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UNICEF: Children and women displaced by conflict in Pakistan need urgent and ongoing support


Source: United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

Date: 03 Jul 2009 GENEVA, 3 July 2009

UNICEF is deeply concerned about the condition of thousands of children who have been displaced by conflict, or who remain in affected areas, in north-western Pakistan.

Nearly 50 per cent of the estimated 2 million displaced are children, many of whom are in urgent need of health and educational services, nutritional support, access to clean water and sanitation as well as protection. Their situation has been compounded by the harsh summer temperatures.

UNICEF is especially concerned that some 700,000 children are due to start the new school year in September in 3,700 schools that are currently occupied by 150,000 IDPs. If these schools are not vacated and rehabilitated soon, the education of all these children will be interrupted. Some of these children could even drop out of the education system permanently.

The speed and magnitude of the crisis has stretched the capacity of the government, host communities and humanitarian actors to the limit. Though fighting is reported to have subsided in Swat and Buner, IDPs continue to seek refuge in camps and communities in northern parts of North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and new displacements are being recorded into southern parts of the province due to military operations in South Waziristan.

“In Pakistan we face a unique humanitarian challenge, since the vast majority of the displaced are seeking shelter in host communities which are far more difficult to reach with basic services than in the camps,” said UNICEF’s Director of Emergency Programmes, Louis-Georges Arsenault.

While basic needs are being met in camps, the situation is critical for the vast majority of IDPs living in host communities. In the thousands of school buildings that have been converted into IDP shelters and other spontaneous camps that have sprung up throughout parts of NWFP to cope with the influx of people from conflict-affected areas, children and families are living in cramped conditions with limited to negligible access to safe drinking water and sanitation – and are difficult to reach with basic hygiene materials and education to decrease the likelihood of water borne diseases.

At equal risk are host communities who are shouldering the burden with limited resources and fragile infrastructure in the aftermath of food prices spikes that took root in 2007. UNICEF is working closely with the government of Pakistan and other partners to provide services and information to displaced children and women.

To prevent the outbreak of diseases, over 200,000 children have been vaccinated against measles and 230,000 people receive safe drinking water and hygiene education in IDP camps and communities. To date, 47,400 children and 20,400 mothers have been screened for malnutrition, and the 11,000 moderately malnourished have received care within their own communities. While malnutrition rates are presently low, the vulnerability of the population requires sustained support to prevent the situation from deteriorating rapidly.

The Pakistan Humanitarian Response Plan, revised in May to cope with new displacements caused by the military operations in Swat and Buner, has so far raised less than a third of the $543 million required to support 1.7 million IDPs for six months. As part of the Appeal, UNICEF requested $52 million. To date $22.5 million has been received from donors and is in hand –and another $9.3 million has been pledged. “Without sufficient funding, it will be impossible to ensure that thousands of children and families affected by the conflict have the services and support they require in the time of their greatest need. Equally important is support to the host communities who are struggling to cope with their new found burden,” said Arsenault.


UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.

In Pakistan and elsewhere, it has provided vital relief and reconstruction support to help individuals rebuild their lives after emergencies. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information, please contact:

Kathryn Grusovin, UNICEF Islamabad, Tel +92-300-5018542, E-mail: kgrusovin@unicef.org.

A Sami Malik, UNICEF Islamabad, Tel +92-300-8556654, E-mail: asmalik@unicef.org.


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Aid agencies call for better access to Gaza.


“The people of Gaza have reached breaking point and it’s hard to describe in words how desperate people are. We believe 70 percent of the population are without water and electricity and food is running out. Our aid efforts have been severely restricted due to the level of violence ” IR’s Hatem Shurrab.
Aid agencies are finding it increasingly difficult to distribute urgent emergency relief as the military attacks intensify in the densely populated Gaza Strip home to 1.5 million Palestinians.

Thirteen days into the Gaza conflict aid agencies Islamic Relief and CAFOD are warning that the humanitarian crisis is deepening hour by hour.

Geoff O’Donoghue, CAFOD’s Director of International Division, says a three-hour occasional halt to military activities is insufficient to allow meaningful movements of aid to reach those in need.

“Time is of the essence. It is imperative that a secure humanitarian corridor is established within the next 24 to 48 hours to allow immediate delivery of essential supplies and skilled personnel to help deal with this humanitarian crisis.”

