Two stories in The Star today about Omar Khadr.
One on a video tape that was released to the press, despite not having been allowed to be aired in court. Oops wonder how that happened?
The lawyer for detained Canadian terror suspect Omar Khadr accused the U.S. government yesterday of abusing the legal process after CBS News broadcast for the first time a controversial video recording which allegedly shows his client manufacturing explosive devices.
“I think it’s outrageous that this tape has been released without the approval of the court,” lawyer Dennis Edney said in Edmonton.
Long seen as a key piece of evidence against Khadr in the eyes of the prosecution, Edney believes the U.S. government leaked the video after stalled proceedings prevented it from being shown in court.
The courtroom airing of the 12-minute tape, which allegedly shows a 15-year-old Khadr planting land mines and assembling bomb timers, was delayed during a hearing Nov. 8. The recording was broadcast Sunday on the CBS newsmagazine show 60 Minutes.
The second story deals with the fact that at the time of his imprisonment Khadr was a child soldier. A fact that seems conveniently forgotten in many reports.
The former U.S. prosecutor for Sierra Leone’s war crimes trials has joined those now pushing for Khadr’s release and rehabilitation.
In an interview with the Toronto Star, David Crane questioned how the U.S. and Canada could be sympathetic to the plight of Africa’s child soldiers who are forced to commit atrocious crimes but not Khadr, who was 15 when he was captured in Afghanistan.
“This is the first time in history that a child has been prosecuted for war crimes,” said Crane. “This is just horrific. I think it reflects badly on the way the world should go in its protection of children. We should be seeking out and trying to, as the UN has done in many initiatives, to stamp out child soldiers.”
Crane, now a professor at Syracuse University College of Law, said he believes Canada’s international reputation as a protector of human rights has been tarnished by its support of the Pentagon’s prosecution of Khadr. “I’m just not sure why the Canadian government, which was tremendously important in my work in West Africa, they were incredibly supportive, is not making a bigger deal of this.”
That is a question many of us would like answered.
While both the Geneva Conventions and the Convention on the Rights of the Child do have provisions dealing with the prosecution of children older than 15, there has never before been a war crimes trial of someone younger than 18.
This is due to customary international law; in other words, how the conventions have been interpreted, argues Canadian international law professor Michael Byers. Because the conventions recognize child soldiers as under 18 and require they be given special protection, Byers says, keeping Khadr behind bars for five years and trying him for war crimes would violate those international treaties.
Ah yes the quaint Geneva Conventions. How can such an important country, the epitome of democracy, the example to the world, be expected to follow laws they helped craft?
“There’s a general idea that, hey, a 14- or 15-year-old probably knows that it’s wrong to steal, it’s wrong to kill, it’s wrong to do various things that are anti-social. In war, those norms don’t apply. In war, it is okay to kill, it is okay to destroy property, it is okay to do things (it is) not otherwise okay in normal life to do.”
That’s why, Kuebler argues, children who were indoctrinated into war can’t be expected to understand the laws of armed conflict.
“Is it any way reasonable to expect a child to understand these highly nuanced, sophisticated concepts of the war of armed conflicts that say you can kill people but you can only kill people if you’re wearing certain clothes?”
Interesting world we live in, killing American soldiers is a crime. Killing innocent Afghan and Iraqi citizens is not.
The abandonment of Khadr to the regime in America is a shame that the Harper Government™ carries.