The Trials of Omar Khadr

By Aisha Maniar, Truthout | July 26, 2014

On July 27, 2002, 15-year old Canadian Omar Khadr was captured by the United States following a battle between American soldiers and local militias in Afghanistan. He was shot in the back by the soldier who found him unconscious, unarmed and face down near the compound where he was staying.

Khadr survived and was taken to the Bagram Airbase where he was held for three months, during which he was threatened with rape and other forms of physical and psychological abuse, including waterboarding. Torture evidence obtained from a child and a doctored field report would later be used to implicate Khadr in the death of a US Special Forces soldier in that battle.

He was taken to Guantánamo Bay in October 2002, where his torture continued. First charged with war crimes in 2005, Khadr’s 2010 military tribunal was unique for two reasons: It was the first one under Obama and his revised Military Commissions Act, and, more importantly, he is the only person to have been tried by military tribunal since World War II for war crimes allegedly committed as a minor.

Up against a kangaroo court and the prospect of at least a life sentence, Khadr later admitted that he agreed to plead guilty to all the charges against him in a secret plea bargain in October 2010 as it was his only way out of Guantánamo. Under the deal, Khadr was to serve one more year at Guantánamo and the remainder of his sentence – seven years – in Canada. Throughout his US incarceration, he was never once treated as a minor or a child soldier, but as an “enemy combatant.”

The Canadian government, having been found in 2010 by the Canadian Supreme Court to have acted in breach of its own human rights obligations in its treatment of Khadr, put up stiff resistance to his release, which took place almost a year later than anticipated in September 2012. A minimum security-risk prisoner at Guantánamo, he was promptly imprisoned at a maximum security facility. This risk was only downgraded by the prison board in December 2013, and he was moved to a medium-security prison in February 2014. During that period, and since his conviction, he spent almost all of his time in solitary confinement. Over the past few months, for the first time, Khadr has had access to rehabilitation and counseling.

Undeterred, Omar Khadr has been making up for lost time since his return to Canada, and then some. At Guantánamo Bay, many basic things were out of his reach, including justice. Khadr has brought court cases pending against both the United States and Canada. Over the past year, since reappointing Dennis Edney, who represented him at Guantánamo, Khadr’s quest for justice has rapidly accelerated.

Canada, on the other hand, given its abuses of him, has opted for trial by media, with Canadian politicians and journalists, none of whom have ever met Khadr, demonizing him in the public imagination. Since his return to Canada, he has more or less been completely forgotten elsewhere.

Nearly 11 years in the making, on September 23, 2013, Omar Khadr had his first real day in court when he appeared before an Edmonton court for consideration about whether he should be moved to a provincial prison to serve his sentence as a youth offender. Khadr lost that particular case. Nonetheless, it was a first public appearance and the first time he saw his supporters, who packed out the courtroom. For them, Khadr was nothing like the image portrayed by journalists who had never met him.

On appeal, appeal, on July 8, 2014, the decision was reversed in a clear judgment that stated under Canadian law the sentence could only have been a youth sentence, given his age at the time. Nonetheless, he remains where he is for now, having agreed to a stay of the decision pending an appeal by the Canadian government to the Canadian Supreme Court.

This judgment came just days after the first of two important pieces of recent news concerning Khadr’s appeal against his military commission conviction in the United States. On June 30, 2014, following the release of a secret memo that shows that the United States deliberately designated Khadr an “unprivileged belligerent” to charge him with offenses it knew did not exist under domestic or international law, Khadr’s lawyers filed a motion to have the conviction vacated. Following a counter-motion by the US government, this was dismissed.

Khadr’s appeal, filed in 2013, was stayed in March 2014 pending a decision in the retrial of an appeal by another Guantánamo prisoner, Yemeni Ali Hamza Al-Bahlul. Convicted on some similar charges to Khadr, a confusing judgment was handed down on July 14, 2014. The impact this will have on Khadr’s own appeal remains unclear, but it is likely that Khadr will have to continue to wait.

Meanwhile, in Canada, in December 2013, Khadr’s lawyers brought a second case before the courts, suing the Canadian government for damages for violations of his human rights at Bagram and Guantánamo, as well as conspiring with the United States in the violation of Canadian and international laws. This case is expected to be heard at some point in 2014.

Having abused his legal rights for over a decade, justice is not tipped in the balance of either the US or Canada. Consequently, the only case that received worldwide media attention was an application filed by the wife of the man Khadr is alleged to have killed and the soldier he is alleged to have injured suing him for damages of over $45 million in a Utah court. The case has yet to even be admitted.