“While this would allow some short-term relief, it is no substitute for a permanent ceasefire, an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza and rocket attacks into Israel,” he said.

According to reports from aid workers in Gaza 70 percent of people no longer have running water in their homes. This is as a result of electricity shortages and the damage caused to the water systems. There are also severe food shortages with people risking their lives to queue for up to ten hours on the streets for bread.

Mr O’Donoghue also warned of impending health issues.

“As essential food, water, health and sanitation services collapse or are destroyed it is inevitable that disease will add to the mounting list of civilian casualties caused by the military action,” he said.

Hospitals are now entirely reliant on generators dependent on scarce fuel supplies, and with no fuel entering Gaza many life-saving machines are unable to run.

Hatem Shurrab an aid worker with IR said, “The people of Gaza have reached breaking point and it’s hard to describe in words how desperate people are. We believe 70 percent of the population are without water and electricity and food is running out. Our aid efforts have been severely restricted due to the level of violence.”

IR’s aid team on the ground report that hospitals are running out of supplies of medication. Hospitals are also facing shortages of beds and medical equipment and staff report that some operations have had to take place without the use of anaesthetic. Only one quarter of health staff are working because of restrictions on movement. Vaccination programmes have stopped, heightening the risk of disease, especially amongst children.

Palestinian medical sources say that over 680 Palestinians have been killed since the conflict started, many of them women and children and many thousands injured. Aid workers say that around 30 percent of those who have been killed or injured are children.

“People in Gaza are exhausted and traumatised, and are in desperate need for an end to this nightmare. We need the bombs to stop so we can get aid out to the most vulnerable people whose suffering is increasing day by day’’ said Shurrab.

For more information please contact:

Helen Mould (Islamic Relief) on (00 44) 121 622 0719 or mobile: (00 44) 7855 499 645

Nana Anto-Awuakye (CAFOD) on (00 44) 207 095-5560 or mobile: (00 44)7799 477 541


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Humanitarian desperation in Gaza

“The only talk must be of ceasefires and peace, and the safety and rights of ordinary people must be the urgent top priority.”

By Jeremy Hobbs, Executive Director, Oxfam International

Two days ago an Oxfam employee living in Gaza risked a desperate drive from his house to find some fresh food for his four young children. There is no fruit or meat and little milk in Gaza now, but he found a few expensive vegetables. And then, because of ongoing bombing and bullet fire, he had to drive around and around the streets near his house, because a parked car is a sitting target until, in the briefest of lulls, he could dash into his home to his terrified family.

Oxfam has had to suspend much of its work within Gaza including one of its largest programs – assisting 65,000 people – for security reasons, though a number of Oxfam partners continue to carry out essential work against impossible odds. UN food aid, relied on by 80% of the Gazan population of 1.5 million, has been severely disrupted for the last week because of the bombing.

Gaza’s civilian population has already borne the brunt of an increasingly severe blockade for the last 18 months, impeding access to a wide range of goods and supplies and making it hard for people to move freely in and out of Gaza. It has been a form of collective punishment illegal under international humanitarian law yet tolerated by the international community.

Now with the ground incursion on the back of a week-long bombing campaign a critical humanitarian situation has become a desperate one. One local Oxfam staff member in Gaza describes power blackouts, people trapped in their homes by the violence – cold, with windows open so they are not blown in by bombs, children screaming in the night.

Lack of fuel is one of the major problems, shutting the Gaza power plant and leaving many people without power for most of the day. Bombing has also damaged power lines and energy-generating infrastructure. Without fuel and power, pumps for wells and water sanitation will increasingly go out of action. Hospitals overwhelmed by casualties are desperately working with back-up generators – if they crash (through overuse or when fuel stocks finally end), desperation will become devastation.


It is way past time for both Israel and Hamas to renounce violence and to respect the rights of ordinary people. The vulnerable civilians of Gaza, including thousands of children, urgently need an immediate and permanent ceasefire strictly implemented by both sides.

EU and other politicians talk of possible ‘humanitarian pauses’- to a clear negative response so far from the Israeli side. Any pause in hostilities must be welcome; its rejection is gravely disappointing. But a brief cessation of hostilities on its own cannot relieve the increasingly critical situation for ordinary people in Gaza.

