- US Amabassador to the UK
- United Kingdom
Omar Khadr is a 23 year old Canadian national who has been held in Guantanamo since he was captured 8 years ago, when he was only 15 years old. If his case goes to trial as scheduled, he will be the first child soldier to be tried since Nuremberg. His trial will also be the first military commission at Guantánamo Bay under the Obama administration.
Mr. Khadr has slammed the military commission as a “sham process” and has tried to fire his American military lawyers in protest, though has now agreed to allow them to represent him. Charges against him include having killed a US soldier with a grenade in Afghanistan when he was 15. The evidence against him is considered to be tenuous at best and most countries, and international legal norms and practice, are opposed to bringing child soldiers to trial.
A defence motion will be made before the commission starts to consider whether or not torture was used to obtain evidence in Omar's case. Omar rejected a plea deal that would see him released in 5 years if he admitted to killing the soldier and committing other war crimes at a pre-trial hearing earlier in the month. At an earlier hearing in this case, an interrogator admitted having threatened Mr. Khadr with gang rape and murder to make him comply and confess during interrogations.
It is time that the Obama administration stop violating Omar Khadr's rights and give him the justice he deserves.
I would like to express my outrage regarding the imminent military tribunal for Omar Khardr, a 23-year old Canadian national who has been held in Guantánamo since October 2002. During the 8 years he spent growing up in Guantánamo, Omar has been tortured and abused. He was accused of throwing a grenade at US soldiers in Afghanistan in July 2002, killing one soldier, and other war crimes.
Are you aware that Omar Khadr is to become the first person since Nuremberg to be put on trial for offences allegedly committed as a minor (he was 15 at the time)? Do you know that even Samuel Kunz, the alleged Nazi death camp guard who is accused of participating in the murder of over 430,000 Jews in Belzec, is being tried in a youth court in Germany as he was under 21 at the time the crimes were committed. Surely you can agree that Omar Khadr's case deserves at least the same amount of consideration to international law and norms regarding the treatment of minors in criminal cases.
Omar's military commission has been condemned by the United Nations Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflicts, the head of UNICEF, international NGOs and others. Although international law does not expressly prohibit the prosecution of child soldiers, it limits it considerably and does not allow for a life sentence, which Omar Khadr faces. International law views child soldiers as victims and not criminals. With over 300,000 child soldiers estimated in various conflicts worldwide, the precedent that could be set by this trial is truly dangerous and could compromise the safety of millions of other children around the world caught up in armed conflicts.
As U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom, I urge you to press your government to stop violating Omar Khadr’s human rights immediately and to:
• Drop military commission proceedings against Omar Khadr.
• Ensure that he is either released and repatriated to Canada or tried by a civilian court in conformity with international standards.
• Ensure that he is treated in accordance with U.S. obligations under international law, particularly given that he was 15 when he was detained.
Omar has been unlawfully detained by the U.S. for eight years, since the age of 15. By law, every person has the right to a fair trial and the right to be free from torture, and children have special rights until the age of 18.
It is time that the Obama Administration finally drew a line under the gross violations of human rights and international law that were common place under his predecessor. He can start by ensuring that Omar Khadr finally gets the justice he deserves.