Amnesty International Condemns Khadr Trial at Guantanamo
August 12, 2010
Amnesty International has condemned the U.S. government's decision to go ahead with the military commission trial of Omar Khadr at the Guantánamo Bay detention center, describing the move as another violation of human rights by the United States in the name of countering terrorism.
Khadr, a Canadian citizen, was taken into U.S. custody as a 15-year-old in 2002 in Afghanistan, following a fire fight with U.S. forces. He is facing five "war crime" charges, including a murder charge for allegedly throwing a grenade that fatally wounded a US soldier. The trial is due to begin today.
"The United States has turned a deaf ear to the repeated appeals of the international community, including senior UN officials, not to set this dangerous precedent of an unfair trial of an individual accused of alleged 'war crimes' committed when he was a child", said Rob Freer, Amnesty International United States researcher. "After eight years of ignoring its human rights obligations, the United States is now set to try Mr. Khadr under procedures that fail to meet international fair trial standards" History will not judge its actions kindly".
On Monday, a military judge ruled that statements made by Khadr during his time in custody would be admissible during the trial, rejecting a defense motion that the statements should be excluded as the product of torture or other ill-treatment.
"It took this military judge about 90 seconds to rule, without explanation, that any statement this young detainee made during that time can be admitted against him." said Geneve Mantri, government relations director for Amnesty International USA.
The selection of seven U.S. military officers who will sit as a "jury" on the military commission was completed yesterday and opening arguments in the trial are due today.
Khadr faces the possibility of a life prison sentence if convicted. Even if acquitted he could be returned to indefinite military detention, according to the Manual on Military Commissions released in April this year.
"These military commissions are part of a system of detentions and prosecutions that from the outset have kept the United States on the wrong side of its international human rights obligations", said Freer. "They should have been abandoned long ago, along with the unlawful Guantánamo detentions of which they became an integral part".
Amnesty International, which has an observer at the Guantánamo proceedings, has opposed U.S. government's use of military commissions since former U.S. President George W. Bush initiated them in 2001. The military commissions are in their third incarnation, convened now under the Military Commissions Act (MCA) of 2009, signed into law by President Barack Obama in October 2009, revising a 2006 version of the MCA.
"The U.S. government utterly failed to take into account Mr. Khadr's age and treat him according to juvenile justice principles," said Mantri. "Instead, they have held him for more than two years virtually incommunicado, subjected him to repeated interrogations without access to a lawyer or the courts, and now, placed him through a military commission trial that fails to meet international standards."
"The military commissions were the wrong choice in 2001 and are wrong now," said Freer.
"The trial of Mr. Khadr is something that would not be tolerated by any existing international tribunal, and it will also set a dangerous precedent," said Mantri.
For more information, please go to: USA: Denying human rights, failing justice. Omar Khadr's military commission trial set to start at Guantánamo, available, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR51/069/2010/en or www.amnestyusa.org