They are mostly dependent on regular food aid and are reeling from a week of bombing. They cannot be supplied adequately with cooking fuel or food stocks in a ‘pause’ from attacks of a day or two. Nor can overwhelmed hospitals create more bed space, or give proper treatment to the injured, in the before more dead and injured arrive at their doors. Nor can children go back to school for two days only to then cower frightened at home, nor can the serious work begin of tackling the psychological damage that many civilians suffer in war.

A ceasefire must be combined with a lifting of the blockade so Gazan civilians have access to a wide range of supplies, not just the restricted food, medicines and basic goods that were being allowed through before the bombing started. Humanitarian workers need to be able to work freely in the Gaza Strip without risking their own lives.

Much greater pressure needs to be put on both Israel and Hamas. International players, especially the UN, but also the EU, League of Arab States and others should be engaged in rapid and urgent shuttle diplomacy in the region, engaging intensively to get both to a short run ceasefire and to serious longer term peace talks.

We need an immediate UN security council resolution condemning both the disproportionate use of force by the Israeli government and indiscriminate rocket attacks by Hamas. It should demand an immediate, comprehensive and permanent truce and an end to the blockade, allowing access for humanitarian and commercial goods, and for people too.

There must be no business as usual in international politics in the Middle East until Gazans have a chance to eat, drink and move around with some degree of normalcy, not cower in their homes wondering if and how they will survive. The only talk must be of ceasefires and peace, and the safety and rights of ordinary people must be the urgent top priority.

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UN: IDF officers admitted there was no gunfire from Gaza school which was shelled


By Barak Ravid and Akiva Eldar, Haaretz Correspondent

The United Nations is claiming Israeli military officers have admitted there was no Palestinian gunfire emanating from inside an UNRWA school in Gaza which was shelled by an IDF tank.

Dozens of Palestinians were killed in the shelling.

In addition, UNRWA Thursday announced it will cease activities in the Strip due to the death of an UNRWA staffer in an IDF shelling during Thursday morning’s humanitarian hiatus.


UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness told Haaretz yesterday that the army had conceded wrongdoing.

“In briefings senior [Israel Defense Forces] officers conducted for foreign diplomats, they admitted the shelling to which IDF forces in Jabalya were responding did not originate from the school,” Gunness said. “The IDF admitted in that briefing that the attack on the UN site was unintentional.”

He noted that all the footage released by the IDF of militants firing from inside the school was from 2007 and not from the incident itself.

“There are no up-to-date photos,” Gunness said. “In 2007, we abandoned the site and only then did the militants take it over.”

The UNRWA is now demanding an objective investigation into whether the school shelling constituted a violation of international humanitarian law, and if so, that those responsible stand trial.

The UN reported Thursday that a Palestinian working for the UNRWA was killed by an IDF tank shell while driving an aid truck at the Erez border crossing. The organization claims the UN truck was well-marked and the incident took place during the humanitarian hiatus slated to allow Gaza residents to acquire supplies

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Afghan conflict claiming more child casualties as insurgency spreads, UN report finds


Children are being killed, exploited and abused in ever-increasing numbers in Afghanistan as the violence across the conflict-ridden country worsens, the United Nations says in a new report released today.

The report on the impact on children of Afghanistan’s armed conflict shows that all sides to the fighting – which pits the army and allied international forces against the Taliban and other insurgents – have committed numerous violations and abuses against the young.

The Taliban is persisting in using children as suicide bombers, while international and Afghan forces have inadvertently killed dozens of children as they attempt to beat back the insurgency, according to the report from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, which detailed several examples.

“On 16 May 2008, a boy of approximately 12 years of age approached a joint International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)-Afghan National Army foot patrol in Panjwayi district, Kandahar province spreading his hands,” the report says. “The suicide vest he carried is believed to have been remotely detonated.”

In November last year, a suicide bombing that targeted parliamentarians on a road in northern Baghlan province led police and bodyguards to fire indiscriminately. Various independent reports indicated that the approximately 70 dead included 52 schoolchildren.

“Insurgent influence has intensified in areas that were previously relatively calm, including in the provinces closest to Kabul [the Afghan capital]. The number of security incidents rose to 983 in August 2008, the highest number since the fall of the Taliban in 2001,” the report adds.

It also notes that since the completion of the Government’s demobilization and reintegration of 7,444 under-age soldiers in 2003, there has been no monitoring of children vulnerable to further recruitment or re-recruitment.

