The Bar Council, the Law Society, the Criminal Bar Association, the Commonwealth Lawyers’ Association and the Bar Human Rights Committee have today called on the Attorney General of the United States of America to take urgent action in cases where those detained in Guantánamo Bay were captured as juveniles. These concerns are set out in a letter sent today to the US Attorney General, Eric Holder.

The cases include those of a young Canadian, Omar Khadr, and an Afghan, Mohammed Jawad, both detained without trial by the United States military since 2002, and who have now spent nearly a third of their lives in US detention. The letter asks the Attorney General to dispose of the cases of Khadr and Jawad – as well as those of other juvenile detainees in Guantánamo – in a manner consistent with American obligations under the Optional Protocol of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This request follows repeated calls for action from the UK’s legal profession, which have included an Amicus brief to the US Federal Court in January 2008, and letters to former President Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in February 2008.

Commenting on the continued detention of Omar Khadr and Mohammed Jawad, Chairman of the Bar Desmond Browne QC said:

‘The lengthy detention, and putting on trial for war crimes, of someone who appears to be a “child soldier” is contrary to the special protection to which Khadr and Jawad are entitled by virtue of the Optional Protocol, which provides for the rehabilitation and social reintegration of former child soldiers. We hope that the new administration will take this opportunity to reconsider the detention of those held in Guantánamo who were captured as juveniles.’

Paul Marsh, President of the Law Society, said:

‘The ad hoc process devised by the United States under the previous administration to try so-called “enemy combatants” is both illegitimate and irreparably flawed. It has no basis in international law and contravenes well established laws of war and humanitarian law. Prosecution in this system, and indeed any system of military tribunals, is grossly unsuited to meeting the requirement of the Optional Protocol to provide for the rehabilitation and social reintegration of former child soldiers such as Mr. Khadr and Mr. Jawad’.

Read the full letter of concern here