Friday, July 09, 2004


I came across this story on another blog called Sadly, No!, and all I can say is that I am in shock. Apparently, U.S. forces in Iraq have been imprisoning children at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, and these children were subjected to some of the same abuse and torture that has been widely reported in U.S. media. According to a U.S. soldier who was stationed at Abu Ghraib for a year, there is a special children's section at Abu Ghraib -- a secret detention facility. Could Osama Bin Laden himself have written a more compelling recruitment storyline?

The U.S. media has yet to pick up on the child prisoner abuse scandal, but it is being widely reported in Europe. There is even a documentary running on German television discussing the matter.

As reported in the Norwegian press, "Norwegian authorities reacted with shock and disgust Tuesday to a documentary on German TV that American soldiers allegedly have been holding children in prisons in Iraq, and abusing them as well. The Norwegians joined the Red Cross and Amnesty International in calling for an immediate end to the abuse, and release of the underage prisoners, some of whom are as young as 12 years.

In one case, a girl around age 15 was said to have been shoved up against a wall by a group of male soldiers who proceeded to manhandle her. They then started ripping off her clothes, and she was half-naked before military police broke in.

In another case, a boy aged 15 or 16 was stripped naked and sprayed with water before being placed in an open truck and driven around in the cold night air last winter. He then was covered with mud."

The following excerpt, from an interview with Sergeant Samuel Provance of the U.S. Army, is translated from the German documentary, via Sadly, No!:

"He spent half a year stationed at Abu Ghraib. Today, 5 months later, we meet him in Heidelberg. His superiors have strictly forbidden him to speak to journalists about what he experienced in Abu Ghraib. But Provance wants to talk about it nevertheless. His conscience troubles him. He discusses a 16-year old he handled:

'He was very afraid, very alone. He had the thinnest arms I had ever seen.
His whole body trembled. His wrists were so thin we couldn't put handcuffs on him. As I saw him for the first time and led him to the interrogation, I felt sorry. The interrogation specialists threw water over him and put him into a car, drove him around through the extremely cold night. Afterwards, they covered him with mud and showed him to his imprisoned father, on whom they'd tried other interrogation methods.

They hadn't been able to get him to speak, though. The interrogation specialists told me that after the father saw his son in this condition, his heart was broken, he started crying, and he promised to tell them anything they wanted.'

Sadly, No! also has the following list of quotes from various international organizations, particularly UNICEF, which has written am report on this subject published earlier this week:

"Children picked up in Basra and Kerbala were routinely transferred to a prison in Um Qasr." --UNICEF

"This classification of children as 'prisoners' is alarming given that they are held for an undetermined period of time, without contact with their family or expectation of a trial." --UNICEF

UNICEF will not make any comments about this yet to be released report. [...] We look for additional information and contact the International Committee of the Red Cross. After several discussions, additional confirmation, including numbers:

"Over the course of 19 visits in 6 different detention facilities from January to May of this year, we counted 107 children. These facilities were under the control of coalition troops." --Florian Westphal, ICRC.

The ICRC found minors in both Qasr and Abu Ghraib. Two international organizations confirm, independently, that coalition troops have jailed Iraqi children. But information directly from the prisons remains unavailable. UNICEF was not able to visit the children's prison in Baghdad:

"UNICEF asked to visit this facility in July 2003, but access was denied." --UNICEF

No independent observers have been in this facility since December, according to UNICEF. [...]

During a visit for the press at Abu Ghraib, no children were seen. We stand by our report: Four sources confirm independently the detention of children in Iraq. Two witnesses allege abuse. [...] --Report by Thomas Reutter.

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