Child soldier? War Criminal? Both? Omar Khadr
Omar Khadr’s trial may be over, but his ordeal is not. Here are some of the crazier details about the affair, now that Khadr’s sentencing is complete:
- The facts remain unclear: The prosecution argued that since he was the only Al Qaeda fighter still alive at the end of the fight, it must have been him who threw the grenade that killed an American soldier. But another U.S. soldier who was present at the battle testified under oath that there were two fighters alive at the end of the fight.
- The case is likely to affect child soldiers worldwide: The UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict sent out a statement denouncing the trial, arguing that the prosecution was completely inappropriate since Khadr was a child soldier at the time of the battle. The statement said that charging Omar Khadr for war crimes would set a precedent that would endanger the status of child soldiers all over the world. Khadr is one of at least 12 (and as many as 21) people under the age of 18 who were held at Guantanamo Bay.
- The jury’s sentence is purely symbolic: The plea agreement (which the jury was not told about) was for 8 years, the prosecutor asked the jury for 25 years, and the jury came back with 40 years.
- Khadr’s living conditions are going to get worse before they get better: Now that he has pleaded guilty he will spent the next year in solitary confinement. As a compliant, non-violent prisoner at Guantanamo Bay he had for the past few years been kept in a communal, more open section of the prison. Khadr will probably not serve the full eight years, and after one year in US custody, his lawyers will seek to bring him back to Canada to serve the rest of his sentence. The Canadian government has told the American State Department that if Khadr requests to serve the remainder of his sentence in Canada that they would “favourably consider his application to be transferred.”
- A book deal won’t save him: The plea agreements include small print which seek to prevent Khadr from benefiting financially from his ordeal. Profits from any book or film deal will be re-directed to—and how’s this for adding insult to injury?—the government of Canada.