PARIS (AFP) — France on Wednesday urged the United States to drop charges against a young Canadian held at Guantanamo Bay as a terror suspect, arguing that he was recruited by extremists as a child.
Omar Khadr was 15 when he was seized in Afghanistan in 2002 on suspicion of belonging to the Al-Qaeda terror network. He is charged with killing a US soldier with a grenade when he was being arrested.
"We consider that any child associated with an armed conflict is a victim and should be treated as such," French foreign ministry spokeswoman Pascale Andreani told reporters.
"As a minor at the time of the events, Mr Khadr must therefore be given a special treatment, a point on which there is a universal consensus."
Suspected "enemy combatants" held in the Guantanamo enclave in southern Cuba are tried not in regular US courts, but special military tribunals.
The military judge handling the case dismissed all charges against Khadr in June on grounds that his designation as an "enemy combatant" did not meet the standard required for trial by military commission.
But a military review court rejected the ruling on October 2, and a new hearing is due at the Guantanamo naval base on February 4.
Defence lawyers, backed by Canadian parliamentarians and law experts, are calling for the charges against Khadr to be dropped on the grounds that he was recruited by Al-Qaeda as a minor.
Former French justice minister Robert Badinter argued in a briefing submitted along with the appeal that he was probably recruited by extremists as young as 11, and should be considered a child soldier.
"The crimes committed by these children are the direct consequence of their illegal recruitment, and often the product of physical and psychological treatment which diminishes their ability to judge right and wrong," he wrote.
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