Pretrial hearing set for Omar Khadr
Lawyers to seek child soldier ruling
Lawyers for Omar Khadr will ask the U.S. military to drop charges faced by the young Canadian as they attend a pretrial hearing at the Guantanamo Naval Base on Monday.
They have maintained that Khadr, the only Canadian being held at the military detention facility in Cuba, should go free because trying him for crimes he allegedly committed as a minor contravenes international law.
Khadr, 23, has been in custody at Guantanamo Bay since 2002. He was arrested at age 15, following a shootout in Afghanistan.
He is accused of murder in the death of American medic Sgt. First Class Christopher J. Speer. Khadr is also charged with spying, conspiracy and supporting terrorism.
Dennis Edney, Khadr's Canadian lawyer, told CBC Newsworld on Sunday that one of the pretrial motions will ask that Khadr be treated as a child soldier.
"Here he is, as alleged by the Americans, to be picked up in a battlefield, and therefore, why is he not being treated as a child soldier?: Edney said. "The Bush administration has refused to do so. We'll be asking the judge to consider the law that applies and make a ruling in that regard."
Kadhr's military defence team has 15 different motions prepared. Some essentially assert that the military commission process itself is illegitimate because it was set up by Congress at the urging of the Bush White House in 2006, four years after the alleged crimes were committed.
"Khadr's [U.S. military] lawyer, Lt.-Cmdr. Bill Kuebler, says that's a violation of a very entrenched legal principle: you can't pass a law, define crimes, and then retroactively go back and convict people," CBC journalist Bill Gillespie explained.
The defence team will also seek rulings, either Monday or on another day, on motions saying Khadr was 15 at the time of his arrest, and that under international law should be regarded as a child soldier.
Kuebler and other defence lawyers were expected to argue that the military commission doesn't have the jurisdiction to try a child, that they only have the jurisdiction to try adults, and therefore on those grounds, as well, the charges should be dismissed.
Groups want PM's intervention
Human rights groups say Prime Minister Stephen Harper should intervene in the case.
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, and Human Rights First are urging Harper to formally request that the United States either try Khadr under juvenile justice rules, or send him back to Canada.
Foreign policy analyst Christopher Sands, who is with the Hudson Institute in Washington — a public policy research group — said U.S. prosecutors are keen on reaching a resolution.
"After several hearings over whether his status was correct or not under U.S. law, whether he could be tried as a military combatant or had other conditions which should be applied, we've gone through a lot of this now over the last couple of years, and finally we're getting to the point where we may actually see a trial," Sands said.