Guantanamo Bay closing… Bring Khadr home, Mr. Harper…

In one of his first orders of business, President Obama has ordered the closure of Guantanamo Bay.

However, Stephen Harper, who steadfastly refuses to face up to Canada’s responsibilities as a signatory of the United Nations Protocols dealing with Child Soldiers (despite the fact that Canada continues to follow the protocols in other nations when acting in a Peacekeeping role) and refuses to understand that Omar Khadr was a child soldier at the time that he was taken into custody. In fact, Canada was the first signatory of the Convention and the protocol dealing with Child Soldiers.

He was and continues to be not culpable for his actions in Iraq because he was a child soldier.

Canada and Harper know that, as a child soldier, like all other child soldiers Canada has dealt with in conflicts since it signed the Protocols, Khadr should have been removed from the conflict zone, rehabilitated and returned to Canada. Under international law, he was entitled to age-appropriate treatment, which should have barred his detention among adults, his prolonged periods of solitary confinement, and the countless, brutal interrogations of him.

Some sections of the protocol should be of interest to Mr. Harper:

Noting the adoption of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, in particular, the inclusion therein as a war crime, of conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15 years or using them to participate actively in hostilities in both international and non-international armed conflict,

Noting that article 1 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child specifies that, for the purposes of that Convention, a child means every human being below the age of 18 years unless, under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier,

Condemning with the gravest concern the recruitment, training and use within and across national borders of children in hostilities by armed groups distinct from the armed forces of a State, and recognizing the responsibility of those who recruit, train and use children in this regard,

1. Each State Party shall take all necessary legal, administrative and other measures to ensure the effective implementation and enforcement of the provisions of the present Protocol within its jurisdiction.

2. States Parties undertake to make the principles and provisions of the present Protocol widely known and promoted by appropriate means, to adults and children alike.

3. States Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that persons within their jurisdiction recruited or used in hostilities contrary to the present Protocol are demobilized or otherwise released from service. States Parties shall, when necessary, accord to such persons all appropriate assistance for their physical and psychological recovery and their social reintegration.

I am not sure what Mr. Harper thinks a child soldier is… Does he think because Khadr actually (allegedly) killed “one of the good guys” he doesn’t have the same rights as a child in Rwanda or Indonesia? Does he think that because Canada is an ally of the United States  (also a signatory, though with its usual “covering our asses” obfuscating exceptions, of the Protocol) and because the United States has abrogated its responsibilities under international law, Canada can just do the same? Does he think that because Khadr’s father took him to Iraq and assisted in indoctrinating him that Omar Khadr does not have the same rights as a child kidnapped and indoctrinated against his parents’ will?

Khadr was a child whose parent’s failed him. Now, he is an adult whose country is failing him.

It is time to bring him home.

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