Canada’s role in the persecution of child soldier Omar Khadr

By Keith Jones, Global Research, Nov. 1, 2010

The military commission trial of child-soldier Omar Khadr and the plea bargain that the Obama administration and the Pentagon coerced from him this week have been widely and rightly condemned.

Now just 24 years old, Khadr has spent more than eight years, or over a third of his life, under US military detention at the notorious Bagram (Afghanistan) and Guantanamo Bay (Cuba) detention camps. Like the other detainees, the Canadian-born Khadr was for years in a legal black hole, enduring a prison-interrogation regime designed to be outside established international and US law. He was held indefinitely without charge, denied legal representation and access to the courts, and subjected by his US captors to physical and psychological abuse, including outright torture.

According to international law, Khadr is a child soldier who should be treated as a “victim.” He was seized at the age of 15 after a July 2002 firefight in Khost, Afghanistan, in which US special forces stormed the compound where he was living. Yet, in an act of vengeance against Khadr’s dead father, who was an al-Qaeda financier, the Pentagon and US government labeled him an “enemy combatant” (later “an alien unprivileged belligerent”), illegally incarcerated him and, five years later, charged him with “war crimes.”

In fact, Khadr’s only crime was to resist the criminal US invasion of Afghanistan, which was and is aimed at securing the world position of US imperialism.

Ultimately Khadr was dragged before a drumhead military commission: a parallel military-controlled judicial system, created by the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, where the traditional rules of evidence do not apply.

The crux of the military prosecution’s case against Khadr was his 2002 “confession” that he threw a grenade during the Khost firefight that killed a US Delta Special Forces soldier. Khadr “gave” this confession while chained to a bed in the Bagram prison hospital, where he was recovering from life threatening injuries and a shrapnel wound to an eye, and shortly after a US army interrogator—who ultimately would be court-martialed for abusing another Bagram prisoner—threatened to have him gang-raped to death.

In August, at the beginning of Khadr’s trial, the military commission judge, Colonel Patrick Parrish, ruled that this confession was voluntary and hence admissible. The judge similarly ignored evidence that Khadr was subject to sleep deprivation and other “stress and duress” techniques, curtly dismissing the argument of Khadr’s military-appointed lawyer that any self-incriminating statements the military had extracted from the boy “were the product of torture.”

These rulings only served to confirm the kangaroo court character of the military commissions. Khadr’s Canadian lawyer reported that when the judge read out his ruling, Khadr turned to him and said, “We’re embarrassing ourselves by being here.”

With the fix so clearly in and the prospect of multiple life-sentences hanging over Khadr’s head, his lawyers urged him to accept the plea-bargain offered by the Obama administration, although they recognized that it and the Pentagon would seek to use Khadr’s guilty plea to try to legitimize the ordeal to which they have subjected him and the entire Bagram-Guantanamo abomination.

Under the plea bargain, Khadr will be held in solitary confinement for a year in Guantanamo Bay, then transferred to a Canadian prison to serve out the remainder of an eight year jail sentence.

If things have come to this, it was largely because of the role played by the Canadian government, its agencies and the Canadian courts.

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