For Immediate Release
Robyn Shepherd, (212) 519-7829 or 549-2666; firstname.lastname@example.org
Canadian Supreme Court Finds Guantánamo Detainee's Rights Were Violated
ACLU Calls On U.S. To Reverse Decision To Try Omar Khadr, Captured At 15, Before Military Commission
NEW YORK - The
Canadian Supreme Court today found that the rights of Omar Khadr, a
Canadian citizen who was captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan in 2002
when he was 15, were violated during his interrogation and detention in
Guantánamo Bay. The American Civil Liberties Union pointed to the
decision as affirmation that the U.S. should reverse its decision to
try Khadr before a military commission and should repatriate him to his
home country for rehabilitation.
"This decision underscores the need
for the U.S. to reverse its decision to prosecute Omar Khadr before an
illegal military commission," said Jamil Dakwar, Director of the ACLU
Human Rights Program. "As a teenager, Omar Khadr was subjected to
abusive interrogations and sleep deprivation by U.S. officials without
access to court or counsel, and with no regard for his status as a
juvenile. It is encouraging that the Canadian justice system has found
that this is no way to treat youth in detention, and recognized that
Omar Khadr's rights continue to be violated. Omar Khadr should be sent
back to Canada where he can be rehabilitated or, if there is evidence
enough to prosecute him in the U.S., he should be charged and tried in
a federal court."
Omar Khadr was captured in
Afghanistan in 2002 and was accused of throwing a grenade that killed
an Army medic in Afghanistan, a charge he has denied. Today's decision
by the Canadian Supreme Court found that Canadian officials
participated in the violation of his rights, but stopped short of
ordering the Canadian government to seek his repatriation from the U.S.
The Court did award Khadr legal costs and left the decision as to how
to respond up to the Canadian government.
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The U.N. Optional Protocol on the
Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, which the U.S. ratified in
2002, obligates the U.S. to ensure special safeguards for children
under 18 who are taken into U.S. custody. This week, the U.S.
government issued a report in response to the U.N. Committee on the
Rights of the Child, which had criticized U.S. non-compliance with the
protocol with respect to the detention and treatment of juveniles in
U.S. military custody abroad. The U.S. report did not adequately
address the fact that current policy fails to take into account
obligations of the Optional Protocol, especially regarding U.S.
prosecution of suspected child soldiers before a military commission.
According to the report, as of December 2009 only five juveniles remain
in U.S. military custody in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"The U.S. is bound by international
law to consider the age of prisoners when they are captured and to give
juveniles certain protections regarding their treatment, detention and
prosecution," said Jennifer Turner, human rights researcher with the
ACLU Human Rights Program. "Canada has found that Omar Khadr, who has
spent a third of his life in Guantánamo, was denied these basic rights.
The U.S. must finally grant him the rights he has been denied for so
long, and enact comprehensive policies regarding the treatment of
juveniles still in detention so that no child has to grow up in a
military prison ever again."
The Canadian Supreme Court's decision can be found here: scc.lexum.umontreal.ca/en/
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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.