For Immediate Release: October 14, 2010
Washington, DC – Following reports from the Vancouver Sun that the United States has reached a plea agreement with Omar Khadr, the first child soldier prosecuted for a war crime since World War II, Human Rights First’s Dixon Osburn stated:
“Omar Khadr was only 15 when he was captured by American forces and, in the years that followed, his long journey through the nation’s flawed military commissions system began. There is credible evidence that along the way he was tortured, charged as a war criminal for conduct that is not a violation of the laws of war, and he was forced to endure 8 years of detention at Guantanamo while the United States attempted in vain to ‘fix’ its broken military commissions model. A trial in that system would have resulted in many more years of appeals. Today’s plea agreement eliminates that problem and gives this child soldier the ability to put this tragic ordeal behind him.”
According to Postmedia News, Khadr has “agreed to plead guilty to all war-crimes charges he faces – including murder – and will serve a total of eight years in prison, seven of them in Canada.”
Khadr stands accused of throwing a grenade that killed a U.S. soldier. Human Rights First notes that international law requires that a child under age 18 captured in combat is supposed to be treated as like a victim rather than a soldier and offered rehabilitation in custody and eventually repatriated home. Khadr, who was 15 when captured, was offered neither option. Human Rights First also notes that Khadr was charged with murder in violation of the laws of war, conspiracy and material support of terrorism for acts that were not war crimes at the time of commission. Had Khadr proceeded with trial and not accepted the government’s plea deal, appeals of the serious constitutional problems would likely take many more years to resolve. In addition, facts revealed during Khadr’s preliminary hearings suggest that the evidence against him was procured through torture.
Today’s plea agreement brings the total number of U.S. terrorism convictions in military commissions to five, including three plea agreements. Two of those individuals are already free. In sharp contrast, U.S. federal courts have convicted more than 400 terrorists since 9/11, including its most recent conviction of Faisal Shahzad to life in prison for his May 2010 botched Times Square car bombing attempt. Shahzad’s conviction came within six months of his attempted attack.
Representatives from Human Rights First have attended every hearing for Khadr since he was brought to Guantanamo.
For more information about federal terrorism prosecutions, visit http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/us_law/prosecute/index.asp.
To watch retired military leaders address the need to try terrorist in federal court visit http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/us_law/military/video.aspx.