Iraqi NGOs have raised concerns about the condition of children in local prisons, saying they are abused and tortured during interrogation.
"Children are being treated as adults in Iraqi prisons and our investigations have shown that they are being abused and tortured," said Khalid Rabia'a, a spokesman for the Prisoners' Association for Justice (PAJ).
"Our investigation started after families brought their five sons to our organisation looking for psychological help for their children who were recently released from prison, and what we found out was shocking," Rabia'a added.
According to Rabia'a, child prisoners between 13 and 17 are being accused of supporting insurgents and militias. Most were detained during Iraqi army military operations in the Baghdad neighbourhoods of Adhamiya, Latifiya, Alawi, Doura and Hay al-Adel.
"The five children showed signs of torture all over their bodies. Three had marks of cigarettes burns over their legs and one couldn't speak as the shock sessions affected his conversation," Rabia'a said. "It is against international law that protects children and we call for interventions in all Iraqi prisons to save the lives of these children."
The Ministry of Interior denied the accusations, saying children and youth taken for interrogation are released after a maximum of 48 hours without being abused or tortured. A campaign against child abuse is being launched in Baghdad with the support of Iraq's Vice-President Tarek al-Hashimy.
"Iraq respects human rights conduct for children and adults and our prisons aren't used for torture. Earlier scandals were reported and those responsible were punished. The accusations are wrong and they cannot prove it," Lt Col Ali Khalid Hussein, senior official at the Ministry of Interior, told IRIN.
However, another senior official from the ministry, who requested anonymity and who has been supplying the NGO with daily updates, told IRIN that every Iraqi prison is holding at least 20 children and they are all suffering abuse.
Rabia'a said the NGO had informants in many Iraqi prisons but since they did not want to be named, they could not go to court and prove the abuses were taking place.
At least 220 children are believed to be held in Iraqi prisons. IRIN requested permission to visit the prisons said to be holding child prisoners but the request was denied.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions