Child Soldier Omar Khadr Pleads Guilty at Guantanamo
Child soldier Omar Khadr pleaded guilty today in his military commission trial at Guantanamo.
Mr. Khadr agreed to plead guilty “in exchange for the Canadian government agreeing to repatriate him back to Canada after one year,” said his Canadian lawyer Dennis Edney...
The Harper government, despite its strident denials and years of refusing to intervene, endorsed the deal and made an exchange of diplomatic notes with Washington that should pave the way for Mr. Khadr to serve the remainder of his sentence in Canada, beginning next fall.
A jury will now recommend a sentence length for Khadr, but it only matters if it is less than the 8 years he agreed to in the plea agreement.
The details are sealed for now, but should be disclosed after the jury renders its verdict. Human rights groups quickly assailed the deal as unfair to Khadr: [More...]
“For the U.S. government, the guilty plea was a way to save face,” said Daphne Eviatar, an observer for Human Rights First. “After all, the Obama administration knew that it was a political embarrassment for its first military commission trial to be of a child soldier.”
Human Rights First issued a press release stating Khadr's sentence should take into account his juvenile status.
While child offenders may be prosecuted for war crimes, the US has failed throughout Khadr's detention to afford him the protections provided to children under international law. Under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (Optional Protocol), which the United States ratified in 2002, the US is obligated to recognize the special situation of children who have been recruited or used in armed conflict.
The Optional Protocol requires the rehabilitation of former child soldiers within a state party's jurisdiction, mandating that states provide "all appropriate assistance for their physical and psychological recovery and their social reintegration." Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which the US is a signatory, governments should ensure that the imprisonment of a child offender "shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time."
From the ACLU:
Despite today's good news that a trial has been averted, Khadr's case is emblematic of a set of fundamental flaws of the military commissions that won't be resolved by a plea deal. These tribunals are simply incapable of providing fair trials, and they ought to be shut down altogether. Individuals accused of terrorism-related crimes should be prosecuted in federal courts. Those courts have shown over and over again that they are capable of delivering results that are both legitimate and seen as legitimate.
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