The Pentagon Can’t Count: 22 Juveniles Held at Guantánamo

22.11.08

Omar KhadrOn Sunday, the Pentagon admitted that 12 juveniles — those under the age of 18 at the time their alleged crimes took place — have been held at Guantánamo Bay (as opposed to the figure of eight that was submitted to the UN in May). But a RAW STORY count, drawn from the Pentagon’s own records, reveals that the total number of juveniles held at Guantánamo is at least 22 — nearly double the official Pentagon figure.

In a submission to the 48th Session of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (PDF), the Pentagon claimed that it had only held eight juveniles during the life of the Guantánamo Bay prison. It acknowledged that three Afghans under the age of 16 were released in January 2004 (as reported in the New York Times), stated that another three juveniles were repatriated between 2004 and 2006 and claimed that it was only holding two prisoners who were juveniles at the time of their capture: the Canadian Omar Khadr and the Afghan Mohamed Jawad, who are both facing a trial by Military Commission. The much-criticized Commissions were created by the Defense Department as part of the “terror trials” conceived in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

Mohammed El-GharaniLast week, the Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas, based at the University of California, issued a report pointing out that, contrary to the Pentagon’s assertions, at least 12 prisoners were juveniles at the time of their capture. The report correctly stated that, in addition to Omar Khadr and Mohamed Jawad, Mohamed El-Gharani (photo, left), a Saudi resident born to parents from Chad, was still imprisoned. Just 14 years old when he was seized in October 2001, El-Gharani had traveled to Pakistan to study information technology, but had been rounded up in a random raid on a mosque, tortured in Pakistani custody and then held in U.S. detention, first in Afghanistan, and then in Guantánamo.

The report also asserted that the Pentagon had forgotten to include Yasser Talal al-Zahrani. Al-Zahrani, a Saudi national, was 17 when he was seized in Afghanistan, and was one of three prisoners who died in Guantánamo (apparently by committing suicide) in June 2006.

After the report was issued, the Pentagon acknowledged that it had revised its figure from eight to 12, and said it had provided a corrected submission to the United Nations. Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon claimed that the problems arose because many of the prisoners did not know their dates of birth. But as Almerindo Ojeda, the director of the Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas explained, the Center’s report had drawn on the Pentagon’s own sources, specifically the list (PDF) of all the prisoners held at Guantánamo from January 11, 2002 until May 15, 2006, which included their names, nationalities, and dates of birth.

Close scrutiny of this list reveals that the Pentagon will need to revise its figures once more, as, by its own account, a total of 22 prisoners were juveniles at the time of capture. Moreover, contrary to the Pentagon’s account, five of these prisoners are still being held.

This imprecision seems to reflect the Pentagon’s lack of concern for whether prisoners were juvenile at the time of capture. Under the terms of Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (on the involvement of children in armed conflict), the U.S. administration is required to promote “the physical and psychosocial rehabilitation and social reintegration of children who are victims of armed conflict,” but in May 2003, when the story first broke that juvenile prisoners were being held at Guantánamo, defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld told a press conference, “This constant refrain of ‘the juveniles,’ as though there’s a hundred children in there — these are not children.”

Although the three juveniles released in January 2004 were held separately from the adult population and given some educational and recreational opportunities, there is no evidence that the rest of the juveniles held at Guantánamo received any preferential treatment whatsoever. In many cases, they were subjected to the kind of chronic abuse that has earned Guantánamo (and the U.S. prisons in Afghanistan) a reputation as facilities where the use of torture was routine.

The following is a list of the 22 juveniles held at Guantánamo:

Including Omar Khadr, Mohamed Jawad and Mohammed El-Gharani, five prisoners who were juveniles at the time of capture are still being held at Guantánamo. The two not previously mentioned are:

Faris Muslim al-Ansari, a Yemeni, was 17 when he was seized crossing the Pakistani border. In Guantánamo, he explained (PDF, pp. 128-33) that his family had left Yemen when he was a child, and had moved to Afghanistan, where his father had fought the Russians. Denying an allegation that he was a Taliban fighter, he said, “I have never done anything military-related at all, and I don’t know anything about military fighting,” and added that he fled Jalalabad, where he was living with his parents, because “The Americans would target any Arabs, not just al-Qaeda or the Taliban, and the Northern Alliance would kill any Arab they saw.”

