A Reality Check on the Homecoming of Omar Khadr

Just a little reality check for those who are raising the banner of Child Soldiers on the occasion of Omar Khadr’s return to Canada:

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child reads in Article 38.2:

States Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that persons who have not attained the age of fifteen years do not take a direct part in hostilities.

As much as I dislike the very idea of the prison at Guantanamo Bay; as much as I abhor the very idea of incarcerating a fifteen year old; as much as I may doubt the evidence against Mr. Khadr; as much as I may question the legal proceedings the U.S. used against the detainees in their “War on Terror”; as much as I disagree with virtually every action and position of Canada’s Government of the Day; as much as I feel that Mr. Khadr should have been brought back to Canada long ago; and as much as I value the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child . . .

In the end, on that day when Omar Khadr was captured by those U.S. soldiers, he had passed his fifteenth birthday.  Whatever he was doing in that compound, whether or not he was a soldier, the very clear fact is that under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, he was definitely no longer a child soldier.




(Update, October 1, 2012:  I don’t think I made things completely clear in the original post, at least partly because things in the real world are not completely clear.  But, to be a little more clear about my position, I think the definition of Child Soldier in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child must be changed so that all children under the age of eighteen are considered Child Soldiers if they take part in armed conflict.  I would also argue that the definition should make clear that adult soldiers who were recruited as children should be considered by States Party as Child Soldiers entitled to protection and rehabilitation under the Convention.  I fondly wish that Mr. Khadr had been brought home to Canada and the care of Canadian youth justice and child welfare agencies immediately after his capture, removing him from the Islamist influences of both his family and other Guantanamo inmates. Sadly, this did not happen.  The fact is that Mr. Khadr, for better or worse, has had to be an adult since he was taken into the Al-Qaeda organization. I think it naive at best and manipulative [and unhelpful to Mr. Khadr] at worst to continue raising the canard of Child Soldier in his case.  As a friend pointed out to me, the US does not subscribe to the Convention anyway.  His family, Al Qaeda, and the US military and government have all considered him an adult as long as they’ve thought about him.  If any benefit to the world can come from Mr. Khadr’s case, it will come from an extension of the definition of Child Soldier in the Convention to include 15, 16 and 17 year olds, but this will not legally benefit Mr. Khadr.)

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