A study of suicide attacks by UNAMA documented cases of children reportedly used as suicide bombers by the Taliban. Most were between 15 and 16 years of age and were tricked, promised money or forced to become suicide bombers.

Mr. Ban expresses concern in the report that there are children in the ranks of the Afghan National Auxiliary Police, conducting patrols, guarding police posts and carrying out checkpoint duties. In the south, two recently recruited 14-year-old boys were successfully released after an intervention with the authorities.

The Secretary-General also describes a number of disturbing cases involving children – especially boys – being sexually abused and exploited by members of the armed forces and armed groups. One case involved two police officers who were arrested for sexually abusing a 15-year-old boy in a south-eastern province, but later released after bribing the authorities.

“I encourage the Government of Afghanistan to implement more fully laws and programmes to prevent and punish sexual violence and to support victims, monitor grave sexual violations against boys as well as girls and work with my team in Afghanistan to study ways and means of combating harmful practices,” he writes.

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Report: Ugandan rebels sold abducted children to fight in Darfur

Kampala_(dpa) _ Most of the estimated 30,000 children abducted by Ugandan rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) during its two-decade-long war with the government were sold to fight in Sudan’s restive Darfur province, Uganda’s Daily Monitor reported Wednesday.

The children were first forced by the LRA to fight and commit atrocities. Afterward, they were sold to various rebel armies in Darfur to fight or to serve as sex slaves, the newspaper quoted Stephen Kagoda, permanent secretary in the Ministry for Internal Affairs, as telling parliament.

“Some of these children are in Darfur being used as child soldiers, porters and others were sold as sex slaves to the Sudanese,” Kagoda told a parliamentary committee working on an anti-child trafficking bill.

The conflict in Darfur began in 2003 when black tribesmen took up arms against what they called decades of neglect and discrimination by the Arab-dominated Sudanese government in Khartoum.

The United Nations says up to 300,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced in five years of conflict.

The LRA, which has yet to make peace with the government in Kampala, has received support from the Sudanese government in the past. However, it was forced from its bases in southern Sudan in late 2004 and fled to the north-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Aid agencies in the DRC say that the Ugandan rebels are carrying out attacks against Congolese civilians, and have already displaced at least 50,000 people from their villages in the country’s north-eastern Ituri region.

Peace talks began between the Ugandan government and the LRA in mid 2006, but the rebels have refused to sign the final peace treaty.

The LRA insists the International Criminal Court (ICC) first remove arrest warrants it slapped on five of its leaders for war crimes.

“(LRA leader Joseph) Kony is afraid to come out of the bush because we shall ask him to show us our children,” Kagoda said. dpa hw ml ncs sc

Copyright (c) dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

SHAHRUL PESHAWAR – spare the children, allow them to study and learn.  They are future leader.  Think about your own children… would you like them to be treated in such manner? 

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China’s tainted milk scandal hits exports

BEIJING, Sept. 23 (UPI) — The tainted milk products scandal that has sickened more than 50,000 babies in China is taking a toll on the country’s dairy products exports.

Ten countries — including Taiwan, Singapore and Japan and some African countries — have banned Chinese dairy products, CNN reported.

The babies sickened by melamine-tainted milk products have been predominantly on the mainland, with one case reported in Hong Kong. Four of the sickened babies have died in China.

A World Health Organization representative told CNN the number of sick could rise.

The China Daily reported more officials and authorities are being dismissed over the scandal.

The latest to go is Li Changjiang, China’s top quality control minister, who quit taking “responsibility for the milk food contamination.” Also ousted was Wu Xianguo, communist party chief of Shijiazhuang, home of Sanlu Group, one of 22 accused producers of contaminated milk producers, the report said.

China Daily said of the 53,000 sickened babies, about 13,000 remained hospitalized across the country.

The newspaper quoted experts as saying more intense inspection is needed to ensure quality and to avoid a recurrence.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has said official misconduct contributed to the milk contamination and earlier product scandals.

“The social impact is vile and the lesson profound,” Wen told the state-run Xinhua news agency.


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UN: Five Countries Responsible for All Executions of Juvenile Offenders Since 2005

Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Pakistan, and Yemen Executed 32 for Crimes Committed as Children
(New York, September 10, 2008) – Ending executions for crimes committed by children in just five countries would result in universal implementation of the prohibition on the juvenile death penalty, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Governments should use next week’s United Nations General Assembly session opening to commit to urgently needed reforms to protect the rights of children in conflict with the law.

