USA: Violations in Omar Khadr case must be addressed

“The fact that the military commission system falls short of international fair trial standards is not changed by a plea deal being reached in Omar Khadr’s case” - Rob Freer

Amnesty International has called on the US authorities to address any human rights violations committed against Canadian national Omar Khadr, in spite of him pleading guilty to the charges against him at a military commission at the Guantánamo Bay detention centre.

Yesterday Omar Khadr pleaded guilty to five "war crime" charges, including a murder charge for allegedly throwing a grenade that fatally wounded a US soldier. He had been held in US military custody for eight and half years, after being detained in late July 2002 in Afghanistan when he was aged 15.

Amnesty International USA researcher Rob Freer said;

“While military trial proceedings may be coming to an end in Omar Khadr’s case, the obligation on the US authorities to address serious concerns about human rights violations suffered by him does not end.

“The USA authorities have ignored their international duties in the treatment of Children's rights, which was the case when Omar Khadr was arrested eight years ago.”

The guilty plea is the result of an agreement between Omar Khadr, his lawyers and the US authorities. According to the Pentagon, the military judge accepted the plea after questioning Omar Khadr in court.  While the details of the plea bargain have not yet been made public, the deal reportedly provides for an eight-year prison term with the USA supporting Omar Khadr’s transfer to Canada to serve the final seven years of the sentence there.

Amnesty pointed out that the USA has failed to recognise that his case fell under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of Children's rights in armed conflict. Omar Khadr has repeatedly alleged that he was subjected to interrogation techniques and detention conditions that amounted to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

Rob Freer added:

“The USA must abandon military commissions and bring any Guantánamo detainee it intends to prosecute to trial in ordinary civilian federal court, in accordance with international fair trial standards.  Any detainee it does not intend to prosecute should be immediately released.

“The fact that the military commission system falls short of international fair trial standards is not changed by a plea deal being reached in Omar Khadr’s case.”

Earlier this month, the expert UN body which monitors implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child called on the USA and Somalia to ratify this treaty. These two countries are the only ones not to have done so.

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