U.N. panel criticizes U.S. war crimes charges for Gitmo minors

gitmo-minors.jpgAP | A UN committee on child rights criticised the US yesterday for filing war crimes charges against Guantanamo Bay detainees who were picked up as minors. The detainees were recruited to fight while they were children and should therefore be treated as victims rather than unlawful enemy combatants, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child said.US officials say two men who were juveniles when they were first detained remain at the island base. Canadian Omar Khadr, now 21, and Mohammad Jawad, an Afghan who the military says is about 23, face charges of murder and attempted murder respectively for allegedly attacking US troops in 2002.

“The committee is seriously concerned that children who were recruited or used in armed conflict … have been charged with war crimes and subject to prosecution by military tribunals, without due account of their status as children,” the committee said in a nine-page report.

US officials in Geneva said they were unable to comment immediately on the report.

Last month, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence Sandra Hodgkinson said she would review how many juveniles were detained at the military prison in Guantanamo after official documents cast doubt on the figures Washington has provided to the UN panel.

Other cases

A lawyer who has reviewed the cases of several Guantanamo inmates says at least one detainee still being held at the prison was never recognised as a juvenile by the US despite official records showing he was only 16 when he arrived there.

The UN committee also expressed concern about the number of juveniles being held at US facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan.