U.S. And Allies Tortured Kids In Iraqi Prisons
By Sherwood Ross
Since it invaded Iraq in 2003, the U.S. has detained thousands of
juvenilessome of whom were tortured and sexually abused, according
to published reports. Figures of the number of children behind bars
vary. Some estimates put the number as high as 6,000.
While the criminal abuse of male prisoners at Abu Ghraib is well
known, child and women prisoners held there have also been tortured
and raped, according to Neil Mackay of Glasgow's "Sunday Herald." Abu
Ghraib prison is located about 20 miles west of Baghdad.
Iraqi lawyer Sahar Yasiri, representing the Federation of Prisoners
and Political Prisoners, said in a published interview there are more
than 400,000 detainees in Iraq being held in 36 prisons and camps and
that 95 percent of the 10,000 women among them have been raped.
Children, he said, "suffer from torture, rape, (and) starvation" and
do not know why they have been arrested. He added the children have
been victims of "random" arrests "not based on any legal text."
Former prisoner Thaar Salman Dawod in a witness statement said, "(I
saw) two boys naked and they were cuffed together face to face and (a
US soldier) was beating them and a group of guards were watching and
taking pictures and there was three female soldiers laughing at the
Iraqi TV reporter, Suhaib Badr-Addin al-Baz, arrested while making a
documentary and thrown into Abu Ghraib for 74 days, told Mackay he
saw "hundreds" of children there. Al-Baz said he heard one 12-year-
old girl crying, "They have undressed me. They have poured water over
me." He said he heard her whimpering daily.
Al-Baz also told of a 15-year-old boy "who was soaked repeatedly with
hoses until he collapsed." Amnesty International said ex-detainees
reported boys as young as 10 are held at Abu Ghraib.
German TV reporter Thomas Reutter of "Report Mainz" quoted U.S. Army
Sgt. Samuel Provance that interrogation specialists "poured water"
over one 16-year-old Iraqi boy, drove him throughout a cold
night, "smeared him with mud" and then showed him to his father, who
was also in custody. Apparently, one tactic employed by the Bush
regime is to elicit confessions from adults by dragging their abused
children in front of them.
The Los Angeles Times as far back as August 26, 2004, reported U.S.
military police at Abu Ghraib "used Army dogs to play a bizarre game
in which they scared teenage detainees into defecating and urinating
And reporter Hersh told the American Civil Liberties Union convention
he has seen videotapes of Iraqi boys that were sodomized, "and the
worst part is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking."
Jonathan Steele, wrote in the British "The Guardian" this past Sept.
9th, "Hundreds of children, some as young as nine, are being held in
appalling conditions in Baghdad's prisons, sleeping in sweltering
temperatures in overcrowded cells, without working fans, no daily
access to showers, and subject to frequent sexual abuse by guards,
current and former prisoners say." Sixteen-year-old Omar Ali told
the "Guardian" he spent more than three years at Karkh juvenile
prison sleeping with 75 boys to a cell that is just five by 10
meters, some of them on the floor. Omar told the paper guards often
take boys to a separate room in the prison and rape them.
As the occupying authority in Iraq, the Bush administration cannot
escape legal responsibility for the torture crimes of Iraqi jailers
or for the deplorable conditions in the prisons they operate.
Raad Jamal, age 17, was taken from his Doura home by U.S. troops and
turned over to the Iraqi Army's Second regiment where Jamal said he
was hung from the ceiling by ropes and beaten with electric cables.
Human Rights Watch(HRW) last June put the number of juveniles
detained at 513. The grounds: they pose "imperative security risks."
In all, HRW estimates, since 2003, the U.S. has detained 2,400
children in Iraq, some as young as ten.
HRW said the children "are subject to interrogations, have no access
to lawyers, and sometimes are held for more than a year without
charge, in violation of the United States' own regulations." It said
children "have very limited contact with their families." HRW called
upon the U.S. to "ensure that children it takes into custody are
treated according to their status as children, and given prompt
judicial review and access to independent monitors." Apparently, this
has not been the case.