We are only five states away from a complete ban on the juvenile death penalty. These few holdouts should abandon this barbaric practice so that no one ever again is executed for a crime committed as a child.

In the 20-page report, “The Last Holdouts: Ending the Juvenile Death Penalty in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Pakistan, and Yemen,” Human Rights Watch documents failures in law and practice that since January 2005 have resulted in 32 executions of juvenile offenders in five countries: Iran (26), Saudi Arabia (2), Sudan (2), Pakistan (1), and Yemen (1). The report also highlights cases of individuals recently executed or facing execution in the five countries, where well over 100 juvenile offenders are currently on death row, awaiting the outcome of a judicial appeal, or in some murder cases, the outcome of negotiations for pardons in exchange for financial compensation.

“We are only five states away from a complete ban on the juvenile death penalty,” said Clarisa Bencomo, Middle East children’s rights researcher for Human Rights Watch. “These few holdouts should abandon this barbaric practice so that no one ever again is executed for a crime committed as a child.”

Every state in the world has ratified or acceded to treaties obligating them to ensure that juvenile offenders – persons under 18 at the time of the crime – are never sentenced to death. The overwhelming majority of states complies with this obligation, with several states – including the United States and China – in recent years moving to ban the juvenile death penalty and strengthen juvenile justice protections.

The vast majority of executions of juvenile offenders take place in Iran, where judges can impose the death penalty in capital cases if the defendant has attained “majority,” defined in Iranian law as 9 years for girls and 15 years for boys. Iran is known to have executed six juvenile offenders so far in 2008, including two in August: Behnam Zare on August 26, 2008, and Seyyed Reza Hejazi on August 19, 2008. Over 130 other juvenile offenders are currently sentenced to death.

In Saudi Arabia judges have discretion to impose the death sentence on children from puberty or 15 years – whichever comes first. Saudi Arabia executed at least two juvenile offenders in 2007: Dhahiyan bin Rakan bin Sa`d al-Thawri al-Sibai`i on July 21, 2007, and Mu`id bin Husayn bin Abu al-Qasim bin `Ali Hakami on July 10, 2007. Hakami was only 13 years old at the time of the alleged crime, and 15 at the time of his execution. According to his father, Saudi authorities did not inform the family of the execution until days later, and did not return boy’s body.

In Sudan, the 2005 Interim National Constitution allows for the juvenile death penalty for certain crimes, including murder and armed robbery resulting in murder or rape. Vague language in Sudan’s 2004 Child Law leaves open the possibility that children can still be sentenced to death under the 1991 Penal Code, which defines an adult as “a person whose puberty has been established by definite natural features and who has completed 15 years of age … [or] attained 18 years of age … even if the features of puberty do not appear.” With more than 35 percent of Sudanese births not registered, even very young juvenile offenders can face execution because they have no birth certificates to prove their age at the time of the offense. Sudan executed two juvenile offenders, Mohammed Jamal Gesmallah and Imad Ali Abdullah, on August 31, 2005, and has sentenced at least four other juvenile offenders to death since January 2005.

In Pakistan, the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance of 2000 bans the death penalty for crimes committed by persons under 18 at the time of the offense, but authorities have yet to implement it in all territories. With only 29.5 percent of births registered, juvenile offenders can find it impossible to convince a judge they were children at the time of the crime. Pakistan executed one such juvenile offender, Mutabar Khan, on June 13, 2006.

In Yemen, the Penal Code sets a maximum 10-year sentence for capital crimes committed by persons under 18, but in a country with only 22 percent of births registered and minimal capacity for forensic age determinations, children can find it impossible to prove their age at the time of the crime. Yemen last executed a juvenile offender, Adil Muhammad Saif al-Ma’amari, in February 2007, despite his allegation that he was 16 at the time of the crime and had been tortured to confess. According to nongovernmental organizations and government sources, in 2007 at least 18 other juvenile offenders were on death row.

“Even states that still execute juvenile offenders acknowledge that such executions are wrong,” said Bencomo. “But changes in law and practice need to be faster.”

