Canadian Supreme Court Finds Guantánamo Detainee's Rights Were Violated

January 29, 2010 2:44 pm

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ACLU Calls On U.S. To Reverse Decision To Try Omar Khadr, Captured At 15, Before Military Commission

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NEW YORK – The Canadian Supreme Court today found that the rights of Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen who was captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan in 2002 when he was 15, were violated during his interrogation and detention in Guantánamo Bay. The American Civil Liberties Union pointed to the decision as affirmation that the U.S. should reverse its decision to try Khadr before a military commission and should repatriate him to his home country for rehabilitation.

“This decision underscores the need for the U.S. to reverse its decision to prosecute Omar Khadr before an illegal military commission,” said Jamil Dakwar, Director of the ACLU Human Rights Program. “As a teenager, Omar Khadr was subjected to abusive interrogations and sleep deprivation by U.S. officials without access to court or counsel, and with no regard for his status as a juvenile. It is encouraging that the Canadian justice system has found that this is no way to treat youth in detention, and recognized that Omar Khadr’s rights continue to be violated. Omar Khadr should be sent back to Canada where he can be rehabilitated or, if there is evidence enough to prosecute him in the U.S., he should be charged and tried in a federal court.”

Omar Khadr was captured in Afghanistan in 2002 and was accused of throwing a grenade that killed an Army medic in Afghanistan, a charge he has denied. Today’s decision by the Canadian Supreme Court found that Canadian officials participated in the violation of his rights, but stopped short of ordering the Canadian government to seek his repatriation from the U.S. The Court did award Khadr legal costs and left the decision as to how to respond up to the Canadian government.

The U.N. Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, which the U.S. ratified in 2002, obligates the U.S. to ensure special safeguards for children under 18 who are taken into U.S. custody. This week, the U.S. government issued a report in response to the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child, which had criticized U.S. non-compliance with the protocol with respect to the detention and treatment of juveniles in U.S. military custody abroad. The U.S. report did not adequately address the fact that current policy fails to take into account obligations of the Optional Protocol, especially regarding U.S. prosecution of suspected child soldiers before a military commission. According to the report, as of December 2009 only five juveniles remain in U.S. military custody in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The U.S. is bound by international law to consider the age of prisoners when they are captured and to give juveniles certain protections regarding their treatment, detention and prosecution,” said Jennifer Turner, human rights researcher with the ACLU Human Rights Program. “Canada has found that Omar Khadr, who has spent a third of his life in Guantánamo, was denied these basic rights. The U.S. must finally grant him the rights he has been denied for so long, and enact comprehensive policies regarding the treatment of juveniles still in detention so that no child has to grow up in a military prison ever again.”

The Canadian Supreme Court’s decision can be found here:

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