NEW Update: Heart-Breaking VIDEO of a child soldier here
Op-Ed Columnist - By BOB HERBERT
The detention center at the American military base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba
Is this any place for a child? Indefinitely?
No one seems to know how old Mohammed Jawad was when he was seized by Afghan forces in Kabul six and a half years ago and turned over to American custody. Some reports say he was 14. Some say 16. The Afghan government believes he was 12.
What is not in dispute is that he was no older than an adolescent, and that since his capture he has been tortured and otherwise put through hell. The evidence against him has been discredited. He has tried to commit suicide. But the U.S. won’t let him go.
The treatment of the young captive was so egregious that the decorated U.S. Army officer assigned to prosecute him — a man gung-ho to secure a conviction against a defendant he believed had committed a serious crime against the American military — ended up removing himself from the case and declaring that he could no longer “in good conscience” participate in the military commissions set up to try accused terrorists.
Jawad was accused of hurling a hand grenade into a vehicle occupied by two American soldiers and their Afghan interpreter in December 2002. All three occupants of the vehicle were seriously injured.
Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld of the U.S. Army Reserve, a recipient of the Bronze Star, among other commendations, was named the lead prosecutor on the case in 2007. By then, Jawad had already been held for nearly five years. Colonel Vandeveld assumed that the case would be uncomplicated and that a conviction could be easily secured.
Jawad had confessed to the attack and, according to the charges against him, had acted as a member of an insurgent group called Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin.
As Colonel Vandeveld began a diligent effort to assemble what he assumed would be the evidence that would convict Jawad, he became increasingly distressed and ultimately dismayed. It turned out, as a military judge would later rule, that Jawad’s Afghan captors had obtained his confession by torturing him. Then the boy was taken by U.S. authorities to Bagram Air Field, the main U.S. military installation in Afghanistan, where he was held before eventually being transferred to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
Colonel Vandeveld — “by sheer happenstance,” as he put it — came across a written summary of an interview of Jawad by a special agent of the Army Criminal Investigation Division. The summary, which was part of the official record of an entirely different case at Bagram, detailed extensive abuse that Jawad said had been inflicted on him at Bagram.
In a sworn affidavit, Colonel Vandeveld said, “This abuse included the slapping of Mr. Jawad across the face while Mr. Jawad’s head was covered with a hood, as well as Mr. Jawad’s having been shoved down a stairwell while both hooded and shackled.”
Jawad’s account had the ring of truth. As Colonel Vandeveld said in the affidavit, the interviewer “later testified as a defense witness ... that Mr. Jawad’s statement was completely consistent with the statements of other prisoners held at Bagram at the time and, more importantly, that dozens of the guards had admitted to abusing the prisoners in exactly the way described by Jawad.”
Jawad also complained about being mistreated at Guantánamo, saying he had been moved with absurd frequency from cell to cell — the idea being to deprive him of sleep. A check of the official prison logs showed that Jawad had in fact been moved 112 times, without explanation, from one cell to another in a two-week period — an average of eight moves a day for 14 days.
As Colonel Vandeveld said in his affidavit: “Upon further investigation, we were able to determine that Mr. Jawad had been subjected to a sleep deprivation program popularly referred to as the ‘frequent flyer’ program.” The colonel said he lacked the words “to express the heartsickness” he felt as he came to fully understand the way Jawad had been treated by American soldiers.
On Dec. 25, 2003, Jawad tried to kill himself by repeatedly banging his head against a wall of his cell.
There is no credible evidence against Jawad, and his torture-induced confession has rightly been ruled inadmissible by a military judge. But the Obama administration does not feel that he has suffered enough. Not only have administration lawyers opposed defense efforts to secure Jawad’s freedom, but they are using, as the primary basis for their opposition, the fruits of the confession that was obtained through torture and has already been deemed inadmissible — without merit, of no value.
Colonel Vandeveld is no longer on active duty and has joined the effort by military defense lawyers and the American Civil Liberties Union to secure Jawad’s freedom. Six years of virtual solitary confinement, he said, is enough for someone who was not much older than a child when he was taken into custody.
Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company
More on Mohammed Jawad USA Today here and Greenwald at Salon dot com here and of course see what Andy Worthington has to say much earlier up until now here and also look him up at Cage Prisoners dot com here - Global Research here - According to Free Detainees, Jawad was born to Afghan parents in Pakistan and may have been arrested while still in primary school? Be sure to also go to Cage Prisoners and place name of detainee in their search engine for order by priority or date.
And find plenty more on these topics at oneheartforpeace blogsite here near the top...
From Andy Worthington's site under Comments for celebration of international day in support of torture victims a few days ago...
Salpha (evidently French Canadian?)says...Today at 12H01 I have lighted a candle, as are many of my friends, for the many victims of torture around the world.
Mr. Worthington, thanks to you for your special comment and reminding everybody of that special day.
You are so right. Mr. Obama will own this if he does not change track. Bagram is another chilling reminder that the US is still in the torture business and I would not be surprised that there are still some renditions going on.