In the coming weeks the United Nations secretary-general will report back to the UN General Assembly on follow-up to the latter’s ground-breaking December 2007 resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty for all crimes. Human Right Watch calls on UN member states to request that the secretary-general issue a similar report on compliance with the absolute ban on the juvenile death penalty, including information on:

1. The number of juvenile offenders currently sentenced to death, and the number executed during the last five years;

2. Rates of birth registration; and

3. States’ implementation of relevant domestic legislation, including mechanisms ensuring juvenile offenders have legal assistance at all stages of investigation and trial.

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Afghanistan: Free Aafia Siddiqui’s 11-Year-Old Son

Child Is Too Young to Be Treated as Criminal Suspect

(New York, August 27, 2008) – The Afghan government should immediately relinquish 11-year-old Ahmed Siddiqui to the custody of his family, Human Rights Watch said today. Siddiqui, a US citizen, is believed to be the son of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani woman held on US federal charges in New York.

The two were reportedly arrested together in Afghanistan last month.  
According to an Afghan Interior Ministry official quoted in the Washington Post, Ahmed Siddiqui was held briefly by the Interior Ministry after the arrest, and then transferred to the custody of the Afghan National Security Directorate (NDS), the country’s intelligence agency. His current whereabouts are unknown. The NDS is notorious for its brutal treatment of detainees.  
“Under Afghan and international law, Ahmed Siddiqui is too young to be treated as a criminal suspect,” said Joanne Mariner, terrorism and counterterrorism program director at Human Rights Watch. “He should never have been transferred to the custody of Afghanistan’s abusive intelligence agency.”  
Afghan police reportedly arrested Aafia Siddiqui and her son in Ghazni, Afghanistan, on July 17, 2008. US federal prosecutors allege that the day after her arrest, while in Afghan custody, she grabbed a gun from the floor and fired it at a team of US soldiers and federal intelligence agents. In August, she was charged with assaulting and trying to kill US officials.  
In a letter sent recently to Aafia Siddiqui’s family, US prosecutors said photos and DNA tests strongly suggested that the boy arrested with Siddiqui was her son Ahmed.  
The federal complaint against Aafia Siddiqui states that the Afghan police officers who arrested her found suspicious items in her handbag, including “documents describing the creation of explosives, chemical weapons, and other weapons involving biological material and radiological agents.” Siddiqui’s lawyers reject the official account, suggesting that the charges against Siddiqui are a sham.  
Whether or not his mother is implicated in criminal acts, Ahmed Siddiqui should not be held responsible. Under both Afghan and international law, he is too young to be considered criminally responsible for his mother’s alleged acts.  
According to Afghanistan’s Juvenile Code, the minimum age of criminal responsibility is 13.  
The Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Afghanistan is a party, defines a child as any person under the age of 18. In its General Comment on Children’s Rights in Juvenile Justice of February 9, 2007, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, which monitors states’ compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, explicitly stated that a minimum age of criminal responsibility below age 12 “is considered by the Committee not to be internationally acceptable.”  
Human Rights Watch said that Ahmed Siddiqui should be released to his biological family members, who reside in Pakistan, or to a child welfare organization that can provide proper care until he is reunited with his family.  
Human Rights Watch expressed concern not only for Ahmed Siddiqui, but also for two siblings, Mariam, age 10, and Suleman, age 5, who have been missing since March 2003.  
Siddiqui, along with her three children (then aged 6 years, 5 years and 6 months), was reportedly apprehended in Karachi, Pakistan on March 28, 2003. Ten days earlier, on March 18, 2003, the FBI had issued an alert requesting information about Siddiqui in an effort to locate and question her.  
The US government has alleged that Siddiqui is linked to al Qaeda suspects Majid Khan and Ali ‘Abd al-‘Aziz ‘Ali (also known as Ammar al-Baluchi), who were both arrested in early 2003 and held for years in secret prisons operated by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). A number of reports alleged that Siddiqui had been handed over to US custody after her March 2003 disappearance, raising concerns that she, too, was in secret CIA custody.  
Yet on May 26, 2004, then-US Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller III identified Siddiqui as someone who posed a threat to the United States, suggesting that she was not in custody. For more than five years, until Siddiqui suddenly reappeared in Afghanistan, her whereabouts were unknown.  
Since Siddiqui’s reappearance this summer, the CIA and the US Department of Justice have denied that the United States had held Siddiqui or her children during the period of her disappearance, calling her a “fugitive from American justice.” Her family claims that Siddiqui and her children were held in secret US detention during at least part of that period.  


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