Background Briefing


On June, 4, Omar Khadr, a Canadian national, will be charged before a US military commission for allegedly killing an American soldier in Afghanistan in 2002.  At the time, Khadr was just 15 years old.

The United States accuses Khadr of murder and attempted murder in violation of the laws of war, conspiracy, providing material support for terrorism, and spying.  Now 20, Khadr has been in US detention for nearly five years. Despite his age at the time of the alleged offenses, the United States has refused to acknowledge his status as a minor, or to apply universally recognized standards of juvenile justice in his case.

The US alleges that at age 10, Khadr’s father took him to meet al-Qaeda leaders, that in the summer of 2002, at age 15, he was sent to receive military training from al-Qaeda, and ended up on a battlefield soon thereafter. He was captured on July 27, 2002, after a firefight in Afghanistan that resulted in the death of US Army Sergeant First Class Christopher Speer as well as injuries to other soldiers.

Khadr, who was also severely wounded in the firefight, was initially detained at the US air base in Bagram, Afghanistan. In November 2002, he was transferred to Guantanamo Bay, where he was declared an “unlawful enemy combatant,” housed with adult detainees and subjected to repeated interrogations.