Former war crimes prosecutor joins push for Canadian’s release

The former U.S. prosecutor for Sierra Leone’s war crimes trials has joined those now pushing for Canadian Omar Khadr’s release and rehabilitation.

In an interview with the Toronto Star, David Crane questioned how the U.S. and Canada could be sympathetic to the plight of Africa’s child soldiers who are forced to commit atrocious crimes but not Khadr, who was 15 when he was captured in Afghanistan.

“This is the first time in history that a child has been prosecuted for war crimes,” said Crane.


Crane, now a professor at Syracuse University College of Law, said he believes Canada’s international reputation as a protector of human rights has been tarnished by its support of the Pentagon’s prosecution of Khadr.

Khadr’s lawyers are now preparing a motion asking the charges against Khadr be dismissed since his prosecution would violate international law protecting child soldiers. Navy Lt.-Cmdr. Bill Kuebler said he expects to file the motion to Guantanamo judge Col. Peter Brownback as early as Friday.

Toronto-born Khadr is the second youngest son of Ahmed Said Khadr, who was killed by Pakistani forces in October 2003.

He was raised with his siblings in Canada, Pakistan and Afghanistan, where his father had a close association with Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda’s ideologue, Ayman al Zawahiri. After the 9/11 attacks, the family fled to the area between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Khadr was shot and captured in Afghanistan on July 27, 2002, after a firefight during which Delta Force soldier Christopher Speer was fatally wounded by a grenade the Pentagon alleges Khadr threw.

The question the military judge will be asked to answer is whether international law permits the prosecution of someone for war crimes who was under the age of 18 at the time of the alleged offences.

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