Omar Khadr Gets 40 Year Trophy Sentence, Could Be Freed Next Year

A Guantanamo military commission jury has sentenced child soldier Omar Khadr to 40 years.

The Pentagon makes a big deal of saying Khadr won't get credit for time served. And they bury the most salient fact: It's an 8 year sentence, limited by the plea agreement, and he'll serve one more year at Guantanamo and then be returned to Canada to serve the rest.

Khadr’s sentence is limited by the terms of his plea agreement to eight years confinement, but he receives the benefit of whichever is less -- the adjudged sentence or the eight-year sentence limitation. Consistent with the terms of Khadr's plea agreement, the governments of Canada and the United States exchanged notes reflecting that both would support Khadr's transfer to Canadian custody to serve the remainder of his approved sentence after he serves one year in U.S. custody.

Omar has spent the last 8 years, one-third of his life, in U.S. detention. Hopefully, Canada will grant him an early release. The U.S. acknowledged in its diplomatic note exchange with Canada that Canada could release him at any time after he arrives there. [More...]

Canada states the amount of time Omar would serve is up to the parole board but prisoners are generally eligible after serving one-third of their sentence.

The Globe and Mail says Omar will be eligible for immediate release when he returns, because Canada will give him credit for time served.

The next year won't be pleasant for Omar:

Mr. Khadr, now a convicted war criminal, was taken after sentencing to Camp 5, a fortress-like copy of a U.S. maximum security prison where he will spend most all but a few hours a day in solitary for the next year.

Omar gave the sentencing panel a statement at the hearing.

In his last statement to the panel, Mr. Khadr... said he hoped they would consider that a U.S. military interrogator threatened to have him gang-raped to death...."This story scared me very much and made me cry," the burly Mr. Khadr, now 24, said in an unsworn statement read by his lawyer to the panel on Friday.

At least one U.S. soldier has confessed to making such threats to detainees:

Joshua Claus, a former U.S. army interrogator, convicted of assault in connection with the beating death of an Afghan detainee at the U.S. detention centre in Bagram, Afghanistan, boasted under oath that he told young detainees a horrific tale of an Afghan boy gang-raped to death by "four big black guys" to persuade them to confess.

Here's a gruesome photo of a wounded Omar on the battlefield where he was captured. He was shot three times by U.S. soldiers and blinded in one eye. After his capture, he was used as a human mop.

As his lawyer says, ""He is not a radical jihadist, he is a victim of his family, his father, …. and he is a victim of this system."

What should we have done with Omar after capturing him at 15? Protected him, provided him with counsel and tried him in accordance with international standards of juvenile justice . Human Rights Watch says:

International standards recognize that children under the age of 18 are a particularly vulnerable group, and are entitled to special care and protection because they are still developing physically, mentally and emotionally. These standards include certain key principles, including the use of detention only as a measure of last resort, the separation of children from adults, the right of children to maintain contact with their families, and the right to a prompt determination of their case. In addition, treaties binding on the United States recognize the special situation of children who have been recruited or used in armed conflict, and their rights to prompt demobilization, and rehabilitation and reintegration assistance.

In cases where children are believed to have committed war crimes, they can be formally charged and should be provided with counsel and tried in accordance with international standards of juvenile justice.

For more on today's sentencing, check out Carol Rosenberg at McClatchey and Daphne Eviatar of Human Rights First, who also writes at HuffPo. (Here is her account of the guilty plea hearing.) Thanks to both of them for their Twitter feeds which kept us all up to date.

All of TalkLeft's coverage of his case, more than 40 posts since 2004, is accessible here. If I had to pick one sentence to sum this case up, it would be this one, written by a former blogger named Jeanne D'Arc in 2004:

When he was captured in Afghanistan, he was fifteen -- a child turned into a soldier by parents from hell. And our government's response to this victim of child abuse was to abuse him further.
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  • Display: Sort:
    That 40-year sentence (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by gyrfalcon on Sun Oct 31, 2010 at 11:42:24 PM EST
    is all you need to know the military system for dealing with these guys is completely and utterly insane.  What a disgrace.  What a horror.

    After he returns to Canada (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by shoephone on Mon Nov 01, 2010 at 12:46:07 AM EST
    and finally gains his freedom, he and Maher Arar can compare notes on the wrongful imprisonment and torture they suffered at the hands of the U.S. government.

    What a sordid web of deceit and abuse was spun these past nine years, and all in the name of "protecting the American way of life."

    well, (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by cpinva on Mon Nov 01, 2010 at 04:26:04 AM EST
    i know i feel much safer now!

    I hope (none / 0) (#8)
    by lentinel on Mon Nov 01, 2010 at 04:54:55 AM EST
    he survives his remaining year at Gitmo.

    Gitmo - still with us.
    Obama had said it would be easy to close it.
    It was one of the things that gave him that rosy glow of a light at the end of the tunnel of Bush era madness.

    It is unbearable that all this is still going on - in our names - during our watch, as it were.

    Wikileaks revelations of what was going on until "at least" 2009 was horrifying to me. It had a shelf life of about two days. Then our media, including the good old New York Times, gleefully changed the subject to attacking the personal life of the person giving us access to information that our own government had withheld from us. End of story. With Bush, at least there was some protest from some politicians. With Obama, all smiles. Not an issue.

    All this is dredged up in me by this story.

    I hope he survives his year.

    Today's Delhi paper (none / 0) (#9)
    by oculus on Mon Nov 01, 2010 at 08:53:42 AM EST
    included an opinion column questioning whether U.S. Is now "just another country.". Questioned current federal government re assault rifles, treatment of detainees, watered-down HCR. Lots of lines re promises.

    "City city bang bang." (none / 0) (#11)
    by oculus on Tue Nov 02, 2010 at 06:14:35 PM EST
    I go for junk yard dog rogue nation -- (none / 0) (#10)
    by jawbone on Mon Nov 01, 2010 at 04:00:19 PM EST
    We ignore international lsw when it suits us, we torture, we lie about what we do, we bully other nations. Hey, what's not to like?