Pentagon formally charges child 'enemy combatant'
Guantánamo detainee Omar Khadr was 15 when he was captured in Afghan Al Qaeda compound after allegedly murdering a US serviceman.
A US military tribunal is scheduled to convene next month to try – on murder charges – a Canadian man who has been held at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base for almost five years, since he was captured at the age of 15. Human right groups are protesting the move, saying the man should be tried as a civilian.Skip to next paragraph
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The Associated Press reports that Omar Khadr, who was captured at an Al Qaeda compound in Afghanistan in July 2002 after allegedly throwing a grenade that killed a US Green Beret, will be tried under the rules adopted last year for military tribunals.
The U.S. military charged him with murder, attempted murder, providing support to terrorism, conspiracy and spying under rules for military trials adopted last year and first used to try David Hicks, the Australian sentenced to nine months in prison after pleading guilty.
The military said the Toronto-born Khadr would be arraigned within 30 days. He faces a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
The AP also writes that Mr. Khadr was sent to Guantánamo just before his 16th birthday, and that one of Khadr's lawyers has criticized the Pentagon for not taking into account Khadr's age at the time of his alleged crimes.
Khadr's Pentagon-appointed defense attorney, Marine Lt. Col. Colby Vokey, said the U.S. would become the first country in modern history to try a war crimes suspect who was a child at the time of the alleged violations. The conspiracy charge is based on acts allegedly committed when Khadr was younger than 10, Vokey said.
The US military defines child detainees as those under 16. International guidelines, such as those outlined by the United Nations in The Convention on the Rights of the Child define a child as under 18.
Human rights groups have also criticized the treatment of Khadr, who says that he was tortured while in custody at the US airbase in Bagram, Afghanistan and at Guantánamo. Amnesty International, which maintains a page on Khadr's case, issued a press release Wednesday calling for a civilian trial.
"The treatment of Omar Khadr over the past five years exemplifies the USA's disregard for international law in the 'war on terror'. Unless the US authorities bring him to trial in a civilian court, taking full account of his age at the time of any alleged offences, he should be returned to Canada."
Born in 1986 in Toronto to an Egyptian father and a Palestinian mother, both with Canadian citizenship, Khadr moved with his family to Peshawar, Pakistan, when he was four, writes the Canadian broadcaster CTV. At the time, Peshawar, an ancient trading city on the edge of the Khyber Pass between Pakistan and Afghanistan, served as the political center for Osama bin Laden's fledgling militant movement. Omar's father, Ahmed Said Khadr, was believed by the US government to be an associate of bin Laden, brought his family back and forth between Pakistan and Canada.