Skip to main content

Acourtroom drawing of Toronto-born Omar Khadr by artist Janet Hamlin.


It was almost exactly eight years ago when a firefight broke out as U.S. forces approached a mud-walled compound in eastern Afghanistan. When the dust settled, a Green Beret was mortally wounded and four other U.S. soldiers had sustained injuries. Beneath the rubble, next to a dead body, lay Omar Khadr, a Toronto-born 15-year-old, blinded by shrapnel and bleeding from bullet wounds to his chest and shoulder. He was taken into custody and transferred to the U.S. detention centre at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, accused of lobbing the grenade that killed the U.S. soldier.

All these years later, it looks as though Mr. Khadr, now 23, will have his day in court, starting on Aug. 10, before a U.S. military commission. The precedent-setting case will be the first war-crimes trial for the Obama administration, and it will involve a defendant considered by many to have been a child soldier, deserving special protection because of his age.

Key players, including the Harper government, Canada's top court, the Obama administration and Mr. Khadr himself, have all made important moves recently that could help to shape his future. Here is a look at the latest developments:

Story continues below advertisement

January, 2009 U.S. President Barack Obama promises to close the Guantanamo Bay detention centre within a year.

January, 2010 The Guantanamo Bay detention centre remains open, and Omar Khadr is the only remaining Westerner held among nearly 200 detainees. (There are 180 now.) David Hicks, known as the Australian Taliban, was repatriated in 2007. Detainees have been released to several other Western nations, including Denmark, France, Germany, Russia, Spain, Sweden and Britain.

Jan. 29, 2010 The Supreme Court of Canada rules that Canada has violated Mr. Khadr's rights by taking part in illegal interrogation methods, including sleep deprivation. But it says the federal government must be given an opportunity to rectify the situation.

Feb. 16, 2010 Ottawa announces it has delivered a diplomatic note to the United States in response to the Supreme Court ruling. The note asks the U.S. not to use Canadian-collected evidence in prosecutions against Mr. Khadr, a gesture observers call "inadequate and invalid."

April, 2010 The senior U.S. special forces officer in charge of the assault in Afghanistan where Mr. Khadr was captured testifies that he was only trying to set the record straight when he changed his report of these events after the fact. He initially wrote that the person who threw the grenade was killed himself. The military official changed that report some time later to indicate that the thrower of the grenade had survived. Mr. Khadr's lawyer claimed the changed report was evidence that the "government manufactured evidence to make it look like Omar was guilty."

May, 2010 The lead military interrogator at Bagram prison in Afghanistan testifies that he used accounts of Afghan boys being fatally gang-raped "by four big black guys" to extract Mr. Khadr's confessions.

May 25, 2010 A New York Times editorial headlined "Tainted justice" calls on the Obama administration to repatriate Mr. Khadr. It states, "The conditions of Khadr's imprisonment have been in clear violation of the Geneva Conventions and international accords on the treatment of children."

Story continues below advertisement

July 5, 2010 The Federal Court of Canada rules that the federal government has a week to come up with a list of remedies to its breach of Mr. Khadr's constitutional rights. "This is the time to bring Omar Khadr home," says NDP human-rights critic Wayne Marston, who contends that Mr. Khadr was a child soldier at the time of his alleged offences.

July 7, 2010 Mr. Khadr says he wants to fire his court-appointed U.S. lawyers, saying he will defend himself before the U.S. military tribunal. "It's going to make it even more farcical if there's no defence," says Nathan Whitling, one of Mr. Khadr's Canadian lawyers.

July 12, 2010 At a pre-trial hearing, Mr. Khadr calls the military commission process a sham. He also reveals that he was offered a deal if he pleaded guilty: a 30-year sentence, with five years to be spent at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and the rest in Canada. He rejected the deal.

"I will not willingly let the U.S. government use me to fulfill its goal," Mr. Khadr says. "I have been used too many times when I was a child, and that's why I'm here - taking blame for things I didn't have a choice in doing, but was forced to do by elders."

The Harper government issues a statement saying it will appeal the Federal Court decision requiring the government to determine how to safeguard Mr. Khadr's rights. The move is a bid to avoid being compelled to ask the United States to send Mr. Khadr back to Canada.

Aug. 10, 2010 Omar Khadr's trial before a U.S. military commission is scheduled to begin.

Story continues below advertisement

Report an error Editorial code of conduct Licensing Options
As of December 20, 2017, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles as we switch to a new provider. We are behind schedule, but we are still working hard to bring you a new commenting system as soon as possible. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to