U.S. acknowledges it held 12 juveniles at Guantanamo Bay prison

November 16 2008

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – The U.S. has revised its count of juveniles ever held at Guantanamo Bay to 12, up from the eight it reported in May to the United Nations, a Pentagon spokesman said Sunday.

The government has provided a corrected report to the UN committee on child rights, according to navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon. He said the U.S. did not intentionally misrepresent the number of detainees taken to the isolated base in southeast Cuba before turning 18.

“As we noted to the committee, it remains uncertain the exact age of many of the juveniles held at Guantanamo, as most of them did not know their own date of birth or even the year in which they were born,” he said.

A study released last week by the Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas concluded the U.S. has held at least a dozen juveniles at Guantanamo, including a Saudi who committed suicide in 2006.

“The information I got was from their own sources, so they didn’t have to look beyond their own sources to figure this out,” said Almerindo Ojeda, director of the centre at the University of California, Davis.

Rights groups say it is important for the U.S. military to know the real age of those it detains because juveniles are entitled to special protection under international laws recognized by the United States.

Eight of the 12 juvenile detainees identified by the human rights centre have been released, according to the study.

Two of the remaining detainees are scheduled to face war-crimes trials in January.

Canadian Omar Khadr, now 21, was captured in July 2002 and is charged with murder for allegedly throwing a grenade that killed a U.S. special forces soldier. Mohammed Jawad, an Afghan who is about 24, faces attempted murder charges for a 2002 grenade attack that wounded two U.S. soldiers.

The study identified the only other remaining juvenile as Muhammed Hamid al Qarani of Chad.

The Saudi who hanged himself with two other detainees in 2006, Yasser Talal al-Zahrani, was 17 when he arrived at Guantanamo within days of the military prison opening in January 2002, according to the study.

About 250 prisoners remain at Guantanamo on suspicion of terrorism or links to al-Qaida or the Taliban.

Guantánamo’s Children: Military and Diplomatic Testimonies

camp_iguana.jpg

Camp Iguana,  the facility where a few of Guan-
tánamo’s children were once imprisoned. Photo:
The Miami Herald.

For the purposes of the present Convention, a child means
every human being below the age of eighteen years unless
under the law applicable to the child,  majority  is attained
earlier
(UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 1)

On April 25, 2003, Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers held a news briefing at the Pentagon. At that briefing, Secretary Rumsfeld was asked about the juveniles in Guantanamo. Rumsfeld took the opportunity to complain about “this constant refrain of the juveniles, as though there’s a hundred of children in there”. Secretary Rumsfeld’s complaint raises a very good question. Exactly how many children have been seized and taken to Guantánamo?

1. Eleven Children Recognized by the Department of Defense

Two documents released by the U.S. Department of Defense identify 11 Guantánamo prisoners that were under the age of 18 at the time they were seized. These documents are:

  • List of individuals Detained by the Department of Defense at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba from January 2002 through May 15, 2006
  • Measurements of Heights and Weights of Individuals Detained by the Department ofon March 16, 2007.

Defense at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba posted

The first of these documents provides dates of birth for these prisoners; the second presents in-processing dates for many of them. The following table summarizes the information gathered from these two sources. Here DD and MMM stand, respectively, for day and month unknown.1

NAME ISN DATE OF BIRTH IN-PROCESSING DATE AGE
ABDUL QUDUS 0929 DD MMM 88 07 FEB 02 13 – 14
ASSAD ULLAH 0912 DD MMM 88 23 MAR 03 14 – 15
NAQIB ULLAH 0913 DD MMM 88 07 FEB 03 14 – 15
MOHAMMED OMAR 0540 DD MMM 86 12 JUN 02 15 – 16
MUHAMMED HAMID AL QARANI 0269 DD MMM 86 09 FEB 02 15 – 16
SHAMS ULLAH 0783 DD MMM 86 28 OCT 02 15 – 16
OMAR AHMED KHADR 0766 19 SEPT 86 28 OCT 02 16
YUSSEF MOHAMMED MUBARAK AL SHIHRI 0114 08 SEPT 85 16 JAN 02 16
MOHAMED JAWAD 0900 DD MMM 85 18 DEC 02 16 – 17
YASSER TALAL AL ZAHRANI 0093 22 SEPT 84 21 JAN 02 17
ABDUL SALAM GHETAN 0132 14  DEC  84 17 JAN 02 17

The fact that two of these prisoners were seized as children was also acknowledged by the State Department. Indeed, in its response to a question from the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, the State Department stated that

“Mr. [Omar] Khadr and Mr. [Mohamed] Jawad are currently the only two individuals captured under the age of 18 that the U.S. Government has chosen to prosecute under the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (See United States Written Response to Questions Posed by the Committee on the Rights of the Child, Answer to Question 12(c)).”

