United States of America
Practice Relating to Rule 135. Children
The US Field Manual (1956) reproduces Articles 24 and 50 of the 1949 Geneva Convention IV.
According to the Report on US Practice, “Articles 4, 5 and 6 [of the 1977 Additional Protocol II] reflect general US policy on treatment of persons in the power of an adverse party in armed conflicts governed by common Article 3” of the 1949 Geneva Conventions. The report also notes: “It is the opinio juris
of the US that persons detained in connection with an internal armed conflict are entitled to humane treatment as specified in Articles 4, 5 and 6 [of the 1977 Additional Protocol II].”
On 8 May 2006, the US delegation to the Committee against Torture, responded orally to questions regarding US obligations under the 1985 Convention against Torture. On a question concerning juveniles detained at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba, the US Department of Defense Legal Adviser responded:
With respect to Madame Belmir’s question about juveniles detained at Guantanamo and the reason for their detention, there are currently no juvenile detainees at Guantanamo . . . Let me briefly speak about the conditions of detention we provided them while at Guantanamo. After medical tests determined their ages, they were housed in a separate detention facility, separated at a significant distance from the other detainees, and the other detainees were not permitted to have access to them. Indeed, they were housed in a communal facility, rather than cells. They underwent assessments from medical, behavioral, and educational experts to address their needs. Furthermore, we taught them mathematics, English, and reading, and provided daily physical exercise and sports programs.
It is unfortunate that al Qaeda and the Taliban use juveniles as combatants. The United States detains enemy combatants engaged in armed conflict against it and the juveniles were detained to prevent further harm to them and to our forces.
In May 2008, in a joint press briefing given in Geneva by the US Ambassador-at-Large and Director, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, and by the Deputy Assistant Secretary, Detainee Affairs, Department of Defense, the defense representative stated:
In Iraq, for example, we have developed an extensively robust program of a Juvenile Education Center working with the Iraqi government. It’s a separate school, exclusively for those juveniles who have taken part in hostilities and who have been recruited into armed conflict, which is something we very much oppose. And this school in particular has athletic fields; it has a special Iraqi curriculum developed with the Iraqi government for them. We take all measures to encourage as robust a communication with their families as is possible. And our policy is to the maximum extent practicable to not detain a juvenile more than a year.