Saturday, June 2, 2007

Children at Guantánamo Bay

Today's article in The New York Times regarding child soldiers detained during the "War on Terror" at Guantánamo Bay raises interesting questions about how children should be treated for committing war crimes.

The article explains that "the shrapnel from the grenade [thrown by the child]... ripped through the skull of Sgt. First Class Christopher J. Speer, who was 28 when he died.To American military prosecutors, Mr. Khadr is a committed Al Qaeda operative, spy and killer who must be held accountable for killing Sergeant Speer in 2002 and for other bloody acts he committed in Afghanistan. But there is one fact that may not fit easily into the government’s portrait of Mr. Khadr: He was 15 at the time."

Mr. Khadr is now 20. International law does not prohibit people under 18 from being tried for crimes of war. Lawyers for Mr. Khadr argue that instead of being perceived as a war criminal, he should be thought of as a victim of warfare. The article reads:

"The prosecutors, they say, included in their charges acts that occurred when Mr. Khadr was younger than 10. Mr. Khadr “was subject to undue adult influences,” said Muneer I. Ahmad, an associate professor at the American University Washington College of Law, who has represented Mr. Khadr.

'If Omar had had his free choice,' Professor Ahmad said, 'what he would have chosen to do is ride horses, play soccer and read Harry Potter books.'"
Speculation about what Mr. Khadr would have done if he were not subject to "undue adult influences" is a start. But what should concern lawyers and advocates even more now is what Mr. Khadr will do if he is acquitted of these charges. Would he willingly commit acts against the U.S. now that he is an adult (according to law) and can make his own choices? This should really be the concern of advocates on both sides of the issue.

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