U.S. Still Holds Child Detainees at Guantanamo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States has held three child detainees at its military base in Guantanamo Bay for more than a year and the Pentagon said on Thursday it has no plans to move or free them, despite international pressure.

A defense official said doctors estimated the boys were 13-15 years old and were deemed “enemy combatants” along with about 660 prisoners being held at the base in Cuba after the U.S. invasion in Afghanistan in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on America.

“There has been lots of media speculation they were going to be moved out but that’s all it has been, just speculation,” the official told Reuters when asked if there were plans to move or release the teen-age detainees any time soon.

A spokeswoman for the military task force holding the prisoners told Reuters last August that prison camp commander, Brig-Gen. Geoffrey Miller, would recommend the three boys be sent home, and this was confirmed by Miller a month later.

The detentions without trial at Guantanamo Bay have drawn worldwide criticism from governments and human rights groups who have urged the United States to file charges against the prisoners and to send the children home to their families.

The military official said the three were being kept separately from older prisoners in a refurbished house. They shared a large bedroom and there was also a dayroom, a kitchen and a facility where the teens received daily lessons.

“They are being tutored in their own language and are learning other skills. They are being taught to read and mathematics.”

The official said there was a large yard around the house where the teens played soccer, volleyball and other games.


He did not know whether family members had been informed of the teen-agers whereabouts but said they had been given access to Red Cross officials who visited the base.

America vs. Human Rights

“The United States has long regarded itself as a beacon of human rights, as evidenced by an enlightened constitution, judicial independence, and a civil society grounded in strong traditions of free speech and press freedom. But the reality is more complex; for decades, civil rights and civil liberties groups have exposed constitutional violations and challenged abusive policies and practices. In recent years, as well, international human rights monitors have documented serious gaps in U.S. protections of the human rights of vulnerable groups. Both federal and state governments have nonetheless resisted applying to the U.S. the standards that, rightly, the U.S. applies elsewhere.”
Human Rights Watch

“None of the detainees has had direct contact with their families except for one,” he said, referring to an Australian man David Hicks who was allowed to speak to his father on the telephone.

In the past, senior Pentagon officials described the children as “enemy combatants” who despite their age were “very, very dangerous people” who “have stated they have killed and will kill again.”

Asked whether there had been any incidents involving the children, the official said he did not believe so.

“The conditions they are being held in are humane. There have been very many media down there who have seen the conditions they live in,” he said, adding that the media had not seen the children themselves.

“We are not going to hold them up for public scrutiny or ridicule,” he said.

Jo Becker, advocacy director for children’s rights at Human Rights Watch, voiced deep concern the children were still being held and called for their release.

“They have been in detention since the early part of last year without any direct contact with their families or knowledge about what is going to happen to them,” said Becker.

She appealed to the military to free the detainees so they could be re-integrated with their communities and said there was particular worry about them being separated and detained during the vulnerable teen years.

She said other teen-agers, aged between 16-18, were also being held at the U.S. base along with the older prisoners. The military official declined to provide any details on detainees aged between 16-18.


(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Reuters, UK
Jan. 15, 2004
Sue Pleming
, , ,

Religion News Blog posted this on Friday January 16, 2004.
Last updated if a date shows here:


More About This Subject


Our website includes affiliate links, which means we get a small commission -- at no additional cost to you -- for each qualifying purpose. For instance, as an Amazon Associate, Religion News Blog earns from qualifying purchases. That is one reason why we can provide this research service free of charge.

Speaking of which: One way in which you can support us — at no additional cost to you — is by shopping at Amazon.com.

Travel Religiously

Book skip-the-line tickets to the worlds major religious sites — or to any other place in the world.