Mohammad Jawad was detained in Afghanistan when a teenager: a child soldier accused, along with two adults, of lobbing a hand grenade that injured two U.S. Special Forces soldiers (who since have recovered). Recently charges that he committed war crimes were referred for trial at Guantanamo Bay. Last week Military Commissions Judge Colonel Stephen Henley ruled that the pretrial advice provided by Brigadier General Thomas Hartman to the Convening Authority, Susan Crawford, was misleading and inadequate. Hartman, in his role as Legal Advisor to the Convening Authority did not advise Crawford of mitigating and extenuating issues raised by defense counsel and was found by Judge Henley thereby to have “compromised the objectivity necessary to fairly and dispassionately evaluate the evidence.” Crawford has been ordered to reconsider her decision to refer charges against Jawad, and to consider issues raised by the defense.
Major David Frakt, Jawad's defense counsel, is seeking letters of support to give to Ms Crawford. You can read more about the case and about the letter-writing campaign here.
No country in modern history has ever attempted to try child soldiers for war crimes. Major Frakt notes that "it would be a major policy decision of the U.S. government to choose to try child soldiers for war crimes. Such a decision would reverse long-standing U.S. opposition to treating child soldiers as war criminals, and would run counter to the views of all of our major allies in the Global War on Terror."
There is evidence that Jawad was tortured and abused at Bagram Air Base as well as at Guantanamo Bay. He has been severely sleep deprived (the so-called "frequent flier" method of constantly moving him from cell to cell), kicked, hit, shackled and thrown downstairs. He was placed in isolation for a month after a military psychologist said that he was "faking" when he was observed talking to posters in his room. (The psychologist claimed the right not to incriminate herself last week.)
Major Frakt had this to say about his client's case:
The case against Mohammad Jawad relies almost entirely on a “confession” purportedly taken from Mohammad Jawad by Afghan authorities on December 17, 2002. According to Mohammad Jawad, he was subjected to both physical abuse and coerced by threats while in Afghan police custody. The confession itself was not written by Mohammad Jawad, who was functionally illiterate, and bears only his thumbprint. The confession is not even written in Mohammad Jawad’s native language of Pashto. Virtually all of the independently verifiable facts in the so-called confession are demonstrably false.
Mohammad Jawad has been interrogated approximately 36 times at Guantanamo. In all of these interrogation sessions, he has never admitted throwing the hand grenade and has affirmatively and adamantly denied it, despite the use of illegal “enhanced interrogation techniques” on Mohammad Jawad, the same techniques which have broken hardened terrorists. Some of the interrogators and even the Combatant Status Review Tribunal have expressed doubt as to whether he threw the hand grenade.
Writing a letter of support sounds like a half-hour well spent to me.
You can learn more about child soldiers the world round here and here.