Now aged 27, Omar Khadr has spent almost half his life behind bars for a crime no concrete evidence has substantiated. Unlike government lawyers, he is constantly looking forward rather than back, and it is not just in the courts Khadr has something to look forward to. For those who believe media claims that Guantánamo has superb medical facilities, it was only in March this year that Khadr received surgery to his shoulder, injured when he was shot in that fateful battle 12 years ago. Blinded in one eye that day, he has yet to receive treatment to the other eye, in which shrapnel remains lodged.

Khadr’s main concern right now is a basic right most Americans and Canadians take for granted; having been held as an adult, Khadr was never given an opportunity to study. He is currently working hard to get his high school diploma. His lawyer told me: “Omar has no bitterness; he has nothing but forgiveness.”

This view was seconded by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who called Khadr during a visit to Canada earlier this year. Regarding their conversation, he said he was “pleasantly surprised at how calm and un-bitter” Khadr sounded. “We just exchanged pleasantries. But he really impressed me in that short conversation as a gentle and sensitive person.”

It is unclear how long the United States and Canada intend to keep selling the myth of Omar Khadr as an unrepentant war criminal without any substantive evidence, but they must realize that the end game has begun and is picking up pace. Omar Khadr will never get back what he has lost, but the opportunity to tell his side of the story, denied to him for so long, is a huge step in the right direction.
Copyright, Truthout.

Link to Truthout article: http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/25161-the-trials-of-alleged-tween-terrorist-omar-khadr-of-canada

PETITION | FREE Omar Khadr NOW


[+] Click [THIS LINK] to Sign and Share the PETITION | FREE Omar Khadr NOW


Nobel Prize winner Tutu: “Why I called Omar Khadr”

By Stephen Coan, The Witness – South Africa | 10 Jul 2014Witness - Why I called Omar Khadr

ARCHBISHOP DESMOND TUTU: “It has been galling in the extreme to discover that those in other countries who even helped us overthrow our oppressive system of apartheid, should have no qualms it seems in employing the same discredited methods as those of a system they purported to oppose.”

ON May 30 while attending the “As Long As the Rivers Flow: Coming Back to the Treaty Relationship In Our Time” conference in northern Alberta, Canada, Archbishop Desmond Tutu took time out to telephone Omar Khadr, who is currently ­being held in Bowden prison after spending 10 years in the Guantanamo Bay ­detention camp.

Khadr is a Canadian citizen who at the age of 15 and severely wounded was captured following a firefight in the village of Ayub Kheyl in Afghanistan on July 27, 2002. He was subsequently held and interrogated at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, the U.S. military prison located within the Guantanamo Bay ­Naval Base in Cuba.
After lengthy interrogation, Khadr was accused of killing an American soldier and planting mines targeting U.S. convoys.

In 2010 a U.S. military tribunal sentenced Khadr to 40 years in prison but thanks to him pleading guilty in a plea agreement to charges of war crimes, including murder of a American soldier “in violation of the laws of war”, spying and aiding terrorism, he was given an eight-year sentence, which did not include time already served. This included a transfer to Canada to serve the remainder of his sentence after a year according to a diplomatic agreement between the U.S. and Canada.
At the time his lawyers said a guilty plea was the only way he could get out of Guantanamo, where he otherwise faced indefinite detention even if he was acquitted.

The Toronto-born Khadr has since appealed his convictions on the basis that what he was convicted of doing as a 15-year-old was not a war crime under either American or international law.
Khadr’s case has divided Canada — where he was moved to in 2012. There Khadr is either viewed as an unrepentant terrorist or as a child soldier who underwent a mockery of a trial totally at odds with international law on how child soldiers should be treated. The “Free Omar Khadr Now” campaign is calling for his release and rehabilitation.

Khadr is currently being held in Bowden Institution, a medium security prison in the province of Alberta.
On Tuesday the Alberta Court of ­Appeal ruled that the now 27-year-old Khadr should be serving a youth sentence in Canada, and should not be in a federal prison. However, the federal government said it plans to appeal the ruling and will apply to delay the transfer while it asks the Supreme Court to hear the case.

It was at Bowden that Khadr received the telephone call from Tutu.

Tutu told The Witness that he had been asked to contact Khadr by ­Arlette Zinck, Associate Professor of English, King’s University College, ­Alberta, who has been teaching Khadr in prison, but “more fundamentally, I would be interested in anyone I think has been dealt with unjustly”.

