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HRW: Canada release of Khadr a 'significant step'

[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [official website] on Thursday said [press release] that by releasing Omar Khadr on bail, Canada is taking a "significant step toward ending his ordeal." HRW is urging the Canadian government to rehabilitate Khadr and assist his integration into society. Khadr, 28, is a Canadian citizen who was captured by US forces at the age of 15 after being found fighting in Afghanistan in 2002 as a child soldier. He spent eight years in Guantanamo before being convicted on five charges and sentenced to eight years in prison for war crimes. The US transferred [JURIST report] Khadr to Canada in 2012, and a Canadian court ruled [JURIST report] on Thursday he could be released on bail while he appeals his US war crimes conviction. According to HRW, Khadr was abused during interrogations and was not provided with legal counsel until two years after he was detained. Both US and Canada ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict [text], which requires that former child soldiers be rehabilitated and that the countries assist in physical and psychological recovery.

The US military prison at Guantanamo [JURIST backgrounder] has continued to generate controversy. In February the US Department of Defense overturned [JURIST report] a rule that would have attempted to speed up the litigation process in military commission prosecutions by requiring judges to relocate to Guantanamo. In January a group of US senators proposed legislation [JURIST report] that would place a moratorium on the releases or transfer of prisoners from Guantanamo. Also in January a lawyer for former Guantanamo detainee David Hicks said the US government admitted [JURIST report] the conviction was incorrect and did not dispute Hicks' innocence.

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