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Canadian at Guantanamo Faces Arraignment on Murder Charge

Publication Date: 
June 03, 2007
The Miami Herald / McClatchy Newspapers
Carol Rosenberg

Stanford international criminal law expert Allen Weiner is quoted in this story about a Canadian Omar Khadr, captured at age 15, who has been held in Guantanamo prison and who will now (at age 20) be arraigned by U.S. military authorities on charges that "as an alleged al-Qaida guerrilla he murdered a U.S. Special Forces medic when he threw a grenade during a firefight at that Afghanistan compound."

Reporter Carol Rosenberg writes:

International law and human rights experts argue that as a 15-year-old, Khadr should have been considered a child-soldier when he was captured. They say that no person so young has ever been prosecuted for war crimes.

...The Pentagon's chief prosecutor, Air Force Col. Morris Davis, says he's unconcerned about the precedent that might be set. He said the Bush administration took Khadr's age into account by choosing not to seek his execution if convicted.

...But, some experts counter, the United States didn't choose to charge Khadr in a U.S. or Canadian criminal court - or even through some sort of legal system still evolving in faraway Afghanistan, where the firefight occurred.

Moreover, they note, a blood-drenched Sierra Leone, overwhelmed with gangs of children with guns, did create a "special kind of category" for 15- to 18-year-old soldiers at its U.N.-sponsored war court.

The Sierra Leone court included "a special stipulation in the statute, that indicated 15-18 should be treated with dignity and a sense of worth taking account their age and promoting rehabilitation and could serve a constructive role in society," says Stanford law professor Allen S. Weiner, a former State Department career lawyer.

Weiner said in the end Sierra Leone sent its children not to a war-crimes court but to a special Truth and Reconciliation Commission.