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WHO'S IN CHARGE HERE?
Magpie is a former journalist, attempted historian [No, you can't ask how her thesis is going], and full-time corvid of the lesbian persuasion. She keeps herself in birdseed by writing those bad computer manuals that you toss out without bothering to read them. She also blogs too much when she's not on deadline, both here and at Pacific Views.

Magpie roosts in Portland, Oregon, where she annoys her housemates (as well as her cats Medea, Whiskers, and Jane Doe) by attempting to play Irish music on the fiddle and concertina.

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Sunday, May 28, 2006

More bad news from that cesspit called Guantánamo.

The UK-based legal rights group Reprieve says that more than 60 of the prisoners held by the US at Guantánamo were under 18 when they were sent there. At least ten prisoners were only 14 or 15 years old when they arrived.

Reprieve's information contradicts assurances given by Washington to the UK government that no minors have been held at Guantánamo.

British officials last night told [the Independent] 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...."

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.

The Pentagon, of course, has issued the usual sort of carefully worded denials:

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."

I should probably open a betting pool for guessing how long it will be until the Pentagon confirms Reprieve's numbers.

Via UK Independent.

| | Posted by Magpie at 11:37 AM | Get permalink




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