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Khadr Trial to Resume October 18

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October 5, 2010

This week, the ACLU’s Jamil Dakwar is in Warsaw for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) conference. The OSCE is the world’s largest regional security organization.

Today, Jamil moderated a session focusing on OSCE’s progress on a range of issues including the prevention of torture and protection of human rights while fighting terrorism.

In a statement the ACLU submitted to the OSCE yesterday on torture and human rights (PDF), we address the ongoing detention of Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr, whose military commissions trial is slated to restart on October 18. In that statement, we note that it appears Khadr’s case was left in the military commissions system instead of being sent to federal court because the government’s case against Khadr is weak and he was tortured. The Obama administration likely chose to stick with the military commissions because it will be easier for the government to rely on questionable evidence, as well as to be better shielded from public scrutiny of past unlawful actions, in that questionable forum.

Khadr, an alleged former child soldier, was only 15 when he was taken into U.S. custody where he has now been for a third of his life. As we pointed out previously, the U.N. Special Representative on Children in Armed Conflict said Khadr’s trial sets a dangerous precedent that could endanger child soldiers around the world. She also said: “juvenile justice standards are clear — children should not be tried before military tribunals.”

Despite this, Khadr remains at Gitmo, and his trial date approaches. Last month, Andy Worthington marked the occasion of Khadr’s birthday, writing:

No country that dares to call itself civilized should tolerate holding anyone as a prisoner in an experimental prison whose rationale — as formulated by the Bush administration — was to establish a policy of indefinite detention, and to facilitate coercive interrogations outside the scrutiny of the US courts. To do this to a child is unconscionable, and the very least the Obama administration, and the government of Stephen Harper, should do before Omar’s trial by Military Commission resumes on October 18, is to arrange for him to be returned to Canada, to begin filling in the blanks in those eight long and lost years of his life.

It isn’t too late for the U.S. to drop the charges against Khadr and send him back to Canada where he can be rehabilitated and reintegrated back into society. Or, if there are credible charges against him, he could be prosecuted in federal criminal court where international juvenile justice and fair trial standards apply.

The U.S. lost its moral compass when it imprisoned and tortured Omar Khadr eight years ago; we are even further from redemption if we allow his trial to proceed.