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article imageCase Study: Child soldier, Omar Khadr - Were Rights Violated?

By KJ Mullins     Jul 7, 2007 in Crime
Have the basic rights of Omar Khadr been violated while he has been detained at Guantanamo Bay? Should he have been treated as a child soldier or as an adult by the rules of the International Red Cross.
The facts that are known of Omar's early life are he was born in Toronto in 1986 to two parents who believed being a martyr was the highest achievement a person could have. When Omar was two, the Khadrs left Toronto for Peshawar, Pakistan.
Four years later when his father almost died after stepping on a land mine the family returned to Toronto. Omar was seven at the time. Omar was the most gifted of the seven children in his family. At the age of seven he began memorizing the Koran in Arabic. At age nine he and his family returned to Peshawar. Shortly after the family's return terrorists led by Ayman al-Zawahiri suicide-bombed the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad.
The entire family was detained and his father whom Omar was very close to tortured. His father remained in prison after the family was released. When the family was finally allowed to visit him Omar saw his father crippled among murderers and armed robbers. His father went on a hunger strike and was hospitalized. Young Omar spent every night of that night sleeping on the concrete floor beneath his father's bed. That time period is said to have changed the polite young boy and he never recovered from the sights he saw.
After four months in prison with the help of the Canadian government his father was released. The family moved to Jalalabad, Afghanistan, to live with Osama bin Laden. Omar was either nine or ten when he was sent to military training camp.
After the 9/11 attackAbdurahman, who had become deeply disillusioned with Al Qaeda's killing of civilians, defected to Kabul, where he was taken prisoner by the Northern Alliance and handed over to the CIA. . Omar followed his father into the mountains instead and fought for Al Qaeda.
At the age of 15 Omar was captured in a compound near Khost after a gun battle in which he threw a grenade, which injured Sgt. Speer and led to his death. At that time Omar was shot three times. He was treated medically by U.S. medics.
He was sent to Guantánamo Bay. There were other child detainees incarcerated at the same time. They were not required to wear the orange coveralls. They were provided with school teachers, and recreation. Omar though was at all times treated as an adult.
Treatment of child soldiers under the age of eighteen according to the International Committee of the Red Cross detained children should always be housed separately from adult detainees, except where they are lodged with their families;
if the child is not freed and in the event of prolonged detention, the child should be transferred as soon as possible to an appropriate institution for minors; the child should have direct, regular and frequent contacts with his or her family; food, hygiene and medical care appropriate to the child’s age and general condition must be provided; the child should spend a large part of the day in the fresh air whenever possible; the child should be able to continue his or her schooling.
Since Omar has been imprisoned he has been treated as an adult. He has been tortured and held in solitary confinement. Some of the allegations of those tortures are:
Being short-shackled by his hands and feet to a bolt in the floor and left for five to six hours; occasionally a US officer would enter the room to laugh at him; being kept in extremely cold rooms; being lifted up by the neck while shackled, and then dropped to the floor; being beaten by guards; having a finger pressed into a pressure point in his neck, causing severe pain and inability to breathe. the lights were kept on 24 hours a day and detainees were punished for trying to cover the lights with their clothes; the air conditioning was kept on cold, which he says "destroyed his lungs"; he was routinely placed in isolation, sometimes for up to a month; he was only allowed exercise once every four or five days, and in 2005 went without exercise in daylight hours for several months.
There is no question that Omar should have been held. There is no question that he is trained to be a killer for a terrorist group. What lays in question is should at the age of 15 when he was detained should he have been treated as a child which is what he was. And since those rights were violated is that United States in violation of the rules of the International Red Cross? Decide for yourself.
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