German TV news reports allegations of Iraqi children 
imprisoned and abused by coalition forces

The following report has been translated from a German television news broadcast.

To view the original Report Mainz news broadcast (in German) use the link below, then click on Beitrag Ansehen:


F S - I N L A N D


BROADCAST: 5th July 2004

Iraq: One more sin – evidence of children being abused in Abu Ghraib.

Writer: Thomas Reutter

Camera: Helmut Meyer

Editor: Zsuzsa Döme


Fritz Frey (Program Host): News from Iraq. The daily terror attack. Saddam in court. Soldiers being kidnapped. The more information, the worse it gets. After the scandal about the abuses in Abu Ghraib it is no surprise that there is yet another scandal.

REPORT has continued to investigate abuses and found some evidence pointing to something really monstrous. At Abu Ghraib, and elsewhere, children and teenagers were detained and abused. Thomas Reutter went to track down the evidence.


They break through the walls of the building with their armored car. US soldiers are entering an apartment building, looking for terrorists. Sometimes during such raids, the soldiers arrest children.

What happens afterwards to these children? The US army doesn’t provide any information about this. We investigated and met with some informants.

One person who has something to tell us about this is Sergeant Samuel Provance of the US Army. He was deployed in the notorious prison Abu Ghraib for half a year. Five months later, we met Sergeant Provance in Heidelberg, Germany.

His superiors strictly warned him against providing information to journalists about what he saw in Abu Ghraib. But Provance wants to speak about it. His conscience has been bothering him. He tells us about a 16-year-old boy he lead to his cell.

Samuel Provance, US-Sergeant:
"He was very afraid, very alone, And he had the skinniest arms I had ever seen on a kid. And he was literally shaking from head to toe. His wrists were so small we couldn’t even put handcuffs on him. And I took pity on him. From the moment I saw him and was escorting him, I felt, you know, sorry for him. They threw water on him and they threw him in the back of a Humvee. Then they drove him around in the middle of the night, and it was very, very cold. And then, afterwards, they covered him with mud and showed him his arrested father whom they had also questioned using other methods. But he wouldn’t talk. The questioning specialists told me that to see his son in this state, that that’s what broke him, you know, it broke his heart to see his son like that. The father started to cry and promised to tell them whatever they wanted to know after that."

But the son remained under arrest. Because he was 16, he was kept with the adult prisoners. But Provance also knows about a special holding area for children. He tells us about a secret wing at the horror prison Abu Ghraib.

Suhaib Badr-Addin Al-Baz, a journalist with Iraq TV, saw the corridor for children with his own eyes. Last week, our correspondent met with him in Baghdad. He told us about how he was arrested himself without any reason by the Americans during a photo assignment and detained afterwards in Abu Ghraib for 74 days.

Suhaib Badr-Addin Al-Baz, TV-journalist: I saw a camp for children there. They were young, not even teenagers. The number of children in this camp was at least 100. Some of them were freed, but I’m sure that there are others who are still there.

From his solitary cell in the adults camp, Suhaib could hear a girl crying. She seemed to be about 12. Later, he found out that her brother was detained on the 2nd floor of the prison. Suhaib saw her once or maybe twice.

He even went to her cell one night. The girl shouted loudly at the other prisoners mentioning the name of her brother.

An artist who specializes in courtroom sketches drew this (picture of the girl shouting at the prisoners) for the British TV-station ITN.

Suhaib Badr-Addin Al-Baz, TV-journalist: They beat her. I heard her shout, "They undressed me! They poured out water over me!"

According to Suhaib, each and every day they heard the prisoners shout and moan. Some of the prisoners were even crying. Suhaib also tells us about an ill 15-year-old they forced to run up and down the corridor carrying heavy cans of water. They did this until he broke down from exhaustion. Then they brought him to his father who had been forced to wear a hood over his head. The boy broke down again because of the shock.

In the so-called "war against terrorism," Americans enter apartment buildings in Iraq. Suhaib says they arrest whole families who they think to be suspicious. But there are only rarely witnesses, so this is difficult to prove.