Hassan bin Attash, a Saudi of Yemeni descent, is the brother of a “high-value detainee” charged in connection with the 9/11 attacks, and was 16 or 17 when he was seized in Pakistan and transferred to the “Dark Prison,” a CIA prison near Kabul, which resembled a medieval dungeon, but with the addition of painfully loud music which was blasted into the cells 24 hours a day. He was then rendered to Jordan, where proxy torturers “worked on” him for 16 months. In Guantánamo, he told his lawyer that he was hung upside down, beaten and threatened with electric shocks, and added that afterwards he told his interrogators “whatever they wanted to hear.” In January 2004, he was rendered back to Afghanistan, and arrived in Guantánamo in September 2004.

In addition to the three juveniles released in January 2004 (Asadullah, Naqibullah and Mohammed Ismail), the following thirteen prisoners who were juveniles at the time of capture have also been released:

Abdul Qudus, an Afghan, was 14 when he was sold to US forces by opportunistic Afghan soldiers. In Guantánamo, he explained (PDF, pp. 22-7) that he and Mohammed Ismail (one of the three juveniles released in January 2004) had been looking for work, and had ended up spending the night at an Afghan militia post. The following morning, the soldiers wanted to give them weapons and make them fight, and when they refused they were put in a car, delivered to the Americans, and accused of being with the Taliban. He was released in 2005 or 2006.

Shams Ullah, an Afghan, was 15 or 16 he was seized by U.S. forces. In Guantánamo, it was alleged (PDF, pp. 71-4) that he had fired at U.S. and Afghan forces who had stopped him during a patrol. Shams had vague recollections of the events, but his uncle, Bostan Karim, who was seized separately, and is still held in Guantánamo, noted (PDF, pp. 138-50) that he had “a mental problem,” and explained, “When the Americans came to our house there was a Kalashnikov in our house and he knew that the Americans would take this gun. So, he took the gun and went to the mosque. The Americans asked him to stop and he didn’t stop, so they shot him and he became lame.” He was released in 2005 or 2006.

Qari Esmhatulla, an Afghan, was 16 or 17 when Afghan soldiers stopped him as he walked home from visiting a shrine. In Guantánamo, he said (PDF, pp. 1-7) that he “admitted the things that were not true only to make them stop beating me,” and added, “I heard my captors talk about receiving a bounty from American forces for people they captured. They placed a grenade near me so they could have an explanation for arresting me.” He was released in October 2006.

Peta Mohammed, an Afghan, was 17 when he was seized with two of the juvenile prisoners released in January 2004, after a raid by U.S. Special Forces on the compound of a warlord named Samoud. All were treated brutally in a U.S. base in Gardez and at Bagram, where, according to another released prisoner, Habib Rahman (PDF, pp. 84-9), they were abused until they admitted attacking U.S. forces. Mohammed was released in 2005 or 2006.

Yousef al-ShehriYousef and Abdulsalam al-Shehri, two Saudi cousins, were both 16 when they were seized in Afghanistan. Yousef (photo, left) was transported to a prison in Sheberghan run by Afghan warlord General Dostum, where he spent six weeks in horribly overcrowded conditions, surrounded by the dead and dying, before being transferred to U.S. custody. Abdulsalam was sent to Qala-i-Janghi, a fort run by Dostum, where several hundred prisoners were killed in bombing raids and by artillery fire after a number of them staged an uprising. The others, who hid in the basement, survived death by bombs and flooding. When asked at Guantánamo (PDF, pp. 158-66) if he took part in the uprising, Abdulsalam said, “How am I going to fight? With my fingers? I didn’t have a weapon.” He was released in June 2006 and Yousef was released in November 2007.

Abdulrazzaq al-Sharekh, a Saudi, was 17 when he was seized after crossing the Pakistani border from Afghanistan. He had apparently been recruited to help the Taliban fight the Northern Alliance (PDF, pp. 35-42), and was released in September 2007.

Rasul KudayevRasul Kudayev, a former wrestling champion from the Russian territory of Kabardino-Balkaria, north of Georgia, was 17, according to the Pentagon, when he was seized in Afghanistan and imprisoned in Qala-i-Janghi. He was released in March 2004, but was arrested in October 2005, after 300 gunmen attacked government buildings in his hometown, and tortured horribly in police custody, despite protesting his innocence.

