Omar Khadr's Legal Odyssey: The Erasure of Child Soldier as a Legal Category
21 Pages Posted: 5 Jun 2018
Date Written: 2018
This article focuses on the case of Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen who was captured by American forces at the age of 15. It discusses Khadr’s status as a child soldier, and provides a comprehensive background on what such a status means under international law with respect to his culpability in committing war crimes. The article analyzes how this legal category was presented in the legal discourse by examining primary source documents from the legal proceedings, including but not limited to the initial “charge sheet,” classified WikiLeaks documents, motions to the Military Commission, oral hearings, Military Commission rulings, and the plea agreement. The article argues that despite widespread calls by international human rights advocates to focus on Khadr’s age in conducting his prosecution, the U.S. government, and at times the Military Commission, undermined Khadr’s status as a child, and the accompanying rights such a legal status entails under international law. Although the U.S. made a compelling legal argument that Khadr’s trial was not prohibited under international law, it used extra-legal rhetoric to avoid abiding by its international legal obligations with respect to the detention of Khadr.
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