The Abuse of Ambiguity: The Uncertain Status of Omar Khadr under International Law
50 The Canadian Yearbook of International Law 95 (2012)
Posted: 27 Mar 2012 Last revised: 17 Mar 2014
Date Written: December 18, 2013
This article addresses the unresolved question of the international legal status, and resulting rights, of Omar Khadr — a Canadian national detained by the United States on the battlefield in Afghanistan at the age of fifteen and subsequently incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay. The article focuses primarily on Khadr’s potential status as an “unlawful combatant” and as a child soldier. Acknowledging that there has been a great deal of scholarly debate surrounding these issues, it provides an overview of this debate through the lens of Khadr’s particular case. As the author observes, international law surrounding each aspect of Khadr’s status is far from clear. However, even accepting the existence of controversy and ambiguity surrounding Khadr’s status, the author argues that the United States and Canada have, seemingly, sought to exploit this ambiguity in order to justify disregard for his rights. The article concludes by observing that this approach is, in itself, contrary to the foundational principles of international humanitarian law.
Keywords: international law, international humanitarian law, child soldier, Omar Khadr
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