Also consistent with these claims are the results of a bone scan analysis cited at Mr. Jawad’s trial by military commission.  In-processed in Afghanistan on December 18, 2002, Mohamed Jawad was subsequently transferred to Guantánamo on or about February 6, 2003 . (see United States of America vs. Mohammed Jawad, D-012 Ruling on Defense Motion to Dismiss–Lack of Personal Jurisdiction: Child Soldier)

2. Mohammed Ismail: A Twelfth Child Recognized by Military Officials

On February 2003, Lt. Col. Larry C. James, chief Guantánamo psychologist, flew to Afghanistan to bring three boys to the base. There they were held in Camp Iguana, a facility built especially for them in order to segregate them from the adult population of the prison (Fixing Hell, pp. 34-49). According to Captain James Yee, the Muslim chaplain who tended to the religious instruction of the Camp Iguana inmates, their first names were Assadulah, Naqibullah, and Ismail (For God and Country, pp. 93-96).2

The three boys remained in Guantánamo “for about a year” . Then, on January 29, 2004, the Department of Defense announced that three children had been released from Guantánamo, where they were “housed in a separate facility modified to meet the special needs of juveniles” .

On February 7, 2004 the Guardian published an article identifying these children as Assad Ullah, Naqib Ullah, and Mohammed Ismail. The first two of these children are included in the table in Section 1; the third one is not. Consequently, we can identify a twelfth Guantánamo prisoner that was captured as a minor. He is Mohammed Ismail.

Independent confirmation for this identification is provided by the fact that both Mohammed Ismail and Naqib Ullah were in-processed on 07 FEB 03 (both Lt. Col. James and Capt. Yee write that Naqib Ullah and Ismail arrived on the same day).

If Mohammed Ismail was seized as a juvenile in 2003, then he could not have been born in 1984, as the Departement of Defense claims in its 2006 list of prisoners; Mohammed Ismail must have been born later.

In its January 29, 2004 announcement of the release of the children, the Department of Defense indicated that medical tests performed after they were seized determined that “all three juveniles were under the age of 16″. Consequently, the date of birth for Mohammed Ismail given in the DoD list of prisoners must be amended to read “after 07 FEB 87”, which would be the date of his 16th birthday.

3. How Many Children Have Been Seized and Taken to Guantánamo?

On May 13, 2008, the U.S. State Department answered in writing, through its Bureau of Democracy Human Rights and Labor, a questionnaire from the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. In its answer to this questionnaire, the Bureau wrote that

“In the entirety of its existence, the Guantanamo Bay detention facility has held no more than eight juveniles, their ages ranging from 13 to 17 at the time of their capture (See United States Written Response to Questions Posed by the Committee onthe Rights of the Child, Answer to Question 12(a)).”

Yet, in light of the discussion above, the Guantánamo Bay detention facility has held no less than 12 individuals, their ages ranging from 13 to 17 at the time of their seizure. They are listed in the table below.

NAME ISN DATE OF BIRTH IN-PROCESSING DATE AGE
ABDUL QUDUS 0929 DD MMM 88 07 FEB 02 13 – 14
ASSAD ULLAH 0912 DD MMM 88 23 MAR 03 14 – 15
NAQIB ULLAH 0913 DD MMM 88 07 FEB 03 14 – 15
MOHAMMED ISMAIL 0930 after 07 FEB 87 07 FEB 03 15 or less
MOHAMMED OMAR 0540 DD MMM 86 12 JUN 02 15 – 16
MUHAMMED HAMID AL QARANI 0269 DD MMM 86 09 FEB 02 15 – 16
SHAMS ULLAH 0783 DD MMM 86 28 OCT 02 15 – 16
OMAR AHMED KHADR 0766 19 SEPT 86 28 OCT 02 16
YUSSEF MOHAMMED MUBARAK AL SHIHRI 0114 08 SEPT 85 16 JAN 02 16
MOHAMED JAWAD 0900 DD MMM 85 18 DEC 02 16 – 17
YASSER TALAL AL ZAHRANI 0093 22 SEPT 84 21 JAN 02 17
ABDUL SALAM GHETAN 0132 14  DEC  84 17 JAN 02 17

