Guantánamo’s Children: The Wikileaked Testimonies

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By Almerindo E. Ojeda of The Guantánamo Testimonials Project

The Guantanamo detention facility at sunrise, January 7, 2011.

A couple of months ago, the transparency organization Wikileaks began to release Detainee Assessment Briefs and other classified documents for all 779 Guantánamo prisoners.

As a consequence of these wikileaked releases, military documents now in the public domain acknowledge that fifteen children were imprisoned, at some time or another, at Guantánamo.

This would be three more than the twelve the State Department acknowledged to the public after the earlier report on the subject put out by the Guantánamo Testimonials Project, and seven more than the eight the State Department reported to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

In other words, wikileaked documents indicate that the number of children that have been imprisoned at Guantanamo is one-and-a-quarter times what the State Department has admitted to the public and almost twice as many as it reported to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

These and other findings are contained in a new report I authored and released earlier this month within our Guantánamo Testimonials Project. The Project aims to gather testimonies of prisoner abuse at the Cuban base, to organize them in meaningful ways, to make them widely available online, and to preserve them there in perpetuity.

The terrorist attacks of September 11 were an unspeakable crime against humanity. Unfortunately, what these attacks unleashed was the full scale military invasion and occupation of a severely impoverished country followed by the worldwide implementation of a set of policies and practices of detention – such as at Guantanamo — that have led to a profound betrayal of the values on which our nation was built. They have also undermined the security of our nation both at home and abroad.

Abuses we’ve recorded at UC Davis include: international alliances with criminal armed groups; human trafficking; civilian arrests without warrants; denial of the writ of habeas corpus; secret detention; life-threatening, open-air, holding pens; medical neglect; interference of interrogation on medical treatment; fatal, disabling, and disfigu­ring beatings; hanging by the wrists; threats of death or bodily harm; mauling by military dogs; torture by proxy (extraor­dinary rendition); controlled drowning (waterboarding); sensory deprivation; sensory assault; forced nudity; tempera­ture and dietary manipula­tion; sleep deprivation; disorientation in space and time; positional torture (stress positions and prolonged standing); binding tor­ture (tight shackling or cuffing); solitary confinement; indefinite detention; severe humiliation; sexual as­saults; assaults with excreta; forced feeding; interfer­ence with religious practi­ces; verbal abuse, and the exploitation of cultural idiosyncracies and personal phobias.

These policies and practices are outrages upon human dignity, and are subject to criminal prosecution under both national and international law.

The Guantánamo Testimonials Project has called for a full, independent, and transparent inquiry into the policies and practices of detention enacted by the US government since the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Such an inquiry is the essential first step of a four-part process involving truth, accountability, reform, and reconciliation.

Truth is the foundation of all else. Without it, accountability is abusive, reform is blind, and reconciliation is hollow. Accountability and reform are preconditions for reconciliation as well. Without them, the victims have no reason to believe that the crimes will not be revisited, upon them or upon others, in the future. Consequently, they will continue to be on guard. Worse yet, they may feel that the period of abuse has not really ended, and they will not be delivered from the temptation to retaliate.

Almerindo E. Ojeda is the founding director of the UC Davis Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas and the Principal Investigator for its flagship Guantánamo Testimonials Project.

This post is part of our 2011 Torture Awareness Month series

AIUSA welcomes a lively and courteous discussion that follow our Community Guidelines. Comments are not pre-screened before they post but AIUSA reserves the right to remove any comments violating our guidelines.

20 thoughts on “Guantánamo’s Children: The Wikileaked Testimonies

  1. According to the links you provided almost all these so-called children you are talking about were 17 years old.

    First of all, this notion that for example a 17 and a 1/2 year old 6 foot 2, 250 pound highly trained killer and veteran of years of combat action is a child, don't you think this may be just your ethno-centric Western European cultural norms being forgivably imposed on a different culture? In the context of Pakistan and Afghanistan these 17 year olds are fully adults in every way shape and form. Even in most parts of the USA, 17 year olds are normally held accountable at trial for serious crimes as adults and sentenced to adult prison terms.

    And secondly, don't you think that the definition of a child is arbitrary and silly? Am I understanding you correctly that you are claiming that they are child soldiers because they were 17 years + 364 day old on the day of capture but they would have been adult soldiers had they been captured the next day when they were 18 years + 0 days old ?

