are the
conditions of incarceration? Are these children still being deprived of
their legal and human rights? What crimes are being committed in our
names? These are all questions that deserve an answer. Those
responsible for the abuse of these children must be held accountable.
This includes not only those responsible during the years of the Bush
regime, but also those within the Obama administration who have failed
to end the abuse of these children. Transferring them to other abusers
in U.S. puppet governments does not excuse the U.S. role or end the

These children victims of the U.S. war of terror have been silenced
through their incarceration and treatment. We, and that means you too,
must speak out for them and demand justice now!


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