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The children of Guantanamo Bay

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  • Zafar Khan
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , May 30, 2006
      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
      allegedly tortured.

      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
      US law.

      "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:
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