Haji Mohammed Ayub, a Uighur (a Muslim from China’s Xinjiang province), had fled to Afghanistan to escape Chinese persecution, and was 17 when the settlement he shared with other Uighurs was bombed by U.S. forces (PDF, pp. 49-55). Seized by Pakistani villagers and sold to U.S. forces, he and four other Uighurs were released in May 2006 and sent to Albania, the only country prepared to accept them, where they have no work opportunities, and no prospect of ever being reunited with their families.

Mohammed OmarTwo Pakistanis, Mohammed Omar (photo, left) and Saji Ur Rahman, were, respectively, 17 and 15 years old when they were seized in Afghanistan and imprisoned in local jails for three months before being handed over (or sold) to U.S. forces. This year, they spoke to Tom Lasseter of McClatchy Newspapers (interviews here and here) as part of a survey of released prisoners, and it appeared that they had been recruited to fight, like thousands of other young Pakistanis, by militants connected to their madrassa (religious school). They were released in 2004.

In addition, two other Pakistani juveniles — Khalil Rahman Hafez and Sultan Ahmad (both 17 at the time of capture) — were released without their stories being told, and the 22nd juvenile prisoner was Yasser Talal al-Zahrani.

It remains plausible that the dates of birth of several other prisoners were recorded incorrectly by the Pentagon, and it should also be noted that Sami al-Haj, the al-Jazeera journalist released in May, told his lawyers at the legal action charity Reprieve that he believed that at least two dozen other prisoners were juveniles when they were seized.

Hundreds of juvenile prisoners are still being held in Afghanistan and Iraq. In its submission to the UN in May, the Pentagon claimed that it had held “approximately 90” in Afghanistan since 2002, and was currently holding “approximately ten,” and had held “approximately 2,400” in Iraq since 2003, and was currently holding “approximately 500.” If Guantánamo is anything to go by, these figures may not be reliable at all.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed, and also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.

As published exclusively on The Raw Story, as “Number of juveniles held at Guantánamo almost twice official Pentagon figure.”

Note: The prisoners’ numbers on the Pentagon’s list, their ISN numbers (the Internment Serial Numbers by which they are known in Guantánamo), their dates of birth as recorded by the Pentagon and their estimated date of capture are as follows:

456. Omar Khadr (ISN 766) Born 19 September 1986, seized 19 July 2002
440. Mohamed Jawad (ISN 900) Born 1985, seized December 2002
174. Mohammed El-Gharani (ISN 269) Born 1986, seized October 2001
75. Faris Muslim al-Ansari (ISN 253) Born 1984, seized December 2001
240. Hassan bin Attash (ISN 1456) Born 1985, seized 11 September 2002
718. Asadullah (ISN 912) Born 1988, seized December 2002
720. Naqibullah (ISN 913) Born 1988, seized December 2002
428. Mohammed Ismail (ISN 930) Born 1984, according to Pentagon list, but DoD admitted on his release that he was under 16 when seized in late 2002
604. Abdul Qudus (ISN 929) Born 1988, seized late 2002
722. Shams Ullah (ISN 783) Born 1986, arrived in Guantánamo October 2002
337. Qari Esmhatulla (ISN 591) Born 1984, seized March 2002
557. Peta Mohammed (ISN 908) Born 1985, seized December 2002
204. Yousef al-Shehri (ISN 114) Born 8 September 1985, seized November 2001
360. Abdulsalam al-Shehri (ISN 132) Born 14 December 1984, seized November 2001
12. Abdulrazzaq al-Sharekh (ISN 67) Born 18 January 1984, seized November 2001
444. Rasul Kudayev (ISN 82) Born 23 January 1984, seized November 2001
276. Haji Mohammed Ayub (ISN 279) Born 15 April 1984, seized December 2001
590. Mohammed Omar (ISN 540) Born 1986, seized December 2001
724. Saji Ur Rahman (ISN 545) Born 1984, seized December 2001 (Rahman said he was 15 when captured)
375. Khalil Rahman Hafez (ISN 301) Born 20 January 1984, seized December 2001
47. Sultan Ahmad (ISN 842) Born 1 November 1984, seized before November 2002
231. Yasser Talal al-Zahrani (ISN 93) Born 22 September 1984, seized November 2001

POSTSCRIPT: At the time of writing, I was unaware that Faris Muslim al-Ansari was released in December 2007. See here.

