Omar Khadr pleads guilty to terrorism charges

Canadian Guantánamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr on Oct. 25 pleaded guilty to all five charges against him, including conspiracy, murder and aiding the enemy. Under the terms of the agreement, Khadr will serve up to eight more years in prison in addition to the eight he has already spent in detention. At least one of those years will be spent at Guantánamo Bay. One other purported condition of the plea is that the US will support Khadr’s eventual application for transfer to Canada, a bargain that has been agreed to by the US and Canada through a series of sealed diplomatic notes. The guilty plea marks a reversal from Khadr’s original stance, voiced by one of his attorneys, that he would not accept a plea deal. Khadr’s sentence will be determined by a panel of seven senior military officers at a hearing that will begin this week.

Khadr’s guilty plea makes him the fifth person, and first child soldier, to be convicted of war crimes at Guantánamo Bay. Khadr’s trial was postponed earlier this month while lawyers for both sides attempted to reach a plea agreement. In late August, the military judge rejected Khadr’s claim that his confession was a product of torture. Earlier in August, the same judge ruled that Khadr’s confession was admissible at trial. Canada, which has agreed to accept a transfer after Khadr’s sentence is imposed, had previously declined to seek Khadr’s repatriation. Khadr was charged after he was captured following a firefight in Afghanistan in 2002 in which he allegedly threw a hand grenade that killed one US soldier and wounded another.

From Jurist, Oct. 25. Used with permission.

  1. UN children’s rights expert urges US not to imprison Khadr
    The UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict urged the US on Oct. 27 not to imprison Guantánamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr. Radhika Coomaraswamy, through a letter sent to the US military commission at Guantánamo Bay, requested that the US treat Khadr as a child solider. Coomaraswamy stated that Khadr meets the classic qualifications for being considered a child solider and that returning him to Canada for rehabilitation would be a better outcome than a US prison. The letter also emphasized the fact that the US has been a leading country in the battling the problems associated with child soldiers. She wrote:

    I would therefore urge the military commission members to consider international practice—practice supported by the US Government—that Omar Khadr not be subject to further incarceration but that arrangements be made for him to enter a controlled rehabilitation program in Canada. The terms of such a program can be worked out in consultation with child protection partners, psychologists and specialists in juvenile reintegration that can be agreed by the prosecution and the defense.

    Coomaraswamy added that, because Khadr’s father was responsible for abuse and his recruitment, it only increases the harm done to him. (Jurist, Oct. 28)