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Federal judge refuses to stop Khadr military commission trial

[JURIST] Judge John Bates of the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] on Monday denied [opinion, PDF; order, PDF] a motion by Canadian Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] seeking to have the military commission trial against him stopped because he was a minor at the time of his alleged actions against the US. Lawyers for Khadr argued that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [materials] does not grant the commissions jurisdiction over those who commit crimes as minors, that his designation as an "enemy combatant" was unlawful because the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict [text] prohibits a juvenile from being considered a member of an armed group, and that his detention as an adult was also disallowed by the Protocol. In this context, his lawyers sought to have Khadr's trial stopped and have him either released or placed in a rehabilitation program for former child soldiers. Bates refused to address the first two issues, holding that the military commission had priority to consider the questions before they could be appealed to another court. Bates found that he lacked jurisdiction to consider whether Khadr could be held as an adult, holding that under the Supreme Court's ruling Boumediene v. Bush [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] he could consider whether any confinement was appropriate, but not the suitability of Khadr's "conditions of confinement," such as being held as an adult or juvenile.

In October, Khadr's trial was postponed [JURIST report] until January 26, 2009, so that he could receive an independent psychological and psychiatric examination [Globe and Mail report] to determine whether his prior statements to government investigators could be admitted as evidence in the trial. Khadr, now 22, faces possible life imprisonment if convicted of crimes he allegedly committed at the age of 15 while fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan [JURIST news archive]. Khadr was charged [charge sheet, PDF; JURIST report] in April 2007 with murder, attempted murder, conspiracy, providing material support for terrorism, and spying.

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