It follows that the State Department underreported, to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, the number of prisoners seized as children and transferred subsequently to Guantánamo. The figure reported to the U.N. committee does not even match the information made public by the Department of Defense .

4. What Do We Know About These Individuals?

Eight of the individuals mentioned in the table above have now been released.
  • Two are currently facing military trials as the first individuals in history to be charged with war crimes committed as children (Omar Ahmed Khadr and Mohamed Jawad).
  • One apparently killed himself in his Guantánamo cell (Yasser Talal al Zahrani).
  • One is still in Guantánamo, where he has repeatedly tried to kill himself (Muhammed Hamid al Qarani).

5. Could There Be More?

The information contained in the table in Section 3 is based solely on American military and diplomatic sources. They are corroborated, however, by a variety of international sources. The in-processing dates for the ten prisoners mentioned in Section 1, for example, is confirmed by the information about flight records presented in The Journey of Death, a report on “extraordinary renditions” prepared by the British charity Reprieve. And extant prisoner testimonies are also consistent with the information presented above.

As a matter of fact, if we were to incorporate the testimonies of former prisoners, the Red Cross, and other international sources, then, according to Reprieve (personal communication), the total number of individuals detained as juveniles and transferred to Guantánamo would exceed 46.

International testimonies on Guantánamo’s children will be analyzed in a subsequent report.

Source

Judge tosses detainee confession of Mohammed Jawad citing torture

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (AP) — A U.S. military judge barred the Pentagon Tuesday from using a Guantanamo prisoner’s confession to Afghan authorities as trial evidence, saying it was obtained through torture.

Army Col. Stephen Henley said Mohammed Jawad’s statements “were obtained by physical intimidation and threats of death which, under the circumstances, constitute torture.”

Jawad’s defense attorney, Air Force Maj. David Frakt, told The Associated Press that the ruling removes “the lynchpin of the government’s case.”

Guantanamo’s chief prosecutor, Army Col. Lawrence Morris, said he recognized how the judge made his decision and needed to study the ruling before making more comments.

Jawad, who was still a teenager at the time, is accused of injuring two U.S. soldiers with a grenade in 2002. He allegedly said during his interrogation in Kabul that he hoped the Americans died, and would do it again.

But Henley said Jawad confessed only after police commanders and high-ranking Afghan government officials threatened to kill him and his family — a strategy intended to inflict severe pain that constitutes torture.

“During the interrogation, someone told the accused, ‘You will be killed if you do not confess to the grenade attack,’ and, ‘We will arrest your family and kill them if you do not confess,’ or words to that effect,” Henley wrote in response to a defense motion to suppress the evidence. “It was a credible threat.”

Frakt said the ruling is a “further disintegration of the government’s case,” and that the Afghans’ descriptions of Jawad’s confession were never credible to begin with. He also praised the judge for “adopting a traditional definition of torture rather than making one up.”

The judge said torture includes statements obtained by use of death threats to the speaker or his family, and that actual physical or mental injury is not required. “The relevant inquiry is whether the threat was specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering upon another person within the interrogator’s custody or control,” Henley wrote.

Hina Shamsi, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, welcomed the ruling, but alleged “evidence obtained through torture and coercion is pervasive in military commission cases that, by design, disregard the most fundamental due process rights, and no single decision can cure that.”

Tuesday’s ruling comes a few weeks after Jawad’s former Guantanamo prosecutor, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, quit after what he described as a crisis of conscience over the ethical handling of cases at the U.S. base.

He said evidence he saw — some of which was withheld from defense attorneys — suggested Mohammed Jawad may have been drugged before the 2002 attack.

Source

Ontario lawyers call on Prime Minister to ask U.S. to return Omar Khadr

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