26 Responses

  1. Why Did It Take So Long To Order The Release From Guantánamo Of An Al-Qaeda Torture Victim? by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] surprised: by the stories of the Afghan schizophrenic who ate his own excrement; the boys who were no more than 12 or 13 years old when they were captured; the 88-year old who was seized when his house was bombed; and another old [...]

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  4. A Child At Guantánamo: The Unending Torment of Mohamed Jawad by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] detainees ever sent to Guantánamo.” This is certainly true, but as I have reported previously, at least 22 juveniles — including an Afghan boy who was probably just 11 years old when he was seized — have been [...]

  5. A Teenage Refugee Freed From Guantánamo And Released In Ireland | America 20XY says...

    [...] Afghanistan, and to deprive them of any rights, even if they were under 18 years old, and should, as juveniles, have been rehabilitated rather than being subjected to sleep deprivation, punished for trying to [...]

  6. “Model Prisoner” at Guantánamo, Tortured in the “Dark Prison,” Loses Habeas Corpus Petition « freedetainees.org says...

    [...] on September 11, 2002, with Ramzi bin al-Shibh, one of the five alleged 9/11 co-conspirators, and Hassan bin Attash, the brother of Walid bin Attash, another of the alleged 9/11 [...]

  7. Murders at Guantánamo: Scott Horton of Harper’s Exposes the Truth about the 2006 “Suicides” « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] Shaman al-Utaybi, a Saudi, and 22-year old Yasser Talal al-Zahrani (photo, left), a Saudi who was just 17 when he was captured — is Army Staff Sgt. Joe Hickman, a former Marine who reenlisted in the Army [...]

  8. Anonymous says...

    [...] Shaman al-Utaybi, a Saudi, and 22-year old Yasser Talal al-Zahrani (photo, right), a Saudi who was just 17 when he was captured – is Army Staff Sgt. Joe Hickman, a former Marine who reenlisted in the Army [...]

  9. Murders at Guantanamo: Exposing the Truth About the 2006 Suicides. By Andy Worthington « Kanan48 says...

    [...] a Yemeni; 30-year-old Mani Shaman al-Utaybi, a Saudi; and 22-year-old Yasser Talal al-Zahrani, a Saudi who was just 17 when he was captured – is Army Staff Sgt. Joe Hickman, a former Marine who re-enlisted in the Army National Guard [...]

  10. Murders at Guantanamo: Exposing the Truth About the 2006 Suicides | Disinformation says...

    [...] a Yemeni; 30-year-old Mani Shaman al-Utaybi, a Saudi; and 22-year-old Yasser Talal al-Zahrani, a Saudi who was just 17 when he was captured – is Army Staff Sgt. Joe Hickman, a former Marine who re-enlisted in the Army National Guard [...]

  11. Murders at Guantanamo: Exposing the Truth About the 2006 Suicides says...

    [...] a Yemeni; 30-year-old Mani Shaman al-Utaybi, a Saudi; and 22-year-old Yasser Talal al-Zahrani, a Saudi who was just 17 when he was captured – is Army Staff Sgt. Joe Hickman, a former Marine who re-enlisted in the Army National Guard [...]

  12. Murders at Guantanamo: Exposing the Truth about the 2006 ‘Suicides’ | thehitjob.com says...

    [...] Shaman al-Utaybi, a Saudi, and 22-year old Yasser Talal al-Zahrani (photo, left), a Saudi who was just 17 when he was captured — is Army Staff Sgt. Joe Hickman, a former Marine who reenlisted in the Army [...]

  13. Military Tribunal Testimony: Teenage Detainee Tortured, Threatened With Rape « Little Alex in Wonderland says...

    [...] first broke that juvenile prisoners were being held at Guantánamo (and research indicates that at least 22 juveniles were held in total), defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld impatiently told a press conference, “This [...]

