Yesterday, we posted the video from a German TV report about alleged abuse and detention of children in Iraqi prisons. While the US media remains silent (as far as we know,) this story is getting some coverage outside of Germany. Pete from The Dark Window sends us this link from Norway:
Norwegian authorities reacted with shock and disgust Tuesday to a documentary on German TV that American soldiers allegedly have been holding children in prisons in Iraq, and abusing them as well. The Norwegians joined the Red Cross and Amnesty International in calling for an immediate end to the abuse, and release of the underage prisoners, some of whom are as young as 12 years.
The (partial) translation of the report is below. It was prepared by our staff and Pete from The Dark Window. Links to the original video and text (in German) are below.
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.
Contacted for comments, the British Defense Ministry has said its troops have not detained minors and children. We have yet to receive an answer from the Pentagon. –Fritz Frey, Host.
Added: Downloadable clip of the TV report. (9MB, RealVideo 10 format.) [The streaming video from SWR is 14MB and of slightly lower quality.]
Also added: Dan Frazier alerts us to a full translation of the Report Mainz story on the alleged abuse and detention of children by US forces in Iraq he prepared along with Angela Petz, posted here.
Related developments here.