UN warning on trial of young Guantanamo detainee


United Nations : The opening of the trial of Omar Khadr, a Canadian captured in Afghanistan in 2002 at the age of 15, in Guantanamo Bay Tuesday could “set a precedent that may endanger the status of child soldiers all over the world”, a top UN official warned.

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Radhika Coomaraswamy, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s special representative for children and armed conflict, made the argument in a statement against the trial of children under the age of 18 for war crimes, Xinhua reported.

“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,” Coomaraswamy said.

Khadr, now 23, has been detained for almost eight years in Guantanamo Bay following his arrest for allegedly throwing a grenade that killed an American soldier during a battle in Afghanistan.

Khadr faces war crimes charges in the first Guantanamo trial under the presidency of Barack Obama, the report said.

Coomaraswamy said that even if he were to be tried under Canada’s national jurisdiction, “justice standards are clear; children should not be tried before military tribunals.”

“I urge both 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 a child,” she said.