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Norway protests child abuse in Iraq

Aftenposten, Norway | July 7 2004

Norwegian authorities reacted with shock and disgust Tuesday to a documentary on German TV that American soldiers allegedly have been holding children in prisons in Iraq, and abusing them as well. The Norwegians joined the Red Cross and Amnesty International in calling for an immediate end to the abuse, and release of the underage prisoners, some of whom are as young as 12 years.

In one case, a girl around age 15 was said to have been shoved up against a wall by a group of male soldiers who proceeded to manhandle her. They then started ripping off her clothes, and she was half-naked before military police broke in.

In another case, a boy aged 15 or 16 was stripped naked and sprayed with water before being placed in an open truck and driven around in the cold night air last winter. He then was covered with mud.

"These types of attacks are absolutely unacceptable," said a spokesman for Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik. "They violate international law and are morally indefensible."

Odd Jostein Sæter of the prime minister's office told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) Tuesday that Norwegian officials will react "both politically and diplomatically" to their US counterparts.

Neither the imprisonment nor abuse of children "can be tolerated," Sæter said.

"We will take this up in a very sharp and direct way and make concrete demands," he said on national radio, adding that such practices "damage the struggle for democracy and human rights in Iraq."

Norwegian authorities plan to review other reports of the abuse by both Amnesty International and Red Cross in detail.

The head of Amnesty International in Norway said Tuesday that Norway should not continue its military cooperation with the US after the reports of child "torture" were revealed.

Most of the more than 100 minors still believed to be held in American-controlled prisons in Iraq were taken into custody after US forces raided their homes.