For Immediate Release: October 25, 2010
Washington, DC – Omar Khadr, the first child soldier prosecuted for a war crime since World War II, has agreed to plead guilty to five charges today at Guantanamo Bay. Khadr stood accused of throwing a grenade that killed a U.S. soldier. Khadr claimed that he was tortured. The United States charged Khadr with war crimes that were not war crimes at the time of conduct. Though the terms of the agreement are not yet public, news reports note that the agreement would require Khadr to serve one more year at Guantanamo and then seven additional years in Canada. Khadr could have faced life in prison.
Following the announcement, Human Rights First’s Dixon Osburn stated, “The United States has an obligation to rehabilitate and repatriate a child soldier under the age of 18, and it failed to live up to that obligation with Khadr. The plea deal means that the United States will not face possibly embarrassing details of torture against Khadr, or be subject to endless rounds of appeals that would challenge the constitutionality of the charges against him and the constitutional defects of the military commissions themselves. Today’s plea deal ends a flawed case in a fundamentally flawed system.”
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. Daphne Eviatar is there now and available for comment. To speak with her, contact Brenda Bowser Soder at 202-370-3323 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.