The military trial of Canadian Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archives] detainee Omar Khadr [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] began Tuesday with jury selection, despite international criticism of the proceedings. Khadr pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and terrorism [JURIST reports] Monday for allegedly throwing a grenade that killed one US soldier and injured another when he was 15. Potential jury members, all US military officers, were questioned by prosecutors and defense attorneys during the proceedings. The final jury will consist of at least five members [AP report] during the trial, which is expected to last for several weeks and could result in a life sentence for Khadr. UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy [official profile] criticized [press release] Tuesday's proceedings, arguing the trial would set a dangerous precedent for child soldiers [CFR backgrounder] worldwide:
The statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) makes it clear that no one under 18 will be tried for war crimes, and prosecutors in other international tribunals have used their discretion not to prosecute children. Since World War II, no child has been prosecuted for a war crime. Child soldiers must be treated primarily as victims and alternative procedures should be in place aimed at rehabilitation or restorative justice. Even if Omar Khadr were to be tried in a national jurisdiction, juvenile justice standards are clear; children should not be tried before military tribunals. The Omar Khadr case will set a precedent that may endanger the status of child soldiers all over the world. I urge both [the US and Canadian] governments to come to a mutually acceptable solution on the future of Omar Khadr that would prevent him from being convicted of a war crime that he allegedly committed when he was child.The trial has also been criticized by Canadian Senator Romeo Dallaire (L-QC) [official website], who has questioned the legitimacy of the proceedings.
US military judge Army Colonel Patrick Parrish ruled Monday that Khadr's confessions are admissible evidence in the trial. Khadr's US military lawyer, Lt.-Colonel Jon Jackson, claimed [motion, PDF] that his statements were illegally obtained through threats of rape and death by interrogators. Prosecutors argued that they did not rely on Khadr's interrogation confessions and that, according to intelligence agents, Khadr spoke freely. Parrish also ruled that video that US forces found weeks after the battle of Khadr helping al Qaeda operatives make and plant bombs in Afghanistan would be admissible. On Friday, the US Supreme Court [official website] refused to block the trial. Last month, the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] refused to lift the stay [JURIST report] on his habeas corpus petition pending the conclusion of the trial. Khadr's defense lawyers have repeatedly sought his repatriation [JURIST report] to Canada on the basis that the Canadian government's refusal to request repatriation violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [text].