The Iraq Human Rights Ministry recently conducted interviews with more than 1,000 juveniles being held in prisons in Iraq – 338 in prisons run by US forces, and 669 in Iraqi-run prisons. The ministry says that most of these children have been convicted of terror or criminal acts. According to spokesman Hamza Kamil on July 29 (from IRIN):
Most of these juveniles [currently held in prisons] were being used [by the militants] either for transporting bombs to areas the militants can’t enter due to security cordons, or to daub walls with anti-government graffiti.
Mr. Kamil states:
We have evidence that the phenomenon of criminal gangs and terrorist groups recruiting juveniles – either by threatening them or luring them with money – has increased recently.
The Human Rights Ministry is also concerned about rehabilitation programs for the youth, noting that “family neglect frequently lay behind their involvement with militant groups.” Also, “There should be clear and comprehensive rehabilitation programmes for these juveniles, either inside the prisons, or when they get out.”
Apparently there is going to be a new law to address this – and to protect the rights of children in Iraq – which is being drafted and presented to parliament later in 2008.