International Issues International Politics Juvenile Justice Pakistan

Should Children Be Tried for War Crimes?


Omar Khadr is the youngest detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
He was 15 when he allegedly threw a grenade that killed a U.S. Special Forces medic in Afghanistan.

Wednesday’s Washington Post has the story:

…The struggle against al-Qaeda has thrown up few detainees with as baleful and unlikely a background as Khadr’s — a father who moved his family to Afghanistan and inside Osama bin Laden’s circle of intimates when Omar was 10; a mother and sister who said the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were deserved; and a brother, the black sheep of the clan, who said he became a CIA asset after his capture in Afghanistan.

This background has convinced U.N. officials, human rights advocates and defense lawyers that Khadr, a Canadian citizen, was an indoctrinated child soldier and, in line with international practice in other conflicts, should be rehabilitated, not prosecuted.

Here also is a 2007 60 Minutes segment on Omar Khadr, who Bob Simon reminds is us theonly person in modern history to be charged for war crimes he allegedly committed while a minor.

This is a no brainer. What is Eric Holder thinking?


  • When you say it’s a “no-brainer,” what exactly do you mean? What should be done with him? He killed a special forces medic. You speak of the killer’s “baleful” life, but I’m willing to bet life if pretty baleful these days for the family of the murdered medic. So would you just turn the killer loose? Free to murder again?

  • We need to be careful not to condemn the child before he’s even been convicted of a crime. The story says he allegedly threw a grenade.

    Assuming that he is guilty, our own criminal justice system has a history of imprisoning young teenagers to life in prison without parole. I disagree with this. Teenagers are still very impressionable and swayed by their different social groups, in this case, it looks like his family.

    If he were an American citizen, I would argue to focus should be on rehabilitation, which would involve some incarceration. But, this boy is an Afghani. He is technically then a prisoner of war and should be treated as such. (Although, I have no idea what the laws are regarding minor POWs.) Either way, I don’t think the throwing of a grenade constitutes a war crime.

  • Yeah Ryan he “allegedly” threw a grenade according to what was written. Since this is a “social justice” left leaning website sometimes you have to dig to find out the truth if it doesn’t fit the feelings of Celeste who in my opinion is way to naive in matters like this. This is from that Washington Post story.

    On July 27, 2002, U.S. Special Forces working with Afghan troops surrounded a compound in a village in eastern Afghanistan. When those inside refused to surrender — and opened fire, killing two Afghan soldiers — Apache attack helicopters, A-10 Warthog fighter jets and, finally, two F-18 jets unleashed their arsenals, reducing the hideout to rubble.

    When the dust settled, American forces approached the ruined compound, only to be blasted by a grenade thrown by someone inside. Delta Force 1st Sgt. Christopher Speer, a father of two, would die more than a week later at a military hospital in Germany. Another Special Forces soldier, Sgt. Layne Morris, was blinded in one eye by another grenade.

    Inside the compound was one survivor, Khadr, who had been shot twice in the chest.

    So after the grenade is thrown one soldier dies and one is left blinded. The only person alive in the rubble of the hideout is Khadr. Now unless one of the dead sprung back to life as a zombie, only Khadr could have thrown that grenade.

    Alleged my ass, and this is no child this is an enemy combatant. The enemy has used actual children, women, the disabled and the elderly to do their dirty work because they are cowards.

    With his family background it isn’t surprising he was willing to kill our soldiers and at 15 he knew the difference between right and wrong.

  • In answer to Winny’s question, I would try him in a U.S. criminal court for murder.

    As conservatives David Keene of the American Conservative Union, Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform and Bob Barr, a former Georgia Republican congressman and Libertarian Party presidential candidate put it: “Over the last two decades, federal courts constituted under Article III of the U.S. Constitution have proven capable of trying a wide array of terrorism cases, without sacrificing either national security or fair trial standard…The scaremongering about these issues should stop.”

    Of course, they were talking about Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

    So surely the U.S. federal courts can handle a young man who was fourteen when he allegedly committed the crime of which is his accused.

    (And, yes, we say alleged or the equivalent until he’s actually convicted.)

    As to whether he should be tried as an adult or not is another question.

    My feeling in general is that if we don’t feel 14-year-olds are old enough to drink, vote, have sex with an adult or enter into contractual arrangements, we don’t get to decide they’re old enough to answer as an adult in criminal court.

    I do, however, think there are some exceptions to this general rule.

    PS: Winny, I didn’t write about the guy’s “baleful life.” The NY Times Adam Liptak did. I don’t know enough about the kid’s life to opine. Please differential between what I write and what I simply clips of others’ work.

  • Sorry for attributing the “baleful life” quote to you; in my haste to post, I was sloppy. I should have written, “You cite with what I take to be approval” the assertion that the murderer’s childhood was baleful. (As if that matters.)

    What you DO say, however, is that we should try the killer in a US civilian court. Why on earth should we do that, Celeste? I concede that sometimes in this war on terror, the line that denotes the “battlefield” can be hard to discern (particularly for the likes of Eric Holder and his credulous boss). But surely that line should be easy to see here, inasmuch as this killer was captured on a….you know, BATTLEFIELD–helicopters, F-18s, bombs, gunfire. And yet you would have us fly him from eastern Afghanistan to, what, the southern district of New York? Dade County, Florida? Oxnard? Read him his Miranda rights, lawyer him up at taxpayer expense, give him a six-month trial in one of our already clogged civilian courts, so that he can assert rights guaranteed to Americans but not to him as he uses this forum to defend the killing of a MEDIC, a father of two, who was coming to his aid.

    Maybe he could then open a bakery, give speeches about his rehabilitation.

  • He is an unlawful combatant and should be treated as such. He clearly should NOT be tried in US court – his crime did not take place in the US; he is not a US citizen; his crime took place on the battlefield.

    His age would be a mitigating factor.

    Until the cessation of hostilities (which only his allies can do), he should be held (presuming he isn’t executed, which in this case would be, so to speak, over-kill).

  • By the way Celeste, my comments on your opinions are swipes at them, not at you personally.

    IMHO you’re too nice for your own good and I truly hope your trusting nature doesn’t bite you too hard in the ass someday.

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