Another thought: since the UN has mentioned 9/11 the world has gone down on human rights and torture. Specifically in the case of Mr. Arar there was so much pressure on Canada to give or find any terrorist and deliver them to the US. Maybe that was the case for Mr. Arar. The government of Canada just announced last week they would fight the Supreme Court recommendation that Canada must press the US on Mr. Khadr’s return. This is a disgrace for Canada.
...on June 26th, 2009 at 6:02 pm
Andy Worthington says...
...glad you mentioned Canada’s role in the “War on Terror.” Poor Maher was at least the only prisoner I know of who received compensation — although that cannot undo the horrors that were inflicted in him — but the other rendition victims received nothing, there is a horrible system of house arrest for “terror suspects” in place in Canada, and the indifference of the government to the plight of Omar Khadr is truly shocking. He is being made to pay for the perceived sins of his father, and yet he was a child when he was seized.
...on June 27th, 2009 at 12:12 am
Hello Mr. Worthington,
Thank you for taking the time to respond to my comment. The cult of celebrity seems to take precedence over more important or equally important news. In my opinion, PM Harper is a mini-Bush. I hope he will be voted out in the next election. Canada is lost since 9/11; we used to be the champion of Human Rights. I know about the case of Omar Khadr. I followed it and still do. He is well covered, but the population of Canada does not seem to care. I have written several times to the government for his case. I rarely received an answer. I do not think the population of Canada realize how a dangerous man Mr. Harper is, I guess since he does not have a big majority he cannot go on with his agenda too quickly. But if ever he gets a big majority we will be in trouble.
...on June 27th, 2009 at 3:07 am
Andy Worthington says...I also received the following message: Thank you so much for your excellent article “Never forget: The International Day in Support of Victims of Torture”. I thought you might be interested in some news from the Nobel Peace Prize “country” in that relation. Are you familiar with Inge Genefke’s work? The Danish “Florence Nightingale” for torture victims? She’s nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize once again, and this year the experts presume that the committee are leaning towards her due to the current debate on torture. A Nobel Peace Prize to her would be a definite NO to all forms of torture (again).
My interview with her, and two torture victims, has been published here in Norway today. Apart from my ten pages in our main current affairs weekly magazine A-magasinet, and monthly Innsikt, I haven’t found any other articles in Norway in relation to the UN Day. So it was such a relief to find your article. Thank you!
Charlotte Berrefjord Bergløff
http://www.bergloff.org ( GO here
...on June 27th, 2009 at 10:39 am
Andy Worthington says...Just to provide some context, Inge Genefke is the founder of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT), and I wrote an article about children in Guantanamo for the IRCT’s newsletter last November: (SEE here
The IRCT’s website : here
...on June 27th, 2009 at 10:45 am
Andy Worthington says...And some comments from the Huffington Post: Research wrote:
The American people MUST see those photos...I pray no soldier or American is hurt because of it, but it is more important than that risk...because of relentless media depiction of successful violence, done by our “heroes”, some half of American BELIEVE torture is necessary and works...We must Show the photos to understand how brutal and beneath us, torture is, as a nation, as one world...on June 27th, 2009 at 1:23 pm
Andy Worthington says...So many photos that we never see. No skeletal prisoners at Guantanamo, and nothing — ever — out of Bagram or Guantanamo showing the kind of “softening up” of prisoners for interrogation that went on at Abu Ghraib, even though both Bagram and Guantanamo established the template.
I can understand why Obama chose not to release the Afghanistan and Iraq photos, as they would inflame anti-US sentiment and endanger soldiers — and if the President is to believed, this kind of abuse has been curtailed — but photos enable a vast number of people to comprehend, viscerally, what’s actually going on, and without them, Bagram remains a hidden secret, and the enthusiasts for arbitrary and indefinite detention without charge or trial get to maintain the illusion that Guantanamo is a “safe and humane” environment stuffed full of terrorists.
And this from arcticredriver: Thanks for another excellent article Andy. The list of objections to the Guantanamo “evidence” you quoted from Gladys Kessler is pretty comprehensive. But I think it is missing one important further objection. As you and Carlotta Gall pointed out in your investigative report on Abdul Razzaq Hekmati, there are many captives who, even after half a decade in detention, remain victims of mistaken identity. It’s shocking.
Andy says...My reply: Thanks for the reminder. In many ways, I think “mistaken identity” is covered by prisoners telling lies about other prisoners — i.e. being shown the “family album” of photos, and coming up with a story to secure favors or avoid punishment — but I’m delighted that you remember the story that Carlotta and I wrote for the New York Times KABUL, Afghanistan. Abdul Razzaq Hekmati, who said he was falsely accused, died on Dec. 30 reportedly at Guantanamo. See article By CARLOTTA GALL and ANDY WORTHINGTON Published: February 5, 2008 (Abdul Razzaq Hekmati was evidently regarded here as a war hero, famous for his resistance to the Russian occupation in the 1980s and later for a daring prison break he organized for three opponents of the Taliban government in 1999.) here And the follow-up (behind the scenes) here: here
From one of the Commentors: SIGN THE PETITION
To Prosecute Those who Tortured In Our Name at ANGRYVOTERS.ORG
http://ANGRYVOTERS.ORG or GO here