Monday, August 09, 2010

The 'Trial' of Omar Khadr

The so-called 'trial' of Omar Khadr is a sham that should be stopped.

If you're not familiar with the case, he is an Ontario-born Canadian who was in Afghanistan when the U.S. invaded in 2002. He is accused of throwing a grenade that killed a U.S. special forces officer after a four-hour assault on the compound he was in. More here.

So why is it a sham?

First, he was fifteen years old when the alleged assault happened. This makes him a child soldier, and you don't imprison child solders and put them on trial eight years later, you rehabilitate them.

Second, though he is being described as an "illegal combatant" he was present in a country being invaded by a hostile force, and in particular, located in a building subject to assault by that force. It is hard to argue that he should have done anything other than what he is said to have done, which is to defend himself.

Third, it is not at all clear that he committed the action he is accused of taking. There is n testimony other than that of American troops. Khadr himself was seriously injured in the assault, and hence possibly incapable of attacking a special forces officer after the fact.

Fourth, even if Khadr is in some sense a war criminal, he should not be judged by a U.S. military tribunal on such charges, he should be brought before an international court. This is where real war criminals (such as, say Slobodan Milosevic or Charles G. Taylor) are tried.

Fifth, there are allegations that he was tortured, which is not actually denied even though the 'judge' (actually, a military official) will allow the confessions extracted from the interrogations. Does the threat of gang rape make the resulting confessions involuntary? According to the court, no.

Because of the years of indoctrination he has suffered both before and after the incident in Afghanistan, Omar Khadr probably cannot be released. But let's not compound the injustice committed against him by his family, who converted him into a child soldier in the first place, and the military system of justice, that locked him up in an illegal offshore detention facility for eight years. We should be working toward rehabilitation, not heaping falsehood upon falsehood onto the head of this young man.

Newspapers should stop calling this facade a 'trial'. It is nothing of the sort.

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