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Abuse of children in U.S. prisons in Iraq.

A documentary in Germany (Streaming video is here.) reports that the U.S. have imprisoned over 100 children in Iraq -- some as young as 12 years old -- and that some of the children have been beaten and tortured.

These aren't just German allegations, however... an American soldier was the main source, vividly describing the abuse. Here is a partial transcript:

Soldiers looking for terrorists storm an apartment. Children are sometimes arrested during these raids. What the Army does with them, it will not say. We investigate. Meet with sources.

One that knows something about this is Sergeant Samuel Provance, from the US Military. 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."
--Samuel Provance

After this however the son remained in detention, and the 16-year old was put in with the adults. But Provance discusses a special children's section at Abu Ghraib -- a secret detention facility.

One that has seen the children's section with his own eyes is the Iraqi journalist Suhaib Badr-Addin Al-Baz. Our correspondent met with him in Baghdad. He explains how he was picked up while reporting and jailed 74 days in Abu Ghraib:

"There I saw a camp for kids, young, certainly not yet of puberty age. There must have been hundreds of kids. Some were released, others are certainly still there." --Suhaib Badr-Addin Al-Baz

From his cell in the adult's section he hears a girl of maybe 12 years of age crying. Later he found out that her brother was held in a cell on the second floor of the prison. Once or twice he says, he saw the girl himself. [...] "She called out her brother's name. She was beaten, she cried out "they took off my clothes, they poured water on me."" --Suhaib Badr-Addin Al-Baz

He heard her cries every day. [...]

These accounts from witnesses are difficult to corroborate. We look for additional proof of the detention of children. We find it at UNICEF, which has written this explosive report, published a few days ago [June 2004, -S,N!]:

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

The prison in Um Qasr. These images were shot in 2003. Today, it is too dangerous for reporters to drive to Um Qasr. This facility, a detention center for terrorists and criminals, would have also held children.

"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.


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. More details here...

This isn't the first time we've heard about Samuel Provance. He was the sysadmin guy for Abu Ghraib, and was specifically singled out in the Taguba report for his courageous assistance in the investigation. Unfortunately, no major U.S. media outlet has picked up this story yet.

This, I guess, is a small taste about what they didn't want to tell us about Abu Ghraib. As Seymour Hersch said regarding the Abu Ghraib videos at a speech at the University of Chicago:
"You haven't begun to see evil... horrible things done to children of women prisoners, as the cameras run..."

That said, it's not just Abu Ghraib and a few bad apples, but apparently a "children's wing" of a prison in Um Qasr too... standard policy?!
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