Omar Khadr, the Canadian detainee who has been in lock down at Guantanamo since he was 15 years old is set to be arraigned this Thursday.
His arraignment will be the first military commission hearing since a military appeals court found they had the right to assign the label “unlawful enemy combatants” to detainees last June. A military judge is set to determine whether or not Khadr is in fact an “unlawful enemy combatant” who can be tried by military commissions. This designation is important becuase under the 2006 Military Commissions Act, military commissions at Guantanamo can only prosecute detainees classified as such.
For those not familiar with Omar Khadr’s case read Jeff Tietz’s The Unending Torture of Omar Khadr in Rolling Stone last year.
Yesterday, Human Rights Watch announced that the US makeshift Military Commissions rules were unfair and that the trial of Omar Khadr should be transferred to Federal Court. Read the full statement here.
Jennifer Daskal, senior counterterrorism counsel at Human Rights Watch said “Once again, the military commissions are concocting rules that are fundamentally unfair. It’s time for the Bush administration to recognize that its legal experiment has failed.” The Human Rights Watch news item also raised issue with the US government for turning a blind eye to Khadr’s juvenile status in detaining and trying him as an adult.
I am sure many saw the report in Sunday’s New York Times, which revealed that senior Pentagon officials are considering a proposal that would allow detainees the right to legal representation at preliminary hearings to determine if they are enemy combatants (as of right now, Khadr’s lawyers have been banned from representing him at Thursday’s arraignment.)
The plan would also authorize federal civilian judges to decide the detainees’ legal status, instead of US military officers, officials told the New York Times. These policy shifts are part of a larger administration debate over closing Guantanamo and transferring the current prisoners to the US.
Unfortunately any changes made would be too late for Khadr who has spent his entire adolescence in solitary confinement at Guantanamo. Surprisingly, the Canadian government has taken a “hands off approach” to Khadr’s case and has been relatively silent on US policy at Guantanamo in general.
— Jennifer Buntman