Friday, August 13, 2010

Omar Khadr committed crimes against Americans so he should do the time there

I have been following the plight of Omar Khadr the 23-year-old Canadian who is alleged to have thrown a grenade during a July 27, 2002 firefight in Afghanistan that fatally wounded U.S. Sgt. First Class Christopher Speer. It’s been eight years or so since he was captured by American forces in Afghanistan, and he’s spent seven years in the U.S. Guantanamo Bay detention camps accused of war crimes and providing support to terrorism.

Khadr is finally receiving a jury trial in the United States, arguably the fairest most democratic country in the world. His trial is open and is being followed by the press and other media, which is free to report on its proceedings—and, indeed, have been doing so.

All very straight forward I would have thought, but it never is here in Canada. In a country that seems very much at ease with abortion on demand, which leads to the deaths of over 90,000 premature babies and fetuses annually, we have wide-spread angst over this one man and demands for him to be brought to trial in Canada rather than in the United States because, apparently, he’ll receive a fairer trial.

We provide not a single law to protect our unborn babies, but worry incessantly about an accused killer. Go figure.

Much of the public furor is emanating from the progressive media and politicians, but many on the right like broadcaster Michael Coren have joined in. And much is made of Khadr’s age at the time he allegedly killed the American soldier. MP Joe Comartin (NDP, Windsor-Tecumseh) told the audience of the Michael Coren Show that Khadr was a child soldier, and that seemed all one needed to know to have the young man released from American custody and returned to safety in Canada, where, I assume, he’d be tried as a young offender—wrist slapping and all.

Of course Omar Khadr was not a child soldier. He did not meet the international definition because he was already 15 years old at the time. And why should we try him when the United States is the injured party and are every bit as capable as we are of ensuring he gets a fair trial. In past wars, it was common practice for prisoners of war captured by Canadians to be detained for the duration of the conflict. Seldom, if ever, did these combatants receive a trial of any kind. Afghan prisoners captured by Canadians are routinely turned over to Afghan authorities. If Omar Khadr is ever tried in Canada, it should be for something like treason for he willing participated in a war against military forces of which Canadians were a part.

So why special treatment for Khadr? Because of his age I suppose and the fact he’s Canadian. Yet many youthful Canadians commit crimes in foreign lands and must face justice there. Michael Coren claims Khadr’s trial has taken too long to begin and that’s the justification for his return to Canada. Yet war prisoners held by Canada have traditionally had to wait until the end of the conflict, and the last time I checked the war in Afghanistan was still being waged.

Omar Khadr is just another unfortunate who is caught up in the consequences of actions in which he freely participated. At 15 years of age, he was fully capable of knowing right from wrong. His participation was willing. In a 40-minute video shown at his trial, a 15-year-old Khadr can be seen smiling while sitting cross-legged on the floor rigging explosives.

Can every 15-year-old Canadian expect to get a free pass when charged with murder? I don’t believe they should and nor should Khadr receive special treatment.


  1. "Of course Omar Khadr was not a child soldier. He did not meet the international definition because he was already 15 years old at the time."

    To which international definition do you refer? Mr. Khadr clearly meets the international definition laid out in the Cape Town Principles.

    And a correction, if I may: Mr. Khadr is not "receiving a jury trial in the United States". The trial is not being held on American soil but in Cuba at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.

  2. Omar Khadr did not join Al Qaida voluntarily; he was sent to work for them by his father when he was thirteen.

    The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict states that anyone forced into armed conflict younger than 18 is a child soldier. No one can be considered to have volunteered unless they're over the age 16.

    So, either way, Khadr is a child soldier. Child soldiers aren't put on trial, they are supposed to be reintegrate into society.

    It is incredible that we would draw up these rules, expect other countries to live by them and then ignore them when we find ourselves in this situation.

  3. Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 38

    1. States Parties undertake to respect and to ensure respect for rules of international humanitarian law applicable to them in armed conflicts which are relevant to the child.

    2. States Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that persons who have not attained the age of fifteen years do not take a direct part in hostilities.

    3. States Parties shall refrain from recruiting any person who has not attained the age of fifteen years into their armed forces. In recruiting among those persons who have attained the age of fifteen years but who have not attained the age of eighteen years, States Parties shall endeavour to give priority to those who are oldest.

    4. In accordance with their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect the civilian population in armed conflicts, States Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure protection and care of children who are affected by an armed conflict.