U.S. held hundreds of children in Iraq: Russia’s UN ambassador

Speaking at a UN Security Council meeting on the protection of civilians in armed conflicts, Russia's ambassador Vitaly Churkin said that around 900 youngsters have been held in coalition prisons in Iraq.

Churkin said: "The involvement of children in armed conflicts and their inhumane treatment is intolerable.

“We want to draw attention to the imprisonment of underage people in the military jails of the multinational forces in Iraq, which is contrary to international standards,” he said.

Meantime, Amnesty International has presented its annual report on the human rights situation worldwide. It's challenged world leaders to apologise for six decades of human rights failure. 

Its ‘Report 2008’ shows that 60 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations, people are still tortured or ill-treated in at least 81 countries. The pressure group says unfair trials are carried out in at least 54 countries and people are not allowed to speak freely in at least 77 countries.

The independent organisation monitors 150 countries including Russia. It concluded that 2007 was a disastrous year for human rights. Myanmar, China and the United States are countries which come in for the most criticism in the report.

Amnesty accuses Washington of legitimising the use of torture and it called on the U.S. to close the Guantanamo Bay detention centre.

A former prisoner of the military base, Murat Kurnaz, who published a book about his years there, echoes Amnesty's demands for its closure. “I saw nine and twelve-year-old children there, and they got tortured in the same way, they got beaten up, and they had to live in small cages for many years,” he said.

The Russian branch of Amnesty International has issued a Memorandum for President Dmitry Medvedev, which coincides with the organisation's annual global report. It is to draw his personal attention to the range of concerns, from racism and freedom of expression to the problem of domestic violence and torture.

In the memorandum, Amnesty acknowledged improvements in criminal law, prison conditions and prosecutions of judicial officials.
    
Other concerns expressed by the rights organisation included growing racist violence and rights violations in Russia's North Caucasus.