NEW YORK — The U.S. military has detained more than 200 Afghan teenagers who were captured in the war for about a year at a time at a military prison next to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, the United States has told the United Nations.
The U.S. State Department characterized the detainees held since 2008 as “enemy combatants” in a report sent every four years to the United Nations in Geneva updating U.S. compliance with the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The U.S. military had held them “to prevent a combatant from returning to the battlefield,” the report said.
A few are still confined at the Detention Facility in Parwan, which will be turned over to the Afghan government, it said. “Many of them have been released or transferred to the Afghan government,” said the report, distributed this week.
Most of the juvenile Afghan detainees were about 16 years old, but their age was not usually determined until after capture, the U.S. report said.
If the average age is 16, “This means it is highly likely that some children were as young as 14 or 13 years old when they were detained by U.S. forces,” Jamil Dakwar, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s human rights program, said Friday.
“I’ve represented children as young as 11 or 12 who have been at Bagram,” said Tina M. Foster, executive director of the International Justice Network, which represents adult and juvenile Bagram detainees.
“I question the number of 200, because there are thousands of detainees at Parwan,” Foster said Friday. “There are other children whose parents have said these children are under 18 at the time of their capture, and the U.S. doesn’t allow the detainees or their families to contest their age.”
Dakwar also criticized the length of detention, a year on average, according to the U.S. report.