Remember Omar Khadr? He’s the Canadian citizen held at Guantanamo Bay, captured in Afghanistan at the age of 15 after allegedly throwing a grenade at American troops. Only by all accounts, he’s innocent. He has never been offered the protections of the international agreements set up for child soldiers.
Yesterday brought us some major news in the case of another child soldier, Mahamed Jawad. Jawad was captured in Afghanistan when he was 16 or 17 for allegedly throwing a grenade and wounding two US soldiers and an Afghani interpreter. On September 24, the prosecutor assigned to Jawad’s case, Lt Col Darrel Vandeveld resigned from the case. An article in the Washington Post quotes from Lt Col Vandeveld’s filing with the military court:
My ethical qualms about continuing to serve as a prosecutor relate primarily to the procedures for affording defense counsel discovery. I am highly concerned, to the point that I believe I can no longer serve as a prosecutor at the Commissions, about the slipshod, uncertain ‘procedure’ for affording defense counsel discovery.
As in Khadr’s case, there are significant questions surrounding Jawad’s guilt and, as mentioned, the US did not take any steps to protect Jawad as a child soldier. Vandeveld was trying to ensure that the questions in Jawad’s case, including whether or not Jawad was drugged before the attack and the alleged confession of two other Afghanis, were investigated. He was also trying to ensure that Jawad was offered rehabilitation, as guaranteed under international agreements on the treatment of child soldiers.
Both of these young men have been at Guantanamo Bay for startling long times: Khadr for 7 years and Jawad for 5. Both have been held without legitimate trials. For histories and updates on both these cases, visit Andy Worthington’s outstanding work.