For Immediate Release
ACLU Seeks Information on Children in US Military Detention Overseas
Asks Department of Defense for Information on Compliance With UN Recommendations
WASHINGTON - The
American Civil Liberties Union today sent a letter to Secretary of
Defense Robert Gates requesting updated data 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.
In May 2008, the United Nations
Committee on the Rights of the Child conducted a comprehensive review
of U.S. compliance with the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of
Children in Armed Conflict, which the U.S. ratified in 2002. The
protocol guarantees basic protections to former child soldiers. The
committee issued a strongly worded critique of the United States'
record on the detention and treatment of juveniles in U.S. military
custody abroad, and offered recommendations for compliance.
"The president has pledged to
restore the rule of law and humanity to U.S. detention operations
overseas. The treatment of juveniles in U.S. military custody is a
critical litmus test for this endeavor," said Jamil Dakwar, Director of
the ACLU Human Rights Program. "The U.S. can improve its standing in
the international community and lead by example by demonstrating
compliance with the committee's recommendations concerning juvenile
The letter to Secretary Gates states
that as of May 2008, the U.S. military was holding 513 Iraqi children
as "imperative threats to security" and had transferred an unknown
number of additional children to Iraqi custody. As of April 2008, there
were approximately 10 juveniles being held at the Bagram prison in
Afghanistan. During its review, the Committee on the Rights of the
Child expressed concern about reports of mistreatment, length of
detention and conditions of confinement of juvenile detainees, as well
as the lack of adequate access to education, legal services and
physical and psychological recovery services. The committee also was
concerned that children were being charged and prosecuted for war
crimes without consideration for their status as juveniles. Last
Friday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Canadian
Guantánamo detainee Omar Khadr, who was 15 when he was captured by U.S.
forces, will be charged in a military commission for allegedly throwing
a hand grenade that killed an Army medic and wounded others in
"The U.S. has had over 18 months to
implement the U.N.'s recommendations regarding the detention of
suspected child soldiers abroad," said Jennifer Turner of the ACLU
Human Rights Program. "We hope that the U.S. has taken substantive
steps to fulfill its obligations to bring its policies on the detention
and treatment of juveniles in line with international standards."
Today's request from the ACLU comes
on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the Convention of the Rights of
the Child (CRC), the most comprehensive treaty on children's rights,
which the U.S. helped to author but has yet to ratify. Somalia is the
only other nation that has not ratified the treaty.
The letter to Secretary Gates can be found at: www.aclu.org/human-rights/
The full report of the U.N. CRC is available online at: www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/
The Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict is at: www2.ohchr.org/english/law/
More information about the CRC can be found at: www.aclu.org/crc
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.