    Isn't that just a bit crazy ?

    Isn't this just a ridiculous and absurd argument to claim that one day after the 18th birthday they are ordinary adults and you don't care about them, but one day before the 18th birthday and they are suddenly to be given all the rights and protections due little innocent children no different than if they were 7 years old?

  2. If there is evidence against an Accussed,then try them in Civilian Courts.If there is no evidence,release them immediately.Since they are Foriegner,they must be tried in International Court of Justice.If they are Acquitted,then they must be given Compulsation.

  3. Touche Judo-
    17 year olds can enlist in the U.S. Military. Many do. They are not children.

  4. In Great Brittian – a 15 year and 9 month old can join the military.

    al-Qaeda accepts anyone of any age.

  5. According to the links you provided almost all these so-called children you are talking about were 17 years old.

    First of all, this notion that for example a 17 and a 1/2 year old 6 foot 2, 250 pound highly trained killer and veteran of years of combat action is a child, don’t you think this may be just your ethno-centric Western European cultural norms being forgivably imposed on a different culture? In the context of Pakistan and Afghanistan these 17 year olds are fully adults in every way shape and form. Even in most parts of the USA, 17 year olds are normally held accountable at trial for serious crimes as adults and sentenced to adult prison terms.

    And secondly, don’t you think that the definition of a child is arbitrary and silly? Am I understanding you correctly that you are claiming that they are child soldiers because they were 17 years + 364 day old on the day of capture but they would have been adult soldiers had they been captured the next day when they were 18 years + 0 days old ?

    Isn’t that just a bit crazy ?

    Isn’t this just a ridiculous and absurd argument to claim that one day after the 18th birthday they are ordinary adults and you don’t care about them, but one day before the 18th birthday and they are suddenly to be given all the rights and protections due little innocent children no different than if they were 7 years old?

  6. If there is evidence against an Accussed,then try them in Civilian Courts.If there is no evidence,release them immediately.Since they are Foriegner,they must be tried in International Court of Justice.If they are Acquitted,then they must be given Compulsation.

  7. Touche Judo-
    17 year olds can enlist in the U.S. Military. Many do. They are not children.

  8. In Great Brittian – a 15 year and 9 month old can join the military.

    al-Qaeda accepts anyone of any age.

  9. First of all, you debaters of "at what age is someone considered a child" completely miss the point. Secondly, do you have any clue or conscience about committing atrocities against other human beings, regardless of their guilt? Apparently, you all think the Geneva Convention is "quaint". Yeah, I bet you would feel the same exact way if it was your high school kid getting raped.

  10. Correct, Ms Ebey !

    As for MSG Allen, the point is NOT the age at which minors arre allowed to join certain militaries.

    It is that, under international law, militaries are STILL forbidden to send soldiers under 18 to join in hostilities.

    For 18 remains the internationally accepted age at which children may be taken to become adults.

  11. First of all, you debaters of “at what age is someone considered a child” completely miss the point. Secondly, do you have any clue or conscience about committing atrocities against other human beings, regardless of their guilt? Apparently, you all think the Geneva Convention is “quaint”. Yeah, I bet you would feel the same exact way if it was your high school kid getting raped.

  12. Correct, Ms Ebey !

    As for MSG Allen, the point is NOT the age at which minors arre allowed to join certain militaries.

    It is that, under international law, militaries are STILL forbidden to send soldiers under 18 to join in hostilities.

    For 18 remains the internationally accepted age at which children may be taken to become adults.

  13. a.savage, To start quoting "International Law" you need to define who falls under that. I can absolutely freaking guarantee you that not every one does, which is an understatement of course.

    Who is being detained by our military? Muslim "adults" have been defined as post-pubescent individuals above the age of 15. There are a couple other rules about being debt free and volunteers, but for they're interpretation of legal age……well there you go.

    International Law is an interpretation. It is irresponsible to insist that combat is fair or follows rules. Every situation has it's own makeup and the criteria to win or just to survive dictates "Law".

    Understood that as United States military, we follow the Geneva Convention, Laws of Warfare, etc…. As for 99% of the garbage written in the above article, it's completely false and quite frankly, offensive. It's also irresponsible to think that an isolated incident in Abu Ghraud (ugh, forgot the spelling) is the norm.

