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The Invisible Truth: Guatanamo Bay: The Political black hole

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Monday, January 02, 2006

Guatanamo Bay: The Political black hole

Canadian citizen Omar Khadr has been detained in Guatanamo Bay since 2002, when he was captured in Afghanistan. He has been held incommunicado by officials there under the dictates of the Patriot Act, and he has recently been charged with murder in the death of an American soldier in Afghanistan. In custody, he has endured torture; they have bound his hands and ankles in various painful positions for hours at a time, and at times they have not allowed him bathroom visits, resulting in him urinating all over himself. At one point, they used his torso, with his hands and ankles bound to each other behind his back, as a mop for his own urine.

When he was captured, he was fifteen years old. As such, the United States contravened international law that states that child soldiers captured in war should be held in protective custody and treated as victims of war rather than its criminals. He does not even necessarily know the charges that the United States has brought against him, and he has been denied due process, including access to legal counsel. In Afghanistan, he was fighting on behalf of the Taliban regime, and some accounts have reported that he threw the grenade that resulted in the death of Sergeant Christopher Speer. As awful as that may be, the United States cannot charge him with murder as he was fighting as a soldier, who are exempt from charges of murder in times of war. They are attempting to revoke his soldierly "privilege" of killing.

Although they originally sought the death penalty in the case, the United States wisely heeded the international pressure mounting against such punitive measures. But beyond this, they must allow him to have access to legal counsel so he can mount an appropriate defense if they intend to revoke his soldier status and charge him with murder. Furthermore, they must be held accountable for their breach of international law in the capture of a child soldier and the subsequent illegal forms of torture as pertaining to the Geneva Convention on Universal Human Rights.

Actions such as this certainly give fodder to Islamic Fundamentalists and their anti-Western fire, in addition to such grievous inequities as Iraq's situation of paying reparations for the first gulf war while enduring an occupation by one of the nations to which it pays reparations. The situation in Iraq merits a multicultural UN peacekeeping force, not an occupation by a hostile superpower.

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