August 9th, 2010
12:51 PM ET

Security Brief: Who is Omar Khadr?

The preliminary legal maneuvering in the military trial of suspected terrorist Omar Khadr serves up two starkly different images, portraying him both as a child forced into war by adults and as a committed al Qaeda fighter.

Prosecutor Jeff Groharing told the court Monday morning that Khadr was aware of al Qaeda ideology. "He embraced it and used it to justify his own activities," Groharing said.

At the same time Pentagon-appointed defense attorney, Lt. Colonel Jon Jackson, has repeatedly called Khadr a "child soldier" who was forced into fighting in Afghanistan by adults and later threatened with rape and death if he did not provide statements to U.S. interrogators.

"Tell the government they cannot and will not benefit from someone being threatened with rape and murder," Jackson asked the judge, Colonel Pat Parrish.

Lt. Colonel Jackson said the court should refuse to admit into evidence all government interrogation sessions with Khadr as well as a video shown in the courtroom today of Khadr resisting efforts to weigh him at Guantanamo.

Khadr, who was 15 years old when he was captured in Afghanistan, is charged with assisting al Qaeda and of killing a U.S. Special Forces soldier. During the courtroom arguments Khadr can been seen on a closed-circuit television link provided to journalists at Guantanamo slumped in his chair, reading documents and conversing with others at the defense table. He is flanked by three uniformed guards, sitting behind him.

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  1. diane1976

    Khadr was raised mainly in and near a foreign country that was a war zone for decades, by and among people with radically different political beliefs than most Canadians, about a cause and a war. He had only grade one in public school here. His father, who financed humanitarian projects, had links to Al Qaeda and was suspected of financing it. Khadr himself isn't even charged with that. There is no logical reason to expect him to have rejected the beliefs of everybody around him by the time he was 15, in 2002, or to refuse when his father sent him on a mission to act as a translator and guide for a Lybian associate in the war, or any of the involvement in the two months following, prior to capture.

    The "child soldier" law forbids illegal recruitment of minors, and when they are captured they are supposed to be assisted with rehabilitation, etc. There is no reason to think Khadr was permanently wedded to political beliefs at age 15, and it likely would have been successfull. "Child soldiers" are often recruited by illegal organizations, like Khadr was, because legal organizations tend to follow the law. The law doesn't prevent prosecution because it might make sense in some extreme cases of serious war crimes, even atrocities. Khadr is the least extreme case.

    None of the charges against Khadr are war crimes under international law, e.g. killing a soldier, if he did, is a normal act of war. They are only war crimes based on a novel theory that if a person is part of an illegal armed group, everything he does in the war is a war crime. In other words Khadr is being prosecuted solely BECAUSE he was recruited, as a minor, into an illegal armed group. That's why the case completely undermines the law and sets the worst possible precedent.

    The US is a signatory to the "child soldier" law and didn't deny it applied. The Military Commissions Act takes precedence over it. Canada is not only a signatory, Canada promotes it. It's time for the Canadian government to stop making us look like huge hypocrites who don't care about human rights or the law. Now's the chance because there are hints Obama might welcome a repatriation request. Khadr can be kept confined it he's now a security risk, thanks to illegal mistreatment, just as others are. It may be too late to help him have a chance at a normal life, but it's not too late to try. See the DOD web site for charges and arguments. See the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on Children in Armed Conflict ("child soldier" law).

    September 11, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Josh

    I think its funny that non of u know what actually happens in Guantanmo Bay! None of you know the truth and you never will because None of us soldiers that actually work here now including myself will ever talk about it! I can tell you there is definatley no torture happening here! If most ppl saw what actually happens here! The people would just think of us as punks! We are the ones getting tortured!

    September 24, 2010 at 2:57 am | Report abuse |
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