Omar Ahmed Said Khadr (Arabic: عمر أحمد سعيد خضر; born September 19, 1986) is a person who at the age of 15 was detained by the United States at Guantanamo Bay for ten years, during which he pleaded guilty to the murder of U.S. Army Sergeant 1st Class Christopher Speer and other charges. He later appealed his conviction, claiming that he falsely pleaded guilty so that he could return to Canada where he remained in custody for three additional years. Khadr sued the Canadian government for infringing his rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms; this lawsuit was settled in 2017 with a CA$10.5 million payment and an apology by the federal government.
Born in Canada, Khadr was taken to Afghanistan by his father, who was affiliated with Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. On July 27, 2002, at age 15, Khadr was severely wounded during fighting between U.S. soldiers and Taliban fighters in the village of Ayub Kheyl; Khadr is alleged to have thrown the grenade that killed Speer. After he was captured and detained at the Bagram Airfield, he was sent to the Guantanamo Bay detention camps in Cuba. During his detention, Khadr was interrogated by both Canadian and US intelligence officers.
After eight years in detention, Khadr pleaded guilty in October 2010 to “murder in violation of the laws of war” and four other charges at a hearing before a United States military commission. The charges were filed under the Military Commission Act of 2006 and considered under US law to be war crimes, although the act was not in place at the time the alleged offenses took place. Khadr agreed to an eight-year sentence with no credit for eight years already served and the possibility of a transfer to Canada after a minimum of one year and parole eligibility after three years.
According to the UN, 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 denounced by some civil rights groups and the United Nations Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict.
Meanwhile, early in 2010, the Supreme Court of Canada had ruled that the Canadian government‘s interrogation of Khadr at Guantanamo Bay “offend[ed] the most basic Canadian standards [of] the treatment of detained youth suspects”, but stopped short of ordering Khadr’s repatriation. However, on September 29, 2012, Khadr returned to Canada to serve the remainder of his sentence in Canadian custody.
Khadr was released on bail in May 2015 (pending an appeal of his U.S. conviction) after the Alberta Court of Appeal refused to block his release as had been requested by the Canadian government. In 2017, the Canadian government announced a $10.5 million settlement with Khadr to compensate for damages arising from its previous handling of the case. Tabitha Speer, Christopher Speer’s widow, filed an application to enforce a US$134 million Utah default civil judgment in Canada. On March 25, 2019, the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench ruled that Khadr’s time on conditional release counted towards his sentence, which was declared completed.
Khadr was born in Toronto on September 19, 1986, to Ahmed Khadr and Maha el-Samnah, Egyptian and Palestinian immigrants who became Canadian citizens. The Khadr family had moved to Peshawar, Pakistan, in 1985, where his father worked for charities helping Afghan refugees.
He spent his childhood moving back and forth between Canada and Pakistan. He had six siblings and his mother wanted to raise their family outside of Canada, as she disliked some of its Western social influences.
In 1992, Khadr’s father was severely injured while in Logar, Afghanistan.[how?] Following the injury, the family moved to Toronto so he could recover. Omar enrolled at ISNA Elementary School for Grade 1.
In 1995, after the family’s return to Pakistan, Omar’s father, Ahmed, was arrested and accused of financially aiding the Egyptian Islamic Jihad in the bombing of the Egyptian embassy in Pakistan. During his imprisonment, Ahmed was hospitalised following a hunger strike, before being released a year later due to lack of evidence.
Following the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, Omar’s mother and his siblings feared U.S. bombing of Afghanistan, and retreated toward the Pakistani mountains, where the father visited infrequently.
In early 2002, Khadr was living in Waziristan with his mother and younger sister. At one point, he was forced to wear a burqa and disguise himself as a girl to avoid scrutiny, an act that upset him. When his father returned, Omar asked to be allowed to stay at a group home[clarification needed] for young men, despite his mother’s protests. His father agreed, and a month later allowed Omar to accompany a group of Arabs associated with Abu Laith al-Libi who needed a Pashto translator during their stay in Khost.
According to the April 2007 charges from the military commission, Khadr received “one-on-one” weapons training in June 2002, and his visits to his mother and sister became less frequent.