The children of Guantanamo Bay
- The children of Guantanamo Bay
The 'IoS' reveals today that more than 60 of the
detainees of the US camp were under 18 at the time of
their capture, some as young as 14
By Severin Carrell
Published: 28 May 2006
The notorious US detention camp in Guantanamo Bay has
been hit by fresh allegations of human rights abuses,
with claims that dozens of children were sent there -
some as young as 14 years old.
Lawyers in London estimate that more than 60 detainees
held at the terrorists' prison camp were boys under 18
when they were captured.
They include at least 10 detainees still held at the
US base in Cuba who were 14 or 15 when they were
seized - including child soldiers who were held in
solitary confinement, repeatedly interrogated and
The disclosures threaten to plunge the Bush
administration into a fresh row with Britain, its
closest ally in the war on terror, only days after the
Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, repeated his demands
for the closure of the detention facility. It was, he
said, a "symbol of injustice".
Whitehall sources said the new allegations, from the
London-based legal rights group Reprieve, directly
contradicted the Bush administration's assurances to
the UK that no juveniles had been held there. "We
would take a very, very dim view if it transpires that
there were actually minors there," said an official.
One child prisoner, Mohamed el Gharani, is accused of
involvement in a 1998 al-Qa'ida plot in London led by
the alleged al-Qa'ida leader in Europe, Abu Qatada.
But he was 12 years old at the time and living with
his parents in Saudi Arabia.
After being arrested in Karachi in October 2001, aged
14, he has spent several years in solitary confinement
as an alleged al-Qa'ida-trained fighter.
One Canadian-born boy, Omar Khadr, was 15 when
arrested in 2002 and has also been kept in solitary
confinement. The son of a known al-Qa'ida commander,
he is accused of killing a US soldier with a grenade
in July 2002 and was placed top of the Bush
administration's list of detainees facing prosecution.
"It would surely be really quite stupid to allow the
world to think you have teenagers in orange jumpsuits
and shackles, spending 23 hours a day locked up in a
cage," a source added. "If it's true that young people
have been held there, their cases should be dealt with
as a priority."
British officials last night told the IoS that the UK
had been assured that any juveniles would be held in a
special facility for child detainees at Guantanamo
called Camp Iguana. But the US admits only three
inmates were ever treated as children - three young
Afghans, one aged 13, who were released in 2004 after
a furore over their detention.
The row will again focus attention on the Bush
administration's repeated claims that normal rules of
war and human rights conventions do not apply to
"enemy combatants" who were al-Qa'ida or Taliban
fighters and supporters. The US insists these fighters
did not have the same legal status as soldiers in
Clive Stafford Smith, a legal director of Reprieve and
lawyer for a number of detainees, said it broke every
widely accepted legal convention on human rights to
put children in the same prison as adults - including
"There is nothing wrong with trying minors for crimes,
if they have committed crimes. The problem is when you
either hold minors without trial in shocking
conditions, or try them before a military commission
that, in the words of a prosecutor who refused to take
part, is rigged," he said. "Even if these kids were
involved in fighting - and Omar is the only one who
the military pretends was - then there is a UN
convention against the use of child soldiers. There is
a general recognition in the civilised world that
children should be treated differently from adults."
Because the detainees have been held in Cuba for four
years, all the teenagers are now thought to have
reached their 18th birthdays in Guantanamo Bay and
some have since been released.
The latest figures emerged after the Department of
Defense (DoD) in Washington was forced to release the
first ever list of Guantanamo detainees earlier this
month. Although lawyers say it is riddled with errors
- getting numerous names and dates of birth wrong -
they were able to confirm that 17 detainees on the
list were under 18 when taken to the camp, and another
seven were probably juveniles.
In addition, said Mr Stafford Smith, they had credible
evidence from other detainees, lawyers and the
International Red Cross that another 37 inmates were
under 18 when they were seized. One detainee, an
al-Jazeera journalist called Sami el Hajj, has
identified 36 juveniles in Guantanamo.
A senior Pentagon spokesman, Lt Commander Jeffrey
Gordon, insisted that no one now being held at
Guantanamo was a juvenile and said the DoD also
rejected arguments that normal criminal law was
relevant to the Guantanamo detainees.
"There is no international standard concerning the age
of an individual who engages in combat operations...
Age is not a determining factor in detention. [of
those] engaged in armed conflict against our forces or
in support to those fighting against us."
More on Guantanamo Prisoner abuse at: