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UN children's rights expert urges US not to imprison Khadr

The UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict [official website] urged the US on Wednesday not to imprison [letter, PDF] Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Omar Khadr [DOD materials; JURIST news archive]. Radhika Coomaraswamy [official profile], through a letter sent to the US military commission at Guantanamo Bay, requested that the US treat Khadr as a child solider. Coomaraswamy stated that Khadr meets the classic qualifications for being considered a child solider and that returning him to Canada for rehabilitation would be a better outcome than a US prison. The letter also emphasized the fact that the US has been a leading country in the battling the problems associated with child soldiers. She wrote:

I would therefore urge the military commission members to consider international practice - practice supported by the US Government - that Omar Khadr not be subject to further incarceration but that arrangements be made for him to enter a controlled rehabilitation program in Canada. The terms of such a program can be worked out in consultation with child protection partners, psychologists and specialists in juvenile reintegration that can be agreed by the prosecution and the defense.
Coomaraswamy added that, because Khadr's father was responsible for abuse and his recruitment, it only increases the harm [CBC report] done to him.

Khadr was originally detained for killing a US soldier in Afghanistan with a hand grenade in 2002 when he was 15. Earlier this week, Khadr pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to all five charges against him, including conspiracy, murder and aiding the enemy. In addition, Khadr signed a stipulation of fact [text, PDF] confirming that he was a member of al Qaeda, that he threw the grenade and that he felt "happy" when he learned an American soldier had been killed. Khadr sentencing trial began this week, and he could serve up to eight more years in prison with at least one of those years occurring at Guantanamo Bay. The agreement also included a condition that the US support Khadr's eventual application for transfer to Canada. Khadr becomes the first juvenile convicted by a war crimes tribunal since WWII. The guilty plea marks a reversal from Khadr's original stance that he would not accept a plea deal [JURIST report].

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