UNICEF chief condemns trial of Guantanano Bay detainee

27th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

UNICEF chief Anthony Lake warned Thursday that the prosecution of a young Canadian Guantanamo Bay detainee could set a "dangerous international precedent" for children forced into armed conflicts.

"The recruitment and use of children in hostilities is a war crime, and those who are responsible -- the adult recruiters -- should be prosecuted," said Lake in a statement.

"The children involved are victims, acting under coercion.

"Former child soldiers need assistance for rehabilitation and reintegration into their communities, not condemnation or prosecution," he added.

Omar Khadr was taken prisoner in Afghanistan when he was just 15 years old in 2002. He was charged with war crimes for allegedly throwing a grenade that killed a US soldier.

The last Westerner at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Khadr, now 23, is the first detainee to have his case heard since the controversial system for trying "war on terror" suspects was reformed under President Barack Obama.

"The prosecution of Omar Khadr may set a dangerous international precedent for other children who are victims of recruitment in armed conflicts," said Lake.

The UNICEF executive director also pointed out that those prosecuted for crimes committed as a minor should be given special protections.

"Omar Khadr should not be prosecuted by a tribunal that is neither equipped nor required to provide these protections and meet these standards," he said.

Khadr has denied throwing the grenade that killed the soldier.

The Canadian government has steadfastly refused to seek his repatriation, saying it preferred to allow the US proceedings to run their course, despite pressure from opposition parties and rights groups.

© 2010 AFP

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