Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Omar Khadr

Omar Khadr was born in Toronto, Canada. His father moved his family to Afghanistan when Omar was 11. Omar’s father Ahmed Khadr had connections with Al Qaeda. Ahmed sent his sons to an Al Qaeda training camp.

On July 27, 2002, Omar was one of a group of Al Qaeda fighters who got into a firefight with American forces in Afghanistan. Bombs were dropped on the compound Omar and his fellow Al Qaeda fighters were in. The two sides exchanged bullets. Omar was shot in the back and the bullet exited out his front. During the firefight a grenade mortally wounded the US soldier Christopher Speer. Omar Khadr survived the firefight and was sent to the prison at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. He was 15 years old. 

While he was imprisoned at Bagram his first interrogator, Joshua Claus, told Omar a false story about an Afghan boy who lied and was sent to a US prison and gang raped.  At some point after this threat, Khadr told an interrogator that he had thrown the grenade. A medic once found Omar chained by his arms to the door of his cage-like cell, hooded and in tears. Omar Khadr was transferred to Guantanamo in October 2002.

In December 2002 the United States ratified the “UN Optional Protocol on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict” which says that signatories must ensure, “the physical and psychological reintegration” of child soldiers. Instead of rehabilitating Omar Khadr, the US prosecuted him as a war criminal. 

In October 2010 Khadr accepted a plea deal where he was given an 8 year sentence in exchange for pleading guilty to murder in violation of the laws of war, attempted murder, spying, conspiracy, and providing material support for terrorism. Under the agreement Khadr said he through the grenade in the firefight even though he had previously denied doing so.  One year of the sentence was to be served at Guantanamo and 7 were to be served in Canada. Khadr was not given credit for time served.

Nevertheless, the military commission that heard Khadr’s case announced the sentence Khadr would have gotten had he not accepted the plea deal; Omar Khadr, a child soldier, would have been sentenced to 40 years in prison. Khadr made a very wise decision in taking his plea deal. Omar Khadr was moved to a Canadian prison in September 2012.

Omar Khadr is now 26 years old.

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