News & Politics

What Will Happen to Guantanamo's "Child Soldier," Omar Khadr?

Omar Khadr was captured at 15 and grew up in Gitmo. It's time to give him a fair shake at justice.

With [Friday's] announcement that the Justice Department will move five of the men accused of 9/11 crimes to federal court in New York, the question still remains about one of the other high-profile detainees: Omar Khadr.

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The world knows Khadr as one of the child soldiers detained at Gitmo since he was 15. (The other child soldier, Mohammed Jawad, was released back to Afghanistan after the government failed to produce enough credible evidence to bring charges against him.) Khadr is accused of throwing a grenade that killed an Army medic in Afghanistan, a charge that the U.S. government itself later threw into question by accident during one of his pre-trial hearings:

During a break in the hearing, members of the press were given copies of legal motions on the issue of whether the military commission has the authority to try Khadr, given his status as a juvenile at the time of his alleged offenses. Included in those papers was a classified attachment, which, according to military commissions officials, should have been redacted, instead of released.

The significance of the document was made clear by Khadr's military defense counsel, Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler. Asked to describe it later in the day, Lt. Cmdr. Kuebler saidit dispelled what he referred to as a myth propagated by the government: that Khadr was the only person who could have lobbed the grenade that killed U.S. soldier Christopher Speer -- the basis of the most serious charge against him. The document, created in 2004, turned out to be an interview of a witness to Khadr's capture. In it, the witness describes finding two people alive in the Afghan compound in which Khadr was captured -- the witness shot and killed the first man before he saw Khadr.Then, according to Lt. Cmdr. Kuebler, Khadr, who was 15 years old at the time, "was shot on sight -- in the back -- twice -- while wounded, sitting and leaning against a wall facing away from his attackers." (emphasis ours)

Earlier [Friday], the Supreme Court of Canada heard arguments in an appeal by the Canadian government on two lower court decisions that found Khadr's rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms had been breached when Canadian officials interviewed him at the prison in Guantánamo in 2003 and shared the resulting information with U.S. authorities. Khadr's lawyers argued that Canada was complicit in his abuse and maintain that the Canadian government is obliged under international law to demand the prisoner's return. Since Khadr was only addressed in passing at Attorney General Eric Holder's news conference this morning, Canadian news outlets are reporting the possibility that Khadr could still be repatriated to Canada and tried in a Canadian court.