TEHRAN, May 19 (MNA) -- Fresh details have emerged of Iraqi juveniles locked up by U.S. military personnel.

A new report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), made public by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), tells of 500 Iraqi minors who are currently detained by the U.S. army in Iraq, and nearly a dozen or so juveniles who are detained by U.S. occupation forces in Afghanistan. 


According to the report, since 2002 the United States has held approximately 2500 individuals under the age of 18 at the time of their detention, in Iraq, Afghanistan, and at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.


The report says: “As of April 2008, U.S. forces held approximately 500 juveniles in Iraq.”


Pentagon spokesman Jeffrey Gordon has confirmed the report but refused to give further details.


Many international organizations, including the United Nations as well as charities, have been monitoring the condition of Iraqi and Afghan children since these countries were invaded and occupied by U.S. military forces. Children in Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered greatly through malnutrition. Iraqi children have also suffered through exposure to depleted uranium, used by the U.S. military. Cancer among Iraq’s children is currently at record highs. Many children have also become orphans or refugees as a direct result of the war, when their parents were killed or forced to leave their homes. However, this latest report is one of only a handful dealing with Iraqi and Afghan juveniles who are being held in U.S.-run prisons.


It is highly significant that the U.S. Defense Department, the Pentagon, has confirmed the report, and the existence of juveniles in U.S.-controlled prisons. The U.S. government claims that persons under the age of 18 are normally locked up for less than 12 months in U.S. prisons, but there is ample evidence to suggest otherwise. For example, of the eight Guantanamo detainees who were less than 18 at the time of their imprisonment, only two, who are now 21 and 24 years old, are being tried in the controversial military tribunals set up by the Bush administration. Conditions for juveniles imprisoned in Iraq and Afghanistan are similar to those at Guantanamo Bay.


In a disturbing article, Agence France Presse recently reported that Iraqi children and juveniles, some as young as 10, are being held in U.S.-run prisons in Iraq. The youngsters are accused of being insurgents or helping the insurgency, some are accused of planting bombs, and they are all perceived to be “a security threat to coalition forces.” According to the AFP report, of the 4000 prisoners in Camp Cropper, a U.S.-run jail near Baghdad airport, 950 are juveniles, some are as  young as 10. Most are aged between 15 and 17. The number of Iraqi juveniles in detention has skyrocketed since a “surge” was launched in February 2007, with an extra 30,000 American troops deployed in Iraq.


The Americans, of course, invaded and occupied Iraq in March of 2003 under the guise of bringing freedom and democracy to the Iraqi people. All they have succeeded in doing is to bring death, destruction, and mayhem to this ancient land.


One has to ask the question: Shouldn’t human rights organizations and the United Nations take urgent steps to hold the U.S. accountable for the mistreatment of Iraqi juveniles? The international community must alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi people, sooner rather than later.


(May 19 Tehran Times Opinion Column, by Mehran Derakhshandeh)





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