Lest we forget Omar Khadr

Omar_Khadr_-_child-250Canadian-born child soldier and torture victim Omar Khadr, the only citizen of a western democracy still held in the US Government detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, went on trial this week in the first war crimes prosecution of a child soldier in US history.

Under Stephen Harper, Canada is the only western country not to ask for the release of its nationals from the illegal prison camp. The Harper government has flouted court orders requiring it to take action in support of Khadr’s civil rights.

The U.N. Special Representative on Children in Armed Conflict warned Monday that the legality of Khadr’s trial is doubtful, and his prosecution sets a dangerous precedent that endangers child soldiers worldwide. Radhika Coomaraswamy asked the United States to halt the trial.

Jennifer Turner, Human Rights Researcher in the American Civil Liberties Union’s Human Rights Program, sums up the background to Khadr’s prosecution:

Khadr, then 15 years old, was taken to Bagram near death, after being shot twice in the back, blinded by shrapnel, and buried in rubble from a bomb blast. He was interrogated within hours, while sedated and handcuffed to a stretcher. He was threatened with gang rape and death if he didn’t cooperate with interrogators. He was hooded and chained with his arms suspended in a cage-like cell, and his primary interrogator was later court-martialed for detainee abuse leading to the death of a detainee. During his subsequent eight-year (so far) detention at Guantánamo, Khadr was subjected to the “frequent flyer” sleep deprivation program and he says he was used as a human mop after he was forced to urinate on himself.

In closing arguments before the judge’s ruling, Khadr’s sole defense lawyer, Lt. Col. Jon Jackson, told the judge, “Sir, be a voice today. Tell the world that we actually stand for what we say we stand for.”

The military judge trying Khadr, Col. Patrick Parrish, dismissed the motion without explanation.

No evidence, but we’ll keep you locked up anyway

Salon’s Glenn Greenwald notes the lead paragraph in a New York Times story Saturday:

WASHINGTON — The 48 Guantánamo Bay detainees whom the Obama administration has decided to keep holding without trial include several for whom there is no evidence of involvement in any specific terrorist plot, according to a report disclosed Friday.

The report itself concludes that “for many detainees at Guantanamo, prosecution is not feasible in either federal court or a military commission.”  Greenwald comments:

They can’t even be prosecuted in the due-process-abridging military commissions we invented out of whole cloth for those who can’t be convicted in a real court.  In other words:  of course we’ll provide a fair tribunal for proving your guilt — as long as we’re certain we can convict you — otherwise, we’ll just imprison you indefinitely without charges. All this even though 72% of Guantanamo detainees have been found to be wrongfully held since the Supreme Court compelled habeas hearings in 2008.  And then there are the numerous Yemeni prisoners who have been cleared for release but who will be kept in a cage anyway because we arbitrarily decreed that we’re not going to release even innocent prisoners back to Yemen.

The whole post is worth a read, as Greenwald nearly always is.