ACLU Raises Questions About U.S. Report On Reduction In Juveniles Held In Military Detention

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Robyn Shepherd, (212) 519-7829 or 549-2666; media@aclu.org

ACLU Raises Questions About U.S. Report On Reduction In Juveniles Held In Military Detention

Group Seeks Assurance That Transferred And Current Juvenile Detainees Are Afforded Protection Under International Law

NEW YORK - The
American Civil Liberties Union expressed concerns today about a U.S.
government report that states that the number of juveniles held in U.S.
military detention in Iraq and Afghanistan has dropped dramatically
from over 500 in May 2008 to five as of December 2009. While much of
the reduction may be attributed to the transfer of prisoners to Iraqi
authorities, the ACLU asked for data on the fates of the detainees and
sought assurance that all current or former child soldiers and juvenile
prisoners have access to the protections guaranteed to them under
international law.

"It is very encouraging to see that
the U.S. government has made efforts to reduce the number of juveniles
in U.S. military custody," said Jamil Dakwar, Director of the ACLU
Human Rights Program. "But the public is entitled to know how these
cases are being handled. We hope that the U.S. can confirm how many of
these detainees were released and how many were transferred to Iraqi or
Afghan authorities for prosecution. The U.S. has a responsibility to
ensure that any juvenile detainees transferred to other authorities are
still granted their basic human rights, including consideration of
their status as juveniles and safe opportunities for rehabilitation and
reintegration into society."

This is the first U.S. periodic
report to the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child. The report
documents compliance with the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of
Children in Armed Conflict, a component of the Convention on the Rights
of the Child (CRC). The protocol, which the U.S. ratified in 2002,
guarantees basic protections to former child soldiers. In May 2008, the
committee conducted an initial comprehensive review of U.S. compliance
with the protocol and issued a strongly worded critique of the United
States' record on the detention and treatment of juveniles in U.S.
military custody abroad.

The U.S. report, a response to that
critique, indicated that there is no comprehensive policy on the
detention and treatment of children who have been recruited or
exploited by combatants. The report also did not include information
about the treatment and care for those who were under 18 at the time of
their capture and who are still in U.S. custody. Current policy allows
the U.S. to take up to two weeks to provide the International Red Cross
with names and access to all detainees, which is too long for the needs
of children in custody. The first weeks of detention are critical to
juvenile prisoners, and they should be accounted for and attended to as
soon as possible.

"The humane treatment of juveniles
in U.S. military custody is critical to restoring the rule of law and
humanity to U.S. detention operations overseas," said Jennifer Turner,
human rights researcher with the ACLU Human Rights Program. "We are
pleased that the U.S. is constructively engaged in the review process
with the U.N., but the government still lacks a comprehensive policy
regarding the treatment of juveniles still in detention and their
access to education, legal services and physical and psychological
services that are critical to their rehabilitation."

In November, the ACLU sought updated
data from the Department of Defense on juveniles in U.S. military
custody in Iraq and Afghanistan and information on efforts to bring
U.S. policy regarding the treatment, detention and trial of juveniles
into compliance with international law. To date, no response has been
received.

The CRC is the most comprehensive
treaty on children's rights. The U.S. and Somalia are the only nations
that have not ratified the full treaty.

The U.S. response to the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child can be found here: www.state.gov/documents/organization/136023.pdf

The ACLU's letter to the Department of Defense requesting information on juvenile detainees can be found here: www.aclu.org/human-rights/aclu-letter-secretary-gates-regarding-juvenile-detention

More information on the CRC can be found here: www.aclu.org/human-rights/faq-convention-rights-child-and-its-optional-protocols

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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