The US government has finally released Canadian Omar Khadr from Guantanamo and sent him to Canada to finish out the remainder of the 10-year term imposed on him by a military tribunal in 2010.
Khadr was just 15 years old when he was picked up in Afghanistan and accused of attacking US forces and killing a US soldier. He was charged with a war crime. I (amongst many others) wrote about the shameful treatment of Khadr by the US back in 2010 and you can read about his case in that post.
Commenters to that post provided some additional useful information about his case. Commenter Eric explained how it was that Khadr came to be charged with a war crime.
Khadr’s lawyer actually spoke at a class I was in about 2 years ago. He mentioned that one of the interesting things about the case was that Khadr was charged with “murder in violation of the laws of war.” Because the U.S. was officially at war with Afghanistan at the time, Khadr had to be classed as either an enemy combatant, in which case he was a POW and couldn’t be tried for doing his job, or a civilian, in which case he was entitled to a civilian trial for simple murder, with all the due process therein.
So, the DOD found a third option: try him for a war crime. POWs can be put on trial for war crimes. The problem was, Khadr threw a grenade. That’s it. So, they had to come up with a war crime to charge him with, “murder in violation of the laws of war,” which is a made-up war crime. It’s not in the Geneva Conventions. The sole justification for holding Khadr without either POW or civilian status is…that a 15-year-old boy wasn’t wearing a uniform when he threw the grenade.
So basically that US makes up the rules as it goes along, all designed to serve its own immediate interests.
There were some other comments by people who seemed to feel that rather than upholding universal standards of justice, we should have one standard for those who take up arms against US forces and a different one for those who take up arms on behalf of the US. They felt that since the US was fighting for the ‘greater good’, Khadr was lucky that he was not summarily executed.