Guantanamo’s youngest detainee was transferred back to his native Canada early Saturday morning, effectively ending one of the most controversial detentions at the Pentagon’s camp in Cuba. Omar Khadr, 26, was just 15 when he was captured near death in war-torn Afghanistan in 2002. In addition to being the youngest detainee, Khadr was also the last Western captive, points out the Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg. Now the Pentagon is holding 166 detainees at Guantanamo.
Khadr pleaded guilty in 2010 to killing a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan and was then eligible to return to Canada last October under terms of a plea deal, reports the Associated Press. Upon landing in Canada, Khadr was taken to an assessment unit at a prison in Bath, Ontario, a customary practice for those entering Canada’s penitentiary system, reports the Toronto Star. Khadr should be eligible for parole as early as spring of next year.
Khadr’s detention was one of the most famous and notorious outside Gitmo because many insisted that due to his young age he should have been rehabilitated rather than imprisoned.
“Khadr never should have been brought to Guantanamo. He was a child of fifteen at the time he was captured, and his subsequent detention and prosecution for purported war crimes was unlawful, as was his torture by U.S. officials,” New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights Legal Director Baher Azmy wrote in a statement.
Now there’s optimism that Khadr’s transfer could help encourage other detainees to plead guilty, points out Rosenberg.