  14. Prosecuting a Tortured Child: Obama’s Guantánamo Legacy. By Andy Worthington « Kanan48 says...

    [...] first broke that juvenile prisoners were being held at Guantánamo (and research indicates that at least 22 juveniles were held in total), defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld impatiently told a press conference, “This [...]

  15. Canadian teenager held at Gitmo eight years-Andy Worthington « FACT – Freedom Against Censorship Thailand says...

    [...] first broke that juvenile prisoners were being held at Guantánamo (and research indicates that at least 22 juveniles were held in total), defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld impatiently told a press conference, [...]

  16. Murders at Guantánamo: The Cover-Up Continues « roger hollander says...

    [...] old Yemeni, Mani Shaman al-Utaybi, a 30-year old Saudi, and Yasser Talal al-Zahrani, a Saudi who was just 17 when he was seized in Afghanistan, died by hanging themselves, in what Guantánamo’s [...]

  17. WikiLeaks: Numerous Reasons to Dismiss US Claims that “Ghost Prisoner” Aafia Siddiqui Was Not Held in Bagram + Bring Aafia Home « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] prisoner Omar Deghayes stated that, as well as Binyam Mohamed, Hassan bin Attash (a former child prisoner who is still held in Guantánamo) and Dr. Ghairat Baheer (a former “ghost prisoner” held in [...]

  18. The Guantanamo Children: These Aren’t What You’d Call ‘Little League’ Terrorists « WIKILEAKS AUSTRALIAN CITIZENS ALLIANCE says...

    [...] Here’s a list of juveniles whose reports have yet to be released: [...]

  19. WikiLeaks and the 22 Children of Guantánamo by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] next week, however, I produced another report, “The Pentagon Can’t Count: 22 Juveniles Held at Guantánamo,” providing evidence that at least 22 juvenile prisoners had been held, and drawing on the [...]

  20. Evropský rozhled » Na Guantánamu byly a možná jsou stále zadržovány děti says...

    [...] Osoby podezřelé z terorismu jsou zadrženi buď americkými tajnými agenty (nebo místními agenty), a poté jsou klidně i půl roku vězněni na neznámém místě ve své vlasti, nebo kdekoli jinde ve světě. Mnohdy až poté jsou převezeni do věznice Guantánamo. Na těchto tajných místech mohou být drženi i roky. Můžeme se tedy domnívat, že v době skutečného zadržení byli vězni o několik let mladší. Například anglický novinář Andy Worthington, mimo jiné také autor knihy Guantanamo files, uvádí, že zadržených dětí mohlo být až 22. [...]

  21. WikiLeaks And The 22 Children Of Guantanamo says...

    [...] next week, however, I produced another report, “The Pentagon Can’t Count: 22 Juveniles Held at Guantánamo,” providing evidence that at least 22 juvenile prisoners had been held, and drawing on the [...]

  22. WikiLeaks and the Guantánamo Prisoners Released from 2002 to 2004 … » WeNewsIt says...

    [...] therefore, just 17 at the time of his capture in November 2001, as I explained in my articles, “The Pentagon Can’t Count: 22 Juveniles Held at Guantánamo” and “WikiLeaks and the 22 Children of Guantánamo.” It was also noted that he had “a [...]

  23. WikiLeaks and the Guantánamo Prisoners Released from 2002 to 2004 (All Ten Parts) – Andy Worthington « freedetainees.org says...

    [...] [...]

  24. The 22 Children of Guantanamo « Mercury Rising 鳯女 says...

    [...] next week, however, I produced another report, “The Pentagon Can’t Count: 22 Juveniles Held at Guantánamo,” providing evidence that at least 22 juvenile prisoners had been held, and drawing on the [...]

  25. Guantanamo’s Children: The Wikileaked Testimonies | MasterAdrian2nd says...

    [...] the estimates of the number of children at Guantánamo raise significantly. Thus, according to a study by Andy Worthington, the number of individuals entering Guantánamo as boys is 22. And, according [...]

  26. Critics predict violence and deaths over CIA torture report - Page 81 - VolNation says...

    […] The Pentagon Can This mentions how a lot of the 22 juveniles we detained at Guantanamo were captured. One was rounded up while at his mosque (later found innoccent). One was sold to the Americans by the Taliban! […]

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