Clarisa Bencomo, of HRW's Children's Rights Division said, "The vast
majority of children detained in Iraq languish for months in U.S.
military custody. The U.S. should provide these children with
immediate access to lawyers and an independent judicial review of
IRIN, the humanitarian news service, last year quoted Khalid Rabia of
the Iraqi NGO Prisoners' Association for Justice(PAJ),
stating: "Children are being treated as adults in Iraqi prisons and
our investigations have shown that they are being abused and
tortured." IRIN was refused permission to visit child prisoners.
Five boys between 13 and 17 accused of supporting insurgents and
detained by the Iraqi army "showed signs of torture all over their
bodies," such as "cigarette burns over their legs," she said.
One boy of 13 arrested in Afghanistan in 2002 was held in solitary
for more than a year at Bagram and Guantanamo and made to stand in
stress position and deprived of sleep. And 15-year-old Omar Khadr, a
Canadian, was held in Guantanamo for two years without being allowed
to see a lawyer or have contact with his family. Khadr has been held
for a total of six years. According to the current "Catholic Worker,"
Mohammed Jawad was 17 when captured in Afghanistan and was subjected
to sleep deprivation at Gitmo day and night for two weeks. Every
three hours jailers shackled and transfered him to another cell under
a "frequent flier" program, forcing him to change cells 112 times.
Jawad's defense lawyer Air Force Major David J.R. Frakt said the most
likely reason Gitmo authorities tortured the youth (who had attempted
suicide five months earlier) was "for sport, to teach him a lesson,
perhaps to make an example of him to others."
Officials from UNAMI, the United Nations Assistance Mission to Iran,
said that children awaiting trial at severely overcrowded Tobchi
prison, Baghdad, said they had been tortured and sexually abused
while in custody in adult facilities prior to their transfer to
Tobchi, and showed the marks to prove it. And at Karkh juvenile
prison, children showed skin sores from lying on soggy mattresses in
temperatures that average 112 during the day.
Former President Jimmy Carter wrote in "Our Endangered Values"(Simon
& Schuster) that the Red Cross found after visiting six U.S.
prisons "107 detainees under eighteen, some as young as eight years
old." And reporter Hersh, (who broke the Abu Ghraib torture scandal,)
reported 800-900 Pakistani boys aged 13 to 15 in custody. President
Carter wrote that the Red Cross, Amnesty International and the
Pentagon "have gathered substantial testimony of torture of children,
confirmed by soldiers who witnessed or participated in the abuse."
In an effort to conceal conditions in its Iraqi compounds, the U.S.
has closed them to human rights monitors such as AI, HRW, and the
International Federation of Human Rights, says Ciara Gilmartin, the
Security Council Program Coordinator at Global Policy Forum(GPF), a
New York-based organization that seeks to strengthen international
GPF called for opening the Iraqi detention facilities "to national
and international observers" and for establishing clear
accountability for U.S. officers and contractors in charge of the
"The whole abusive system must be thoroughly overhauled or closed
down," Gilmartin said. "U.S. military and civilian leaders are not
the only ones complicit in the abuse and lack of due process of Iraqi
detainees. All who stay silent in the face of the Iraq gulag allow it
In 2005, the AP reported from Geneva that UNICEF was "profoundly
disturbed" by reports of abuse of children in Iraq prisons. "Any
mistreatment, sexual abuse, exploitation or torture of children in
detention is a violation of international law," UNICEF spokesman
Damien Peronnaz said.
According to a report by Felicity Arbuthnot published last June 9th
in Global Research, the UN Special Representative for Children in
Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomarswarmy, said children are not allowed
any outside lawyers and may be held hostage to force an adult family
male to give himself up.
HRW said that as of February of this year the length of detention for
children was more than 130 days and "some children have been detained
for more than a year without charge or trial, in violation of the
Coalition Provisional Authority memorandum on criminal procedures.
Not surprisingly, "One of the biggest complaints (by Iraqis) is that
the vast majority of (U.S.) detainees have not been charged with any
crime," David Enders writes in the October 27 issue of The Nation.
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