Omar Khadr Gitmo Trial Set for Oct 8
Omar Khadr, arrested in Afghanistan at age 15 and who has now spent 1/4 of his life at Guantanamo Bay, was given a trial date today of October 8. He faces life in prison.
Omar should be turned over to an international tribunal. He was a child at the time of his capture making him protected by the Geneva Convention on the Rights of the Child. Amnesty International has a full report here.
Omar was in court today:
For the most part, the 21-year-old sat motionless, his head buried near a few papers on the defence desk. He occasionally smiled when talking to a member of the defence team. This was Mr. Khadr's first appearance in the new courtroom in Guantanamo Bay's “Camp Justice.” The courtroom was set up for the alleged Sept. 11th co-conspirators.
The defense won some pre-trial motions:
Col. Parrish ruled in favour of the defence on several discovery motions. The defence had asked for copies of the “Standard Operating Procedures” at detention centres in both Bagram, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay – locations where Mr. Khadr was detained and interrogated.....[Col. Parish ordered]the government to hand over the Standard Operating Procedures over to the defence within 10 days.
Col. Parrish also ordered the prosecution to hand over more documents relating to “Sergeant C,” widely believed to be Sergeant Joshua Claus, a soldier who interrogated Mr. Khadr in Afghanistan and was later convicted for his role in abuse of captives, some of who died in U.S. custody.
TChris wrote earlier today about the hard work of the defense lawyers on behalf of Omar and the other detainees.
From the Amnesty International report:
No existing international tribunal has ever prosecuted a child for war crimes, reflecting the wide recognition that the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict is a serious abuse in itself. This does not mean that a child above the age of criminal responsibility cannot be held accountable for crimes committed in the context of armed conflict, as in any other context. Appropriate recognition must be given to the age of the child at the time of the alleged crime and the rehabilitative priority, however.
In February 2007, the month that the Pentagon announced charges against Omar Khadr under the Military Commissions Act (MCA), 58 countries endorsed the Paris Principles and Guidelines on Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups (and another eight countries have endorsed them since). They agreed that “Children who are accused of crimes under international law allegedly committed while they were associated with armed forces or armed groups should be considered primarily as victims of offences against international law; not only as perpetrators. They must be treated in accordance with international law in a framework of restorative justice and social rehabilitation, consistent with international law which offers children special protection through numerous agreements and principles.” The MCA provides no such framework.
....The USA has ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict Optional Protocol) which among other things prohibits the recruitment or use in hostilities by non-state armed groups of under-18-year-olds, and requires states to provide any such child who comes within their jurisdiction “all appropriate assistance for their physical and psychological recovery and their social reintegration”. The information the US government has itself released about the background of Omar Khadr and the circumstances of his capture places him squarely within the reach of the Optional Protocol, in addition to juvenile justice provisions under international law.
However, rather than comply with its obligations, the USA has fed Khadr’s alleged childhood activities – from the age of 10 – into its case for prosecuting him for war crimes in front of a military commission.
....The USA ratified the Optional Protocol shortly after transferring Omar Khadr to Guantánamo. States ratifying the Protocol reaffirm (as articulated in its preamble) that this international instrument “will contribute effectively to the implementation of the principle that the best interests of the child are to be a primary consideration in all actions concerning children”. However, the USA’s treatment of child “enemy combatants” has been conducted through the prism of its own perceived national security interests rather than the best interests of the child.
The USA is showing no signs of bringing its treatment of Omar Khadr into compliance with international law, or of abandoning his trial by military commission and turning to the civilian courts for any judicial proceedings conducted in accordance with international standards.
Human Rights Watch addresses the issue of child combatants here.
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