Tutu has been a vocal critic of the existence of Guantanamo prison and the U.S. use of non-judicial procedures to imprison people there, frequently comparing this to similar practices of detention without trial in South Africa under apartheid. “Many people were incarcerated [in South Africa] for endless periods, held in solitary confinement simply on the say so of some lackey of an unjust and oppressive system. It has been galling in the extreme to discover that those in other countries who even helped us overthrow our oppressive system of apartheid, should have no qualms it seems in employing the same discredited methods as those of a system they purported to oppose,” he said.

“One reason why President Obama was elected the first time round was that he promised he would shut down Guantanamo Bay,” said Tutu. “I am hugely disappointed that he has not fulfilled a very important promise.”
Asked if he thought Khadr was innocent or guilty, Tutu said his views were “quite irrelevant”.
“The point is that he was tried not in an open court, where he could been represented by a lawyer of his choice. This is apart from the fact that when he was arrested, he was only 15 years of age, a minor by every credible assessment and at the very least to have been charged as the minor that he was.”

Tutu said it was “unconscionable” that Khadr, following a “travesty of a trial, where he was treated as an adult in a vicious kangaroo court”, should be languishing in jail and that his own country Canada should be an accomplice in holding him in prison.
“This is an example of a horrible miscarriage of justice and that in a modern democratic state.”
Speaking to Khadr on the telephone, Tutu said he was “pleasantly surprised at how calm and un-bitter” Khadr sounded. “We just exchanged pleasantries. But he really impressed me in that short conversation as a gentle and sensitive person … “

“He later wrote a very nice note thanking me for taking the trouble to call him … He struck me as a very gentle and caring and courteous human being who does not belong where he is at present. The Canadian authorities would do their stature much good if they released him immediately.”

Today the appeal decision regarding a judgment given last year denying Khadr’s transfer to a provincial (non-maximum security) institution and access to educational and parole opportunities will be filed online from the Alberta Court of Appeal.

WHO IS OMAR KHADR:

OMAR Khadr was born in Toronto in 1986. His parents Ahmed Khadr and Maha el-Samnah, were Egyptian and Palestinian immigrants who became Canadian citizens. His father worked for various NGOs bringing aid to Afghanistan and Khadr spent his childhood moving back and forth between Canada and Pakistan.

In 2002, his father left the 15-year-old with a group associated with Abu Laith al-Libi — a senior leader of the Al-Qaeda movement in Afghanistan who was subsequently killed in a 2008 drone strike. Khadr is said to have received weapons training with the group.

On July 27, 2002, a military force comprising American soldiers and Afghan militia were on a reconnaissance mission in the village of Ayub Kheyl during which five men were seen in a house with AK47s. A call to surrender was met with gunfire. Reinforcements were called for and in a subsequent firefight four U.S. soldiers were wounded. An air strike was called in and the houses were strafed and bombed by Apache helicopters and F-18 Hornets.
Meanwhile more reinforcements had arrived that saw the ground troops number around 100. Investigating the ruins of the bombed houses it was found that two wounded people had survived, one was Khadr. At some point a grenade was thrown that wounded Sergeant Christopher Speer, who subsequently died of his injuries.

One of the wounded men was later killed while Khadr, who was wounded by shrapnel and subsequently lost the sight in his left eye, was shot twice in the back. Initially he was thought to be dead but when it was ascertained he was still alive he was taken by helicopter to Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan.
During the 11 years Khadr spent at Guantanamo, he spent the majority of that time in solitary confinement shackled to the floor of his cell and medical treatment was withheld that could have prevented the loss of sight in his left eye. According to one source, while his severe chest wounds were “still raw, Khadr was hooded, his wrists shackled to the ceiling and made to stand for hours”.

For the last 10 years Khadr has been represented pro bono by lawyer Dennis Edney.

After Khadr was telephoned by Archbishop Tutu in May, Edney said that “Omar was delighted and honoured” to speak to Tutu. “The conversation was a spiritual discussion between them that helped to further strengthen Omar’s belief in humanity, notwithstanding all he has suffered.”
It was further reported that Edney said that through his studies, Khadr is familiar with Tutu’s critical role in ending apartheid in South Africa and then running our Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Kathleen Copps, a member of the Free Omar Khadr Now committee, told The Witness that Khadr felt “extremely blessed to have had the opportunity” to talk to Tutu. “As part of his reading programme, Omar had been inspired by Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom and the struggle to end apartheid, so speaking with Tutu was especially significant for him.”


