Dear Member of the Media,
Please find attached an updated Factsheet on Omar Khadr prepared by the Free Omar Khadr Now advocacy group. This Factsheet is offered as a media resource in advance of Chief Justice Mary Moreau’s March 25 decision on whether Omar Khadr’s sentence will be expired. We hope the Factsheet will be helpful to journalists new to the story and to others who may have unwittingly incorporated inaccurate facts.
Several errors tend to be repeated in the media.
See, for example: “Omar Khadr pleaded guilty and was convicted of killing Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer, an American medic in the U.S. army, with a hand grenade in Afghanistan in 2002, when he was 15.”
- Error #1: The illegitimacy of the U.S. Military Commission convictions
The U.S. Military Commission has been discredited internationally – and, in 2008, by the US Supreme Court. These commissions are not properly constituted courts of law and therefore they are unable to legitimately sentence, convict or negotiate guilty pleas. Terms such as “convicted terrorist’, “war criminal” or “murderer” are inaccurate with reference to Omar Khadr.
In her April 2014 ruling, Chief Justice of Alberta Catherine Fraser said: “the evidence against Khadr would have been excluded in a Canadian court. The legal process under which Khadr was held and the evidence elicited from him have been found to have violated both the Charter and international human rights laws.”
- Error#2: Misidentifying Sgt. Speer, an active Delta Forces soldier, as medic
Some journalists describe Sgt. Speer as “an American medic in the U.S. army.” While he was training to be a medic, Sgt. Speer was deployed as an active Delta Forces soldier at the Afghan compound July 27, 2002. Discredited journalistic sources such as Rebel Media commonly describe Sgt. Speer as a medic as did former PM Stephen Harper and Conservative Party officials.
The U.S. never charged Omar Khadr with killing a medic, a Geneva Conventions war crime. As Audrey Macklin, law professor and director of The Centre for Criminology and Sociological Studies at the University of Toronto, writes: “Sergeant Speer was not acting as a medic during the battle in which he was killed and he was not rushing to Mr. Khadr’s aid when he died. Not even the U.S. military prosecutors alleged this. Sgt. Speer’s death as a combatant, a tragic loss to his family and his country, was not a war crime.”
For more details of the firefight, you can read the testimony of another Delta Forces soldier who was present at the battle when Sgt Speer died.
The impact of misleading statements about Omar Khadr’s story perpetuates myths and propaganda about his case and misrepresents the rule of law. At this particular moment in history when white supremacist views are mobilized by proliferating groups, the Omar Khadr case can be a particularly charged issue.
Thanks especially to those of you who have worked to cover this long and complex story over many years.
Helen Sadowski and Janice Williamson
on behalf of the Free Omar Khadr Now Committee