    I have absolute first hand knowledge of numerous detention facilities in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and I can tell you that 99% of this garbage is…..well garbage.

  14. a.savage, To start quoting “International Law” you need to define who falls under that. I can absolutely freaking guarantee you that not every one does, which is an understatement of course.

    Who is being detained by our military? Muslim “adults” have been defined as post-pubescent individuals above the age of 15. There are a couple other rules about being debt free and volunteers, but for they’re interpretation of legal age……well there you go.

    International Law is an interpretation. It is irresponsible to insist that combat is fair or follows rules. Every situation has it’s own makeup and the criteria to win or just to survive dictates “Law”.

    Understood that as United States military, we follow the Geneva Convention, Laws of Warfare, etc…. As for 99% of the garbage written in the above article, it’s completely false and quite frankly, offensive. It’s also irresponsible to think that an isolated incident in Abu Ghraud (ugh, forgot the spelling) is the norm.

    I have absolute first hand knowledge of numerous detention facilities in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and I can tell you that 99% of this garbage is…..well garbage.

  15. Interesting that 1SG MP, who claims to have first hand knowledge of numerous detention facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan doesn't even know that it is Abu Ghraib not Abu Ghraud. When you have spent as much time as I have researching the issue of child soldiers, politics and what takes place at Guantanamo Bay's holding facility then you will know that the article by Almerindo E. Ojeda speaks to the truth. Why are some people so quick to deny that these practices take place. They surely contribute to the problem…not the solution.

  16. Interesting that 1SG MP, who claims to have first hand knowledge of numerous detention facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan doesn’t even know that it is Abu Ghraib not Abu Ghraud. When you have spent as much time as I have researching the issue of child soldiers, politics and what takes place at Guantanamo Bay’s holding facility then you will know that the article by Almerindo E. Ojeda speaks to the truth. Why are some people so quick to deny that these practices take place. They surely contribute to the problem…not the solution.

  17. Oh my goodness Amnesty !!

    More child soldiers arrested by the cruel occupation oppressors !!
    We must take immediate action to organize a campaign to free these harmless children held in clear violation of international law.

    link: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4084194

    "06.19.11 4 girls arrested for 'Price tag' violence

    Israeli Police have arrested four female right-wing Jewish activists – three of them minors – on suspicion they torched Palestinian vehicles last month in Hebron.

    Officers suspect the girls have carried out a number of acts as part of the settlers' 'Price tag policy', and believe that their arrest will restore relative calm to the West Bank. "

  18. Oh my goodness Amnesty !!

    More child soldiers arrested by the cruel occupation oppressors !!
    We must take immediate action to organize a campaign to free these harmless children held in clear violation of international law.

    link: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4084194

    "06.19.11 4 girls arrested for 'Price tag' violence

    Israeli Police have arrested four female right-wing Jewish activists – three of them minors – on suspicion they torched Palestinian vehicles last month in Hebron.

    Officers suspect the girls have carried out a number of acts as part of the settlers' 'Price tag policy', and believe that their arrest will restore relative calm to the West Bank. "

  19. Oh my goodness Amnesty !!

    More child soldiers arrested by the cruel occupation oppressors !!
    We must take immediate action to organize a campaign to free these harmless children held in clear violation of international law.

    link: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4084194

    "06.19.11 4 girls arrested for 'Price tag' violence

    Israeli Police have arrested four female right-wing Jewish activists – three of them minors – on suspicion they torched Palestinian vehicles last month in Hebron.

    Officers suspect the girls have carried out a number of acts as part of the settlers' 'Price tag policy', and believe that their arrest will restore relative calm to the West Bank. "

  20. Oh my goodness Amnesty !!

    More child soldiers arrested by the cruel occupation oppressors !!
    We must take immediate action to organize a campaign to free these harmless children held in clear violation of international law.

    link: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4084194,00.html

    “06.19.11 4 girls arrested for ‘Price tag’ violence

    Israeli Police have arrested four female right-wing Jewish activists – three of them minors – on suspicion they torched Palestinian vehicles last month in Hebron.

    Officers suspect the girls have carried out a number of acts as part of the settlers’ ‘Price tag policy’, and believe that their arrest will restore relative calm to the West Bank. “