[PDF] of original article by Stephen Coan, Tutu: Why I called Omar Khadr, The Witness – South Africa | 10 Jul 2014


Article in Edmonton Journal during visit Tutu in Canada | June 7, 2014:

When Archbishop Desmond Tutu came to Fort McMurray last weekend, Alberta’s oilsands and native rights were his major concern. But in the days before the conference, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and human rights activist added a small personal task to his busy schedule.

After a press conference on Friday May 30, Tutu found a quiet corner and placed a phone call to Bowden prison where Omar Khadr, 27, held in Guantanamo prison for 10 years, was waiting …  → Read more here.

via spratt@edmontonjournal.com


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OMAR KHADR | FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | CLOSE GUANTANAMO

PRESS RELEASE | GLOBAL DAY OF ACTION TO CLOSE GUANTANAMO

NOT ANOTHER BROKEN PROMISE
NOT ANOTHER DAY IN GUANTANAMO

Where: Yonge-Dundas Square, Toronto
When: May 23, 2014 12:00-1:30 PM

Omar Khadr, Guantanamo's Child - Still in a Canadian Prison.May 23 marks the one-year anniversary of President Obama’s promise to close Guantanamo. In more than 30 cities around the world including Toronto, plans are underway for a global day of action to demand the end of indefinite detentions and the closure of Guantanamo.

Witness Against Torture and the Centre for Constitutional Rights, two human rights organizations, lead this global initiative.
This Toronto event is planned by the Free Omar Khadr Now Campaign.

To understand the story of Canadian Omar Khadr, “Guantanamo’s Child,” is to realize why Guantanamo must be shut down without delay.

In 2002, at the age of 15, Omar Khadr was captured in Afghanistan where he was tortured and abused. A few months later he was transferred to Guantanamo and held without charges until 2007, all the while being denied his legal rights, access to education and proper medical treatment for severe injuries. Fifteen juveniles were detained in Guantanamo and later freed; however, Omar Khadr was the only child left there, abandoned by his country and a decade later he was the last citizen of a Western country to be repatriated. He is the only child in modern history to be convicted of war crimes. While 6000 US soldiers died in combat, Omar Khadr is the only individual charged with killing a US soldier.

In 2006 the Military Commissions Act created new laws defining terrorism, spying and combat as war crimes. These new crimes, recognized only by the US, were applied retroactively to Omar Khadr for alleged actions in 2002. Statements obtained through torture and doctored reports were used to convict him. In a forced plea bargain in 2010, he pleaded guilty to all charges in exchange for a sentence of 8 years and repatriation to Canada.

The links include statements of the event by the Centre for Constitutional Rights and Witness Against Torture. Linked also is the handout | “What is Omar Khadr’s Story”  by the Free Omar Khadr Now Campaign which provides material key to any discussion of legal and human rights within a Canadian context.

Contact:

Michael Van Arragon:
Michaelvanarragon@gmail.com

Close Guantánamo. No More Excuses. | May 23, Global Day of Action, Toronto

Omar Khadr, Guantanamo's Child - Still in a Canadian Prison.

Toronto Event: May 23, Dundas Square at noon


The Canadian Close Guantanamo event on Dundas Square will have a special focus on Canadian Omar Khadr, who – after 93 days Bagram and 3624 days Guantanamo – is now held in a Canadian jail for 601 days, based on an illegal Guantanamo conviction.

On Facebook: Close Guantánamo. No More Excuses. | May 23, Global Day of Action, Toronto.


The story of Guantánamo remains that of nearly 800 men and boys thrown into an island prison designed to exist beyond the rule of law. Most were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, refugees fleeing the chaos of war in Afghanistan. The U.S. military captured only one in twenty; many were sold for significant sums of money to the U.S. by local authorities in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Of the 155 men who remain at Guantánamo as of January 2014, approximately half were cleared for release years ago. The vast majority will never be charged with any crime.

On his second day in office, President Obama pledged that he would close the prison within a year. He has reiterated his promise many times since then, and under current law, he has the power to make it a reality, But in 2014, Guantánamo is still inexcusably open and entering its thirteenth year. No more excuses. Guantánamo must be closed.

The men detained at Guantánamo brought the prison back into the consciousness of the world through their mass hunger-strike in 2013. They effectively helped pressure the Obama administration to begin releasing men, after nine months without a transfer. But today, the base is looking more and more like an internment camp for Yemen men. Yemenis now constitute more than half the population at Guantánamo, and most have long been cleared for release.

