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August 13, 2010

Omar Khadr faces phony justice

Reuel S. Amdur

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The kangaroos have come home to roost, at last. Eight years after Omar Khadr was captured in Afghanistan, his trial has begun, but the beginning is far from auspicious because the military judge has agreed to admit coerced confessions.

These were obtained after Khadr was forced into awkward, painful postures.

In one of these prolonged stints, he wet himself and was used as a mop to clean up the puddle, with pine oil as the cleaning liquid.

He was told he had better come clean or he might be sent to Egypt, where there was a prison guard named Mohammed “likes boys.” Of course, Khadr had no access to a lawyer.

Under such circumstances, is it any wonder that a 15-year-old would say anything that he thought his captors wanted to hear?

So, he confessed to throwing a grenade that killed an American soldier, and so is charged with murder, but can there be murder in the heat of battle?

The soldier suffered a hole in the chest and shrapnel in his eyes; however, a certain “Lt-Col. W.” originally reported that the person who threw the grenade had been killed.

“Killed” was later changed to “engaged.” The original version would have cleared Khadr. And if Khadr had been killed in battle, would the soldier responsible have been tried for murder?

Omar Khadr was a child soldier put into the role by his father.

According to the UN’s Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, the treatment of child soldiers should be what is in “the best interests” of the child, which is anyone under 18. Child soldiers are seen as victims, not criminals.

Khadr is the only child soldier and the only Westerner still held at Guantánamo.

Then there is the Convention proper: “The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort for the shortest appropriate period of time.”

The kangaroo court is likely to hold that the eight years Khadr has spend in captivity is not enough.

Canada has failed to respect its obligations under the Protocol, and perhaps the most glaring failure is the deliberate denial of Khadr’s right to education.

Books have been confiscated, and his one-time military lawyer, Lieutenant-Commander William Kuebler even commented on Khadr’s immaturity. He has not been allowed to grow up.

When the Liberals were in power, Canadian officials interrogated Khadr on behalf of the American government, even after Khadr had been subjected to the “frequent flyer” treatment to soften him up.

This treatment, aimed at disorienting the victim, involves moving him every few hours to a new location, without warning, at all hours of the day and night.

The Liberals have now come to recognize that Khadr should be returned and are demanding that the Conservatives request his return.

In January, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled 9-0 that that Canada and the United States were violating Khadr’s right to life, liberty and security under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Harper ignored the unanimous ruling. In July, The Federal Court of Canada ordered the government to take further steps to bring Khadr home.

It successfully appealed the order, so now the kangaroo court is in session.

The court is made up of U.S. military officers who are asked to try someone charged with killing one of their own. The military judge will admit confessions made under serious duress, but just to make certain that there are no slip-ups, a guilty verdict requires only a three-quarters majority of the jurors.

As has been said, military justice is to justice as military music is to music—an oxymoron.

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