Omar Khadr was given what the New York Times calls a “symbolic term” by the military commission at Guantánamo Bay late Sunday, October 31. Khadr, now 24 years old, was brought to Guantánamo Bay in 2001 when he was 15 for engaging in firefight in Afghanistan during the initial US invasion. Khadr plead guilty to the five charges brought against him by the United States.
Although prosecutors asked for a sentence of 25 years, the panel instead decided on a 40-year term. After the official sentence was announced, the judge disclosed that Mr. Khadr’s plea agreement had capped the time he would serve at eight years.
Charlie Savage of the New York Times calls Khadr’s sentencing “symbolic” largely because he can be transferred to a Canadian jail after one year served in the United States, where he will be eligible for parole in 2 years and 8 months. Savage does not take into account time served while detained without being charged—as a juvenile—in his assessment of Khadr’s sentencing. Khadr has been illegally and excessively punished for his crimes. Criticisms of his “lax sentencing” do not take into account the human rights violations perpetrated against Khadr during his detention by the US military. Human Rights First explains:
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and international juvenile justice standards require prompt determination of juvenile cases and discourage detainment of juveniles at all except as a last resort. Such standards have not been heeded by the U.S. government in the case of Khadr. Khadr was held for two years prior to being given access to an attorney, waited more than three years prior to being charged before the first military commission, and is now in his eighth year in U.S. custody. During Khadr’s time in detainment, he has been held both in solitary confinement as well as with adult detainees, contrary to international standards requiring that children be treated in accordance with their age and segregated from adult detainees. Khadr also claims he was subjected to abusive interrogation practices in violation of U.S. humane treatment standards, including Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, and other binding prohibitions against torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.
Khadr is one of just a handful of Guantánamo Bay detainees that has been charged with any crime.