WASHINGTON - 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.
U.S. Still Holds Child Detainees at Guantanamo
Two demonstrators dressed as Guantanamo detainees kneel outside the US embassy in London. (AFP/Eric Feferberg)
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
The official said there was a large yard around the house
where the teens played soccer, volleyball and other games.
NO FAMILY CONTACT
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.
"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
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.
Copyright 2004 Reuters Ltd