Lawyers representing detainees at Guantnamo Bay, Cuba, say that there still may be as many as six prisoners who were captured before their 18th birthday and that the military has sought to conceal the precise number of juveniles at the prison camp.
One lawyer said that his client, a Saudi of Chadian descent, was not yet 15 when he was captured and has told him that he was beaten regularly in his early days at Guantnamo, hanged by his wrists for hours at a time and that an interrogator pressed a burning cigarette into his arm.
Barbara Olshansky, a senior lawyer at the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, which is coordinating a program to match volunteer lawyers with detainees, said she believed he may be one of six current detainees who were imprisoned at Guantnamo before their 18th birthday.
Military authorities say the only juveniles at the detention center were the three who were kept in a separate facility from the main prison camp with more freedom and activities. They were released in January 2004.
The dispute is clouded by two issues: military authorities define a juvenile as someone younger than 16 years of age, not 18, as do most human rights groups. Further, the ages of the detainees brought to Guantnamo as enemy combatants cannot be determined with certainty, leaving officials to make estimates.
Prof. Adam Roberts of Oxford University, a leading authority on international law, said the definition of a juvenile was not precise. The Geneva Conventions, the basic foundation of international law, do not provide a definition. The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has been signed by the United States and deals with the related issue of how young a soldier may be recruited, says that juveniles are those under 18. But the Optional Protocol seems to acknowledge that some countries might use a younger age at which soldiers may be recruited.
Although not a treaty, the United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of Their Liberty, which more directly deals with the issue of detentions, uses the age of 18 as a boundary.
The prison at Guantanamo Bay was created for the sole purpose of evading the law. It must be closed and those who created it (Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld) removed from office.