US Still Seeks Jail for ‘Fighter’ Captured at 15 in Afghanistan
The good news is that an appellate judge in Canada has had the courage and good sense to uphold the release from jail on bail of Omar Khadr, a native of Canada who was captured as a child soldier at the age of 15 in Afghanistan by US forces back in 2002 and shipped off to Guantanamo, where he became one of the children held in captivity there illegally.
The bad news is that Khadr, who spent 13 years in captivity, most of them in America's Guantanamo hellhole, should never have been imprisoned in the first place. Brought along at the age of 14 to fight in Afghanistan by his father, a Canadian Muslim extremist who was killed in Afghanistan, the young Khadr should have, when captured, been treated under international law not as a combatant, illegal or otherwise. Under the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, a treaty signed by the US and thus an integral part of US law, all children under the age of 18 captured while fighting in wars are to be offered “special protection” and treated as victims, not as combatants.
Instead, as Reuters reports, "Khadr claims that during at least 142 interrogations in Afghanistan and Guantanamo, he was beaten, chained in painful positions, forced to urinate on himself, terrorized by barking dogs, subjected to flashing lights and sleep deprivation and threatened with rape."
Under these circumstances, and fearing that he would never leave Guantanamo, Khadr in 2010, at the age of 23, agreed to plead guilty to the US military’s spurious murder charge, so that he could be sent to serve out his prison sentence in his home country of Canada. Now appealing his sentence, and renouncing his plea on the grounds that it was made under duress, he will be confined to the home of his attorney under the court’s order.
This plea clearly cannot be fairly considered a real admission of guilt. It was a desperate maneuver by someone who had spent half his young life in an unregulated and illegal prison to escape all the endless torture and abuse, not to mention the lengthy separation from his home and family.
As I wrote earlier in TCBH! back in 2010, charging Khadr with murder was never justified, and could never had survived a fair trial, or probably even a corrupt military tribunal:
Khadr’s crime? He was in a [residential compound] that was struck by a US air strike and then raided by US special forces during the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2002. The gravely wounded Khadr was accused of tossing a grenade at advancing US troops, which killed US Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer, and caused another soldier to lose an eye.