We kept investigating for further evidence of the detention of children. And we found it. At UNICEF in Geneva, at the United Nations Children’s Fund. We found an explosive report, dating from a couple of days before.

Quote from UNICEF report: "
Children who had been arrested in Basra and Kerbala … were systematically brought to a specially designed prison in Um Qasr."

(The prison camp in Um Quasr. Photos taken in 2003.)

Nowadays, it is too dangerous for reporters to go to Um Qasr. The camp is a prison for terrorists and criminals. It is here of all places that the Americans are said to detain children as if they were prisoners of war.

Quote from UNICEF report:
"The classification of these children as ‘prisoners’ is alarming, because it implies an indefinite period of detention without any contact with their family and without any information about if and when they get a court hearing."

UNICEF wouldn’t provide any more information than this report –which has yet to be published. They don’t want to put their employees in Iraq in danger. We continued our investigation and asked the International Committee of the Red Cross about this. Their volunteer workers are inspecting Um Quasr, Abu Ghraib and other prison locations. After intense talks, we got another confirmation -- this time even including some numbers.

Florian Westphal from the International Comitee of the Red Cross: "
Between January and May 2004, we registered 107 children altogether, after 19 visits to six different prison-locations. We have to stress that we are talking about prison locations that are entirely controlled by the coalition troops."

In the prison camp of Um Qasr and also in Abu Ghraib, the Red Cross made note of minors who were prisoners. This means that two International Organizations independently confirm that the occupation troops detain children. But it was impossible to get any information from the prisons themselves. Not even UNICEF is allowed to visit the prison for children in Baghdad.

Quotation from report:
"UNICEF filed an official request for a visit to this prison in July 2003, but was not permitted to visit it."

According to UNICEF, not a single independent observer has visited the prison for children in Baghdad since December. The US Army opened the prison of scandals, Abu Ghraib, for a walk-through by journalists, but they showed them what appeared to be an exemplary prison. The press didn’t see any detained children.

Let’s sum up the facts: Four sources independently confirm the detention of child prisoners by the occupation troops. Two witnesses report of abuses. Amnesty International is outraged about the report about the Iraqi child prisoners. Barbara Lochbihler from Amnesty International desperately wants to see action.

Barbara Lochbihler, General Secretary of Amnesty International: "
The US government naturally has to react to these reports. They have to give concrete information about the age of the children, about why they were arrested and why they are detained, about the circumstances of these arrests and about if they were tortured or abused. Amnesty International doesn’t even know the names of the children and how many there are. They don’t let independent inspectors into the prisons. That really is a scandal."

Fritz Frey (Program host):
Of course, we confronted those in authority with the results of our investigation. The British Ministry of Defense informed us that British troops don’t detain any children or teenagers. We are still waiting for a reply from the Pentagon.


Reports about Iraq by Amnesty International

Internationals Committee of the Red Cross

The United Nations Children’s Fund of UNICEF


Text is Copyrighted. Copying or publishing without permission from the author (Report Mainz) is not allowed, except for private communications.

Unofficial English translation by Angela Petz (with assistance from Dan R. Frazier). Note that Samuel Provance’s comments shown above are pieced together from audible portions of his interview, along with a translation into English of his inaudible comments, based on the program’s official German transcript.

Read an alternate English translation of a portion of this report:

Read Robert Harris' comments about this scandal and this report:  

On July 27, 2004, Angela Petz, the principal translator of the Report Mainz story, reported that a German newspaper "Die Tageszeitung," had published an article, Minderjährige in US-Haft” (Minors in US detention). Petz summarized the story as follows: "The US army admitted the detention of 58 children and teenagers aged 14 to 17 in Abu Ghraib and Camp Bucca . They said, the average detention time for the children and teenagers was 6 months. The army is going to investigate about if there was any abuse. Barry Johnson (a or the spokesman of the army) said there was no abuse, but the US was taking very seriously every accusation. In one case they investigated already. Barbara Lochbihler (Amnesty) said that she was not satisfied. In her opinion the investigations should be lead by a neutral authority and not only by the army. "

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