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Canadian, Omar Khadr, charged with war crimes at Gitmo

Canadian, Omar Khadr, charged with war crimes at GitmoOmar Ahmed Khadr, a 20 year old Canadian, was formally charged with war crimes by the US at the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  Khadr faces a murder charge for the death of Sgt. 1st Class, Christopher Speer, with a hand grenade in 2002.  Khadr also faces charges of attempted murder, conspiring with al Qa'ida, providing material support for the group, and spying on US forces.  Khadr faced similar charges in the former tribunal system, but the Supreme Court ruled that tribunal was unconstitutional.  He is the 2nd detainee to face formal charges, after the Australian David Hicks was given a nine-month sentence after pleading guilty to providing material support to terrorism.  

Khadr's family has had close ties to Usamma bin Laden.  Omar Khadr's father, Ahmed Said Khadr, was a known al Qa'ida financier who was killed in Pakistan in 2003.  Omar Khadr was born in Toronto, but lived in Pakistan for some time.  His family returned to Canada after the death of the senior Khadr.  Other family members face US extradition charges for their affiliation with al Qa'ida.  Though Canadian officials have acknowledged Khadr "faces serious charges", Canada has been seen in the past as a point of exile for war criminals.   Khadr's charges carry a penalty of death, though his charge sheet classifies the case as "non-capital", presumably due to Khadr's age of 15 when he was captured.

The family of the US soldier, Speer, has filed a civil suit against Khadr and his father and was awarded $103 million.  In the past, notably the case of Filartiga v. Pena, US courts have ruled that they hold jurisdiction in such cases.  The human rights group, Amnesty International, has classified the current tribunal system as "shabby show trials" and has been advocating trying detainees in US civilian courts.  The unconventional nature of the "war on terrorism" has been a test for US and international law.  US law holds that as long as courts are open and functioning, they should hold venue.  However, with the US at war, the argument may be made for prosecution by military tribunal.  Yet, the war is not against any particular state; only an international criminal element.  In the past, the US has prosecuted terrorism according to the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), as it did in the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993.  In the current conflict, the US has only tried one major terrorism case in civilian courts; the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui.  The Moussaoui case was a cumbersome case for the US.  Its preference in dealing with the current terrorist issues has been to conduct proceedings where the US government has complete control over the court, as it does under the new congressionally mandated tribunal.

Reuters; AP



Daniel Graeber

Daniel Graeber is a writer for United Press International covering Iraq, Afghanistan and the broader Levant. He has published works on international and constitutional law pertaining to US terrorism cases and on child soldiers. His first major work, entitled The United States and Israel: The Implications of Alignment, is featured in the text, Strategic Interests in the Middle East: Opposition or Support for US Foreign Policy. He holds a MA in Diplomacy and International Conflict Management from Norwich University, where his focus was international relations theory, international law, and the role of non-state actors.

Areas of Focus:International law; Middle East; Government and Politics; non-state actors