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60 minors at Guantanamo
Sunday, May 28, 2006

LONDON: More than 60 children, some 14 years old, have been held at the US detention camp for suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, a human rights group here claimed in a report on Sunday.

The detainees were boys under 18 when they were captured, rights group Reprieve said in the report published in the Independent.

"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," it said.

The disclosures threaten to plunge the Bush administration into a fresh row with Britain, its closest ally in the war on terror, the report said. "We would take a very, very dim view if it transpires that there were actually minors there," a government official was quoted as saying in the report.

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.

One detainee, an Al-Jazeera journalist called Sami el Hajj, has identified 36 juveniles in Guantanamo.

However, a senior Pentagon spokesman, quoted by the paper, insisted that no one now being held at Guantanamo was a juvenile and said the Department of Defence also rejected arguments that normal criminal law was relevant to the detainees.

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 uniform.

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."

Children face same conditions as adults at Guantanamo: report
Up to 24 children may have been held up at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and many of them face the same conditions and interrogations as adult inmates, the Time magazine reported Sunday.


Guantanamo Bay prison (file photo)

The number of prisoners under 18 could have been higher as date-of-birth data are imprecise, Time said.

"Many of these youths were subject to the same conditions and interrogations as the adults," it said.

"Some kids -- including three Afghans thought to be 10, 12 and 13 when they arrived -- were segregated from adults, allowed to play sports and given lessons," it said.

"But in many ways, they were viewed as no different from their grownup fellow inmates," the magazine said.

Some children inmates at the prison have claimed through their lawyers that they have been beaten or abused, it said.

International laws, including the Geneva Conventions, require that child prisoners be separated from adults and given education. The U.S. federal law has similar requirements.

Some 460 prisoners are held at Guantanamo, which opened after the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan in 2001.

United Nations to USA: Close Guantanamo Prison

GENEVA [May 29, 2006]-- According to Philippe LeBlanc, OP, the Permanent Delegate of the Order at the UN in Geneva, action by North American Dominican justice promoters and others would assist in bringing an end to human rights violations of human rights in the Guatanamo Bay Detention Centre.

Inspite of the fact that the United States ratified the UN Convention against Torture and is therefore obligated to take effective [measures] to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction, the United States continues to hold prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba without due process of law. The UN has called on the Bush Administration to close the prison.

The United Nations Human Rights Council, in concluding its three week session called on the United States to cease to detain any person at Guantánamo Bay and that it close that detention facility, permit access by the detainees to judicial process or release them as soon as possible, ensuring that they were not returned to any State where they could face a real risk of being tortured.

A recent uprising of inmates at the prison magnified the situation and renews calls for the United States to meet its obligation under international agreements to stop holding prisoners without charges, trials or access to lawyers.

LeBlanc further reported on the United Nations statement:

The US government has ratified the UN Convention against Torture and is therefore obligated to present regular reports to the the UN Committee Against Torture, outlining the progress it has made in implementing its international obligations under the Convention. Furthermore, by ratifying the UN Convention, the US has undertaken the obligation to take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction. In Article one of the UN Convention, torture means “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing the person or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.”

The UN Committee Against Torture also urged the United States to register all persons it detained in any territory under its jurisdiction to prevent acts of torture. In that regard, the Committee was concerned by allegations that the State party had established secret detention facilities, which were not accessible to the International Committee of the Red Cross. Detainees were deprived of fundamental legal safeguards, including an oversight mechanism in regard to their treatment and review procedures with respect to their detention. The Committee was also concerned by allegations that those detained in such facilities could be held for prolonged periods and faced torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. The Committee considered the "no comment" policy of the State party regarding the existence of such secret detention facilities, as well as on its intelligence activities, to be regrettable. In addition, the United States should cease to detain any person at Guantánamo Bay and close that detention facility. It should permit access by the detainees to judicial process or release them as soon as possible, ensuring that they were not returned to any State where they could face a real risk of being tortured.


In a previous statement issued on 21 February 2006, the North American Dominican Justice Promoters had already urged the United States Government to comply with its international obligations and to act on the recommendations of the another UN report on the Situation of detainees in Guantánamo Bay (February 2006); especially the recommendation to close immediately the detention centre in Guantánamo Bay and bring all detainees before an independent and competent tribunal or release them. The February 2006 report was published after an 18-month joint study by independent experts on the situation of detainees in Guantánamo Bay. by five independent investigators of the UN Commission on Human Rights.

Gitmo inmates attack guards stopping a suicide
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- Prisoners wielding fans, light fixtures and other improvised weapons clashed with guards trying to stop a detainee from committing suicide at the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the military said Friday.

Thursday's clash happened in a medium-security section of the camp, called Gitmo for short, as guards were responding to the fourth attempted suicide of the day at the detention center on the U.S. Navy base, Cmdr. Robert Durand said.

Detainees struck guards as they entered a communal living area to stop a prisoner who was trying to hang himself, Durand said.

Earlier in the day, three detainees in another part of the prison attempted suicide by swallowing prescription medicine they had been hoarding.

Detainees involved in the fight with guards were moved to higher-security sections of the detention center.

Those who attempted suicide received medical treatment, the military said. Their names were not released.

Also Thursday, the U.S. military transferred 15 Saudi detainees to the custody of their country, leaving about 460 detainees at Guantanamo.

There have been 39 suicide attempts at Guantanamo since the detention center opened in January 2002, the military said.

At least 12 of the attempts were by a single detainee, Juma'a Mohammed al-Dossary, a 32-year-old from Bahrain.

U.N. wants it closed

The U.N. Committee Against Torture called Friday on the United States to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay and end questionable interrogation techniques and close any secret prisons.

The United States has defended the use of the Guantanamo facility to hold "enemy combatants" without charges for as long as the "war on terror" may last, saying the detainees are suspected of links to al Qaeda or the Taliban

But detention without charges runs counter to established human-rights law, and the "war on terror" does not constitute an armed conflict under international law, this report and past U.N. reports have concluded.

The United States has denied it mistreats prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

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