On Wednesday Radhika Coomaraswamy, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict called for Omar Khadr to be released into Canadian custody.
Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen, is the last remaining child soldier at Guantanamo Bay.
Omar Khadr was only 15 when he was captured and arrested in Afghanistan eight years ago. During the past seven years he has been held at Gitmo, often in solitary confinement.
The United Nations is voicing concern that his case has been brought to trial under a United States military commission and that he has been charged with war crimes. Coomaraswamy is urging both the United States and Canada to treat Khadr as a child soldier and take the measures needed to rehabilitate him.
Children under the age of 18 are not to take part in direct combat according to the Optional Protocol. They are also entitled to special protection and so any voluntary recruitment under the age of 18 must include sufficient safeguards.
“Like other children abused by armed groups around the world who are repatriated to their home communities and undergo re-education for their reintegration, Omar should be given the same protections afforded these children,” she emphasized.
“Trying young people for war crimes with regard to acts committed when they are minors could create a dangerous international precedent,” the official warned.