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US military commission hears jurisdiction arguments in Khadr case

[JURIST] Lawyers for Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] Monday argued that the US military commission responsible for trying him lacks jurisdiction over the case [motions, PDF], saying that Khadr did not commit a war crime by allegedly throwing a grenade that killed one US soldier and wounded another while fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2002 because soldiers are lawful targets in a war zone. Prosecutors argued that jurisdiction was proper as Khadr violated international rules of war by concealing himself in civilian clothing and living among women and children during combat. Defense lawyers also argued that Khadr's alleged actions in 2002 were not considered war crimes at the time they were committed and thus cannot be tried as such under the 2006 Military Commissions Act (MCA) [PDF text]. Prosecutors countered that the law is retroactive. US military judge Col. Peter Brownback did not issue a ruling on the motions to dismiss at Monday's hearing. Khadr's trial is currently set for May.

Khadr, now 21, faces life imprisonment for crimes allegedly committed when he was 15. Defense lawyers, a UN representative [JURIST reports], and rights groups have said if the US proceeds with the military trial, the US will be in violation of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child [text], which gives special protection to children under 18 involved in armed conflicts. Khadr's trial would be one of the first in Guantanamo Bay's new $12 million mobile war crimes courtroom complex [Reuters report], ready for regular use in March. The military hopes to try as many as 80 detainees for war crimes in the complex. To date, only four Guantanamo detainees have been formally charged with war crimes [JURIST report] under the MCA. AP has more.

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