Omar Khadr trial a travesty of justice, says Dallaire

The Guantanamo Bay trial of Omar Khadr was a perversion of justice that delivered a major blow to children’s rights, says Gen. Romeo Dallaire, an outspoken advocate for child soldiers.
And, worse, he says, Canada was a silent partner in the proceedings.
“The jury that delivered that 40-year sentence went overboard,” he said. “They seemed to be living in a bubble that had lost contact with the whole context of human rights.”
The decision, on a crime committed on the battlefield when Khadr was 15, was negated by a previously agreed plea bargain. Khadr, now 24, will serve one more year in U.S. custody, and diplomatic notes say Ottawa would “favorably consider” his transfer to Canada for the remainder of an eight-year sentence. In exchange, Khadr agreed to plead guilty to war crimes charges including murder.
But Dallaire, who witnessed the Rwanda genocide and has led an international campaign to eradicate the use of child soldiers, said that Canada had also “acquiesced” in the military trial — which denies normal rights of due process — “in response to the panic that 9/11 created.”
And he said, the trial has also damaged an optional protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which forbids the recruitment of children under 18.
“It’s affected the credibility of any Canadian or American who is arguing for the application (of the protocol), and I would extend that to anybody in the developed world who is trying to stop child soldiers from being treated in a less than fair way,” Dallaire said in an interview in Toronto, where he was launching his book, They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children. Last week he created a website called, appealing to youth worldwide to join the quest to end the use of children in war.
But he said that the Khadr trial could undermine progress, including the International Criminal Court’s ability to prosecute war criminals for recruiting child soldiers, some 250,000 of them now fighting worldwide, many forced into brutal militias where they are drugged, tortured and beaten into killing to order.
Dallaire, a Liberal senator, said he was introducing legislation “to change our criminal law, immigration law and security law in order to apply the conventions of the optional protocol that we signed 10 years ago but have not applied.”
But in the U.S., he added, President Barack Obama has also damaged the rights of child soldiers with a recent announcement that he would allow military aid to Yemen and three African countries that make substantial use of them in spite of a new law that was passed in Congress.
“We’ve never seen such setbacks in the advancement of the protocol,” Dallaire said.
But in spite of the disappointments, the struggle to end recruitment and rehabilitate surviving child soldiers is a long one, akin to the fight against slavery, he pointed out: in developing countries with young populations, hundreds of thousands forced into battle, and those who are demobbed are likely to end up as fighters in new and devastating wars.

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