The case of Omar Khadr: Divided opinions

After being detained for eight years, Omar Khadr was sentenced last week to a symbolic forty years in prison after pleading guilty to murder, attempted murder, supporting terrorism, spying, and conspiracy. The sentence was symbolic, however, as a pre-trial deal had already capped Khadr’s sentence at eight years, most of which are likely to be served in Canada (“The Trial of Omar Khadr,” CBC News, 1 November 2010).

The Khadr case was a landmark for the Guantanamo war-crimes tribunal created in 2002. Although Khadr is the fifth person convicted at Guantanamo, he was the first charged with murder in violation of the laws of war. He was also the first convicted for crimes committed as a juvenile (Andrew Mayeda, “Khadr Given Symbolic 40 Years,” National Post, 31 October 2010).

Senator Romeo Dallaire has spoken out against the verdict, stating, “It’s going dead against the [Geneva] Conventions we have agreed to, the conventions that call for child soldiers to be handled differently and that those who use child soldiers to be seen as conducting crimes against humanity. We have pushed that internationally. We’ve been tested with one of our own, and we have failed flagrantly” (Sarah Hampson, “Romeo Dallaire rages against Canada,” Globe and Mail, 3 November 2010).

The Khadr case has divided Canadian public opinion, and the Harper government (and the Martin government before it) has appeared throughout the case to be more interested in deriving domestic political benefit from the case than in protecting the rights of a Canadian citizen to a fair trial and to the protections of international law.

Photo by Zaynab Khadr

Tags: Afghanistan, child soldiers, Guantanamo Bay, Intenational Convention on the Rights of the Child, Omar Khadr, Romeo Dallaire