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Lawyers urge release of Guantanamo detainees captured as juveniles

[JURIST] Lawyers for two Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees who were captured as juveniles called for their release Wednesday, the same day as the UN Security Council [official website] held an open meeting on children in armed conflict. Lawyers for Canadian Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr [DOD materials; JURIST news archive], who was 14 or 15 when he allegedly killed a US soldier with a grenade in Afghanistan, and Mohammed Jawad [DOD materials; JURIST news archive], who was 16 or 17 when he allegedly injured soldiers with a grenade, argued [AP report] that their clients' detention violates the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict [text], to which the US is a signatory. The protocol prohibits a juvenile from being considered a member of an armed group. The lawyers urged the US government to take action at home as it seeks to protect children around the world, pointing to the statement [text] of US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice [official profile] at the Security Council meeting Wednesday, in which she said, "The United States is deeply committed to the welfare of children, and that includes protecting children from the scourge of war." UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official website] also delivered an address [text] in which he urged the Security Council to expand a 2005 resolution to better protect children against physical and sexual violence.

Khadr's lawyers have previously argued [JURIST report] that his continued detention violates the optional protocol. In January, US President Barack Obama issued an executive order [text; JURIST report] ordering the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison facility and halting military commission [JURIST news archive] proceedings, including Khadr's military commission. Khadr's lawyers have proposed a plan for his repatriation to Canada, and last week, a Canadian judge ordered [JURIST reports] Prime Minister Stephen Harper [official website] to seek Khadr's release and repatriation. Also last week, a judge in the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] ordered [text, PDF; JURIST report] that Jawad be allowed to challenge his detention in federal courts without delay.

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