Blog of Rights

Obama's Child Soldiers

By Joel Engardio, ACLU at 5:42pm

Six days after the inauguration of President Obama, the U.S. is scheduled to begin the first trial of a child soldier accused of war crimes since World War II. This video shows why President Obama must take swift action to end the unconstitutional military commissions, and why he must bring the United States back in line with the rule of law and treaties it has signed regarding the treatment of juveniles who have been recruited or used in armed conflict.

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Here is some background to the trial set for January 26: Canadian citizen Omar Khadr was 15 years old when he was captured in Afghanistan in the midst of a firefight that seriously injured Khadr and resulted in the death of a U.S. solider. Khadr was sent to Guantánamo where he was been held for 7 years — one-third of his life. He was beaten, subject to painful stress position and even used as a “human mop” after he urinated on the floor during one interrogation. Under these conditions, the prosecution of Khadr raises grave concerns about the rule of law and underscores how unconstitutional the military commissions are. President Obama must end them as he has promised.

Doing so will spare ACLU client Mohammed Jawad from trial in an illegal system. Jawad was sent to Guantánamo after he was captured at about age 16 at the scene of a grenade attack in Afghanistan that injured two U.S. soldiers. Afghan authorities threatened Jawad with his death, and that of his family, if he didn’t confess to the attack. Based on the resulting false “confession” Jawad was transferred to U.S. custody, where he was further abused, and then to Guantánamo. Among other forms of cruel treatment he suffered at Guantánamo, Jawad was subjected to the so-called “frequent flyer” program, where he was moved every few hours — 112 times over two weeks — to deny him sleep. His trial date under the military commissions has not been set because the Bush administration has appealed the military judge’s decision to suppress torture-derived “confessions”. The appeals court decision is pending.

Join the ACLU in calling on President-elect Obama to immediately shut down the military commissions operating at Guantánamo.

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