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Omar Khadr Is Not a Military Commissions Guinea Pig

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May 24, 2010

The New York Times ran an excellent editorial today underscoring the injustice of prosecuting alleged former child soldier Omar Khadr in the first military commissions trial since the Military Commissions Act (MCA) of 2009.

Despite improvements included in the 2009 MCA, the Guantánamo military commissions remain incapable of delivering outcomes we can trust and should be shut down altogether. It does nothing to help their image that the administration plans to test them out on a detainee who was taken into custody when he was only 15, held in clear violation of international standards on the treatment of children in custody, and subjected to sleep deprivation, threats of rape and other abuse. As the Times put it:

If the Obama administration wants to demonstrate that it is practical and just to try some terrorism suspects in military tribunals instead of federal courts, it is off to a very poor start.

ACLU Human Rights Researcher Jennifer Turner was at Guantánamo to observe the most recent proceedings in the Khadr trials. You can read her excellent commentary here.

The Times editorial also mentions the banning of four reporters from covering future military commissions proceedings for reporting the name of an interrogator who testified at Khadr’s pretrial hearings, even though his name was already available to the public. Banning the reporters for reporting information that has been public for years is not only absurd, but also raises more concern about the transparency and illegitimacy of the military commissions. We agree with the Times that the administration should restore the reporters’ credentials, and earlier this month joined Human Rights First, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the National Institute for Military Justice on a letter to DoD calling for just that.

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