Child Soldier – Omar Khadr in jail for 40 years

On October 25, 2010, Omar Khadr received a 40-year jail sentence after pleading guilty to murder and attempted murder in violation of the laws of war, conspiracy, and two counts of providing material support for terrorism and spying in the United States.

Canadian Omar Khadr was accused of killing an American soldier with a grenade during a firefight in Afghanistan in July 2002.

“Most of the evidence against him is based on a series of confessions Omar allegedly made at the age of 15 while in U.S. custody at the military base in Bagram and later in Guantanamo,” Andy Washington wrote in an article that appeared on truthout.com. Omar’s defense team claims that these are false confessions extracted under torture.

Sending a fifteen-year old child to Guantanamo violated all international conventions on the treatment of child soldiers, but then almost everything America has done over the last eight years has violated international conventions, international laws, common decency, and the spirit of its own Bill of Rights.

Under the plea deal, Khadr would serve one more year in Guantanamo Bay, and be returned to Canada, but Canadian authorities denied Khadr would be repatriated as part of any agreement. The conviction of ‘child soldier’ Omar Khadr, now aged 24, brings to a close one of the most controversial cases involving a prisoner at  America’s top security Cuban outpost

Omar Khadr was born to a fundamentalist Muslim. His father knew and died fighting for Osama bin Laden. In an era whose ruling myths are a clash of civilizations and a war on terror, Omar would seem to have been doomed from birth.

Under intense pressure from his family, fifteen-year old Omar went to fight in Afghanistan when America invaded it. In doing that, he was doing nothing that tens of thousands of Americans hadn’t done, both as idealists for causes and as soldiers of fortune in countless wars from the Spanish Civil War to the Cuban Revolution or the turmoil of the Congo.

Furthermore, for years, Omar, like hundreds of prisoners at Guantanamo, was held not in contact: he was not allowed to contact with his family, he was not allowed visits from the International Red Cross and he was allowed no legal counsel. Omar was allowed no rights of any kind: being kept shackled in a secret prison ninety miles offshore was considered adequate to efface the entire spirit and meaning of America’s own rights and laws.

Speaking of Omar’s tragic life, the soldiers who captured Omar, in fact, shot him twice in the back as the frightened boy tried to run. Despite life-threatening wounds and his young age, Omar was consigned to years of imprisonment and torture at Guantanamo. Indeed, his worst torturer, a soldier with a reputation at Guantanamo as perhaps its most vicious interrogator, deliberately contrived his sessions with Omar so that the boy had to sit in a position which pulled at his slowly-healing and painful wounds.

According to Andy Worthington’s article, “while those who exult in the depths to which America has sunk over the last nine years, since “the gloves came off” following the 9/11 attacks, will rejoice in Khadr’s 40-year sentence (and will complain that his real sentence is only eight years), anyone who retains a shred of decency and respect for the rule of law will be more inclined to accept the words of Dennis Edney, one of Khadr’s long-term Canadian civilian lawyers, who stated after the military jury announced its sentence:

“The fact that the trial of a child soldier, Omar Khadr, has ended with a guilty plea in exchange for his eventual release to Canada does not change the fact that fundamental principles of law and due process were long since abandoned in Omar’s case. Politics also played a role. To date, there have been in excess of 1,200 US troops killed in Afghanistan, yet it is only Omar who has been put on trial”.”

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