US military judge rules Khadr not a child soldier

[JURIST] A US military judge Wednesday rejected arguments that Canadian Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] was a child soldier when he was captured in Afghanistan and that the US military commission responsible for his trial lacks jurisdiction over the case. In a motion filed with US military judge Col. Peter Brownback in January, Khadr's lawyers had asked for the case to be dismissed [JURIST report] saying that it violated the Optional Protocol of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child [text], which gives special protection to children under 18 involved in armed conflicts. Khadr's lawyers had also argued that the US Congress did not grant Guantanamo Bay military commissions the authority to hear cases involving child soldiers charged with juvenile crimes. UN officials and rights groups have also argued against Khadr's prosecution [JURIST report], saying it violated the protocol.

On Tuesday, Khadr military lawyer Lt.-Cmdr. William Kuebler asserted before a Canadian parliamentary committee [CBC report] that the Guantanamo tribunal is determined to find Khadr guilty despite what he said was a lack of evidence, and urged the Canadian government to press the US to extradite Khadr. Khadr, now 21, faces life imprisonment for crimes allegedly committed at the age of 15 when he supposedly threw a grenade that killed one US soldier and wounded another while fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2002. He was charged [charge sheet, PDF; JURIST report] in April 2007 with murder, attempted murder, conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism, as well as spying. Earlier this week, former Guantanamo Bay chief military prosecutor Col. Morris Davis [official profile, PDF] testified [JURIST report] at a pre-trial hearing for another detainee that top US Department of Defense officials said that there could be no acquittals at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] military commissions.

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