Monday, September 8, 2008

Inmates tell of sexual abuse and beatings in Iraq's overcrowded juvenile prison system

· Children as young as nine held in sweltering cells
· No money to improve conditions, says ministry

Contributed by Fatima

Jonathan Steele in Baghdad
The Guardian, Monday September 8 2008

"Hundreds of children, some as young as nine, are being held in appalling conditions in Baghdad's prisons, sleeping in sweltering temperatures in overcrowded cells without working fans, no daily access to showers, and subject to frequent sexual abuse by guards, current and former prisoners say.....

Guards often take boys to a separate room in the prison and rape them, Omar alleged. They also break prison rules by lending their mobile phones to boys to ring home, on condition that each time their families top the phone up by $10 or $20.....

Though the boys in the prison have been convicted, international standards for fair trials are never met. "Trials last on average for 25 minutes, no witnesses are called, confessions are used as the only evidence, and court-appointed defence lawyers get the case file on the day of the trial, leaving no chance to consult the defendant in private," an international adviser in Baghdad said on condition of anonymity.....

The ministry is under Shia control and its forces have repeatedly been accused of targeting innocent Sunnis. Sahar Muhammad, the boys' mother, told the Guardian that when she was able to visit her sons they told her they were beaten repeatedly in the first days of custody and ordered to sign a blank sheet of paper on which charges would be written later....."

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