‘Guantanamo-child’ Omar Khadr has been ordered by a Utah court to pay $134 million in damages to a US soldier and the wife of a deceased army sergeant.
Khadr, a Canadian citizen, pleaded guilty to throwing the grenade which killed Christopher Speer and injured Layne Morris, both US armed forces personnel, in Afghanistan in 2002. Now 28 years old, Khadr was only 15 at the time of the incident and his capture, which is why he became widely known as the ‘Guantanamo-child’.
His lawyers have argued that Khadr qualifies as a child soldier and did not join Al-Qaeda out of deliberate choice. His father is accused to have been a senior Al-Qaeda fighter.
Khadr’s 10-year imprisonment in the Guantanamo Bay detention facility has faced major criticism by human rights groups. In 2010, the then 23-year-old was transferred to a Canadian prison. He has been released on bail earlier this year.
The lawyer representing the plaintiffs, Laura Tanner, doubts any Canadian court will actually uphold the judgement, calling it “really more of a statement”.
Utah civil law states that children as young as five may be sued for damages. The damages in this case are so high because the amount is automatically tripled in the event of a “terrorism” offence.
Tanner considers this lawsuit “a victory for our clients to know that there is a regime in place to protect Americans from terrorism”, according to the Edmonton Journal.
Khadr has been convicted of war crimes in 2010, but his case is currently on appeal in the US. The Court of Appeals is likely to rule in Khadr’s favour. He has also launched a civil lawsuit against the Canadian government for wrongful imprisonment.
The young man was known to be a ‘model prisoner’ and was even classified as requiring minimum security towards the end of his detention. He is still under careful surveillance.
Khadr’s detention became especially controversial as a video surfaced in 2008, showing an interrogation by Canadian officials in which the young man cried for help, even begging to be killed.