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Verdict, 31 Oct 2010, Military Commission, United States

Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen, was 15 years old when he was captured and seriously injured in a firefight in Afghanistan on 27 July 2002. The US accused Khadr of throwing a grenade that killed US Army Sergeant First Class Christopher Speer and injured two others. He was charged with murder and attempted murder, conspiracy to commit terrorism, providing support for terrorism, and spying.

On 25 October 2010, Khadr pleaded guilty to murder and attempted murder in violation of the laws of war, conspiracy to commit terrorism, providing support for terrorism, and spying, and was sentenced to eight years of imprisonment.

In spite of Khadr's young age at the time of his capture, the United States imprisoned him together with adults.

Khadr was the first person since World War II to be prosecuted in a military commission for war crimes committed while still a minor. His conviction and sentence were widely denounced by civil rights groups and various newspaper editorials. He has been frequently referred to as a child soldier.


Reasons for Judgement, 6 Apr 2000, International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Tanzania

When Rwandan President Habyariamana was killed on 6 April 1994, it reignited ethnic tensions in Rwanda between the Hutu and Tutsi populations, which had earlier in the same decade culminated in a bloody civil war.

Omar Serushago was the de facto leader of the civilian Interahamwe militia, one of the primary perpetrators of the crimes committed against Tutsis and moderate Hutus in the genocide of 1994. In his official capacity, Serushago led a group of militiamen in raids against Tutsis seeking refuge in parish churches, on commercial property, in bishop’s houses, and even those who were detained in the Gendarmerie station jail. Tutsis would then be summarily executed, some personally at the hands of Serushago. Having pleaded guilty to one count of genocide and three counts of crimes against humanity (assassination, extermination and torture), Serushago was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment by the Trial Chamber. By a decision of 14 February 2000, the Appeals Chamber dismissed Serushago’s arguments that the sentence against him was excessively long. The present decision contains the reasons of the Appeals Chamber for having reached this conclusion. 


Ruling on Defense Motion for Dismissal Due to Lack of Jurisdiction Under the MCA in Regard to Juvenile Crimes of a Child Soldier, 30 Apr 2008, Military Commission, United States

Omar Ahmed Khadr was 15 years old when he was captured by United States forces in Pakistan in 2003 and transferred to detention at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. His first trial before a military commission was due to proceed until the United States Supreme Court ruled that such commissions were unlawful. Following Congress’ enactment of the 2006 Military Commissions Act, Khadr was again charged and due to stand trial before the new military commissions for conspiracy, murder, attempted murder, spying and material support for terrorism for his alleged involvement with Al Qaeda.

The present decision is the result of a motion by lawyers for Khadr attempting to halt the proceedings by arguing that the military commissions have no jurisdiction to try child soldiers. The motion was rejected by the Judge on the grounds that nothing in customary international law or international treaties, or indeed in the text of the Military Commissions Act bars proceedings against child soldiers for violations of the laws of war. This decision paved the way for Khadr’s trial to begin in October 2010. It concluded following a plea arrangement in which Khadr pleaded guilty to the charges and received an 8-year sentence. He has recently been transferred to his native Canada to carry out the remainder of his sentence. 

Bignone (Campo de Mayo)

Appeals Decision, 7 Dec 2012, Federal Chamber of Criminal Appeals (Cámara Federal de Casación Penal), Argentina

Reynaldo Bignone, born in 1928, was the de facto president of Argentina from 1982 to 1983 and the last dictator to hold power in the country. As such, he was appointed by the military junta and sought to impose amnesty laws for perpetrators of gross human rights violations before transferring power to the democratically elected Raul Alfonsin. Nevertheless, in 2005 the Argentinean Supreme Court overturned these amnesties and opened the way for prosecutions of those involved in the country’s 1976-1983 “Dirty War”. Since then, Reynaldo Bignone was charged and convicted of crimes against humanity in several trials on the basis of his involvement in the Dirty War. 

In the current appeals case, the sentence of 25 years’ imprisonment for his involvement in 56 cases of murder, torture, deprivation of liberty and illegal break-ins was affirmed. The prison sentences of 17-25 years, received by five other accused, were also affirmed except for one acquittal. 

Juicio a las Juntas Militares

Sentencia y fallo, 9 Dec 1985, National Criminal Court of Appeals, Argentina

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