UN protests decision to try Khadr
The Ottawa Citizen
WASHINGTON - The United Nations has launched a formal protest with the
United States over its decision to try Canadian terrorism suspect Omar
Khadr, who was 15 years old when captured on the battlefield in
Radhika Coomaraswamy, the UN Special Representative for Children in
Armed Conflict, will take up Mr. Khadr's case during a meeting today
Ms. Coomaraswamy will be sitting down with with John Bellinger,
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's senior legal adviser.
"She will raise her concerns about the creation of an international
precedent where an individual is being tried for crimes with regards
to alleged acts committed when he was a child," Laurence Gerard, a
spokeswoman for Ms. Coomaraswamy, told CanWest News Service.
The UN's decision to complain to the Bush administration about Mr.
Khadr's upcoming murder trial follows a separate, behind-the-scenes
appeal by Ms. Coomaraswamy to Canadian officials about the case.
"There were also bilateral (exchanges) with Canada," said Ms. Gerard,
who would not provide details of a letter dispatched to Foreign
Affairs officials in Ottawa.
Mr. Khadr, now 21, is charged with murder for allegedly throwing a
grenade that killed U.S. army Sgt. Christopher Speer during a
firefight near Khost, Afghanistan, in July 2002.
Mr. Khadr has been detained since November 2002 at the U.S. military
prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and is now the only remaining citizen
of a western country in detention there.
He faces additional charges of attempted murder, conspiracy, spying
and providing material aid to terrorism.
According to Ms. Coomaraswamy, Mr. Khadr's upcoming trial runs
contrary to the Optional Protocol of the UN Convention on the Rights
of the Child. The protocol, which the U.S. ratified in 2002, states
persons under the age of 18 years enlisted or conscripted into armed
conflict "are entitled to special protection" under the law. Human
rights groups argue the U.S. has obligations under the treaty to
demobilize and rehabilitate child soldiers.
Mr. Khadr's lawyers said yesterday they were buoyed by Ms.
The UN's concern "shows that the international community views Omar as
a child soldier, deserving of the rights and protections afforded to
former child soldiers under international law," said Lt.-Cmdr. William
Kuebler, the military defence lawyer detailed to Mr. Khadr's case.
"It also shows the potential for damage to Canada's international
reputation as a champion of human rights and leader in efforts to
protect children involved in armed conflict."
The federal government has not protested Mr. Khadr's detention or
upcoming trial, citing the seriousness of the accusations against him.
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