On the eve of his long-awaited trial, Canadian citizen and Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr fired his American lawyers in protest. Captured at 15 and finally due to get a trial now at 23, it doesn’t seem like Khadr has much faith in the process and I can’t blame him. As the Globe & Mail reports, the one good thing to come out of the firing is the added symbolic significance it will give Khadr’s trial:
Mr. Khadr’s bombshell decision could leave the Obama administration putting a child soldier on trial in Guantanamo without any defence lawyers in a war-crimes case that has attracted international attention, not least because U.S. President Barack Obama failed to shut down Guantanamo as promised within his first year in office.
Chase Madar has a terrific piece in The American Conservative about Guantanamo generally and Khadr specifically. First, about Khadr:
But give our government credit for breaking new ground: no nation has tried a child soldier for war crimes since World War II, and the decision to prosecute Khadr has drawn protests from UNICEF, headed by a former U.S. national security adviser, as well as every major human-rights group. The audacity doesn’t stop there: charges against Khadr include “murder in violation of the rules of war,” a newly minted war crime novel to the history of armed conflict. Battlefield deaths do not usually result in murder trials for prisoners of war. But according to the Department of Defense, Omar Khadr is no POW. He’s a non-uniformed, “unprivileged belligerent.” In the euphemistic lingo of Gitmo, Khadr is not even a prisoner, just a “detainee” who has been awaiting trial for the past eight years.
Wow. And we call other countries rogue states.
But surely at least the military prosecutors support what’s going on:
One might expect that a legal system thus rigged would greatly appeal to its prosecutors. Until now, one would be wrong. Half a dozen prosecutors have quit the commissions in disgust, most with blistering criticisms on their way out. Col. Morris Davis, former chief prosecutor of the commissions until October 2007, said that constant political pressure made full, fair, and open trials impossible: “What we are doing at Guantánamo is neither military nor justice.”
No less scathing is Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, formerly lead prosecutor in another commissions case against a child soldier—a case that collapsed midway through, with the government dropping all charges. “It would be foolish to expect anything to come out of Guantánamo except decades of failure. There will be no justice there, and Obama has proved to be an almost unmitigated disaster,” he told me. After resigning from the commissions as a matter of ethical principle, Vandeveld was punished with a mandatory psychiatric evaluation and gratuitous hearings into his fitness for remaining in the Army, even though he had only four months remaining in his term of service. Vandeveld, who has deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Bosnia, doubts very much that any more prosecutors will resign after his highly visible reprimand.
Did you notice how they did a psych-eval on Vandeveld? The Soviet Union used to love using punitive psychiatry against dissidents. But ours is a righteous nation!
At least Khadr has been charged and is about to get a trial. That’s more than the Briton Babar Ahmad can say. The U.S. called for his arrest in 2004, but it’s the UK that has held him ever since with neither charge nor trial. So much for habeas corpus. The Independent has an interview with him today. As an added bonus, he was tortured, too:
How were you tortured in the UK?
On 2 December 2003, I was arrested in a pre-dawn raid by anti-terrorist police officers at my home in Tooting. During my arrest and subsequent journey to the police station, the officers subjected me to a “serious, prolonged and gratuitous attack” and “grave abuse tantamount to torture”, which left me with at least 73 physical injuries including bleeding in my ears and urine. I was held in custody for six days during which my home and office were searched, computers seized and analysed and I was questioned. On 8 December 2003 I was released without charge, after the CPS determined that there was no evidence to charge me with any criminal offence whatsoever. I believe that part of this decision was based on the fact that any future criminal trial would air embarrassing details of the abuse inflicted on me at my arrest.
We can’t keep doing this. At some point, getting back to the Constitution will become impossible.