– Courtesy of the Centre for Constitutional Rights, New York, USA

The May 23rd Day of Action is being coordinated by Witness Against Torture in collaboration with the Free Omar Khadr Now Campaign and many others in 38 cities around the world.

Read more: May 23 2014 Global call to action to Close Guantanamo.


Omar Khadr, innocent and illegally detained for 4318 days, since the age of 15.


 

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Tory MP shares government’s prejudices about Omar Khadr

Free Omar Khadr Now committee member, Helen Sadowski, contacted Tory MP, Laurie Hawn, in November 2013, informing him about the facts of Omar’s case and asking when will his government stop using Omar Khadr as a political scapegoat to win votes. She invited him to hear Omar’s U.S. Dept. of Defense lawyer, Sam Morison, speak about the appeal to overturn all of Khadr’s convictions at Kings College University in Edmonton.

The following is MP Hawn’s response:

In our view, Omar Khadr was convicted of a crime by a legitimate judicial process. When he has finished serving his sentence, he will be released and treated like anyone else. There is a bit of a contradiction in your request. At the time, some people were saying that Khadr couldn’t possibly be a soldier, because he was only 15 when he murdered Sgt Speer. A great many Canadians understandably put the Canadian context onto a place like Afghanistan. I have followed that conflict very closely and have been there several times. A 15-year-old in that environment is not like a 15-year-old in Canada. He is effectively an adult and there are many, many Omar Khadrs in Afghanistan and other primitive societies the likes of radical Islamism. I can have sympathy for Khadr growing up in a freely-admitted terrorist family, who took disgraceful advantage of their Canadian connection. But, I don’t agree that he should not pay for what he did, and there are more sides to the story than the one you’ll hear from his lawyers. I also appreciate your concerns on press releases regarding Omar Khadr. I don’t necessarily agree with everything that we do in this regard either. Thank you once again for writing. If there is any other way that my office can be of assistance to you in the future please do not hesitate to contact us.
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Sincerely,
Laurie Hawn

Our response to Laurie Hawn’s email:

Dear Laurie
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Thanks for taking the time to respond to my comments. I’m not sure how open you are to debating these issues, but I would like to share the following with you in regards to your comments:
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1. You say: “Omar Khadr was convicted of a crime by a legitimate judicial process”.   
The crimes that Omar Khadr was convicted of were “invented” in 2006 by the US government and these crimes are not recognized by Canada nor other international jurisdictions. In addition, these newly defined laws were then applied retroactively to actions of 2002.  The US Federal Court has already ruled  in another case of a Guantanamo detainee that retroactive convictions are illegal. The judicial process was a military process and therefore an inferior legal process. US citizens are prohibited by law from being tried by a military tribunal as it would be a violation of their rights as it is of course for Canadian citizens.
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Omar Khadr’s legal rights were violated and this was well expressed by Romeo Dallaire, retired LGeneral: “During the 10 years that this nightmare has gone on, we have realized that the most serious violations of Khadr’s rights have been covered up: violations of the right to due process, the right to protection from torture, the right to protection from arbitrary imprisonment, the right to protection from retroactive prosecution, the right to a fair trial, the right to confidential legal representation at the appropriate time and place, the right to be tried by an independent and impartial tribunal, the right to habeas corpus, the right to equality before the law and the rights stemming from the Convention on the Rights of the Child”.
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If the above violation of legal rights was the case, how is it possible to determine guilt or innocence?  Both national and international law associations as well as academics have spoken on the “legal blackhole” that is Guantanamo. While your government has shown a disdain for academic elites and scientists in the past, there is no doubt that a democracy relies on its citizens and representatives to have respect for the law, otherwise we are bordering on fascism.
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2. You say: “When he murdered Sergeant Speer“.
The laws of war don’t recognize this as murder, but it is rather a combat fatality.  Paul Koring recently wrote in the Globe and Mail: “Sergeant Christopher Speer, helmetless and wearing Afghan garb, was killed by a grenade blast. Sgt. Speer, a qualified medic, was part of assault team when he suffered fatal head wounds”.  Being a military man yourself, you might also wonder why Speer was dressed in Afghan garb when he undertook the assault and if he was in fact an unlawful combatant himself.
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It  is highly improbable that Khadr who was unconscious, blinded in one eye and covered in rubble could have thrown a grenade 80 ft. backwards over a high fence. There were no eyewitnesses to the actual throwing of the grenade and later evidence shows that it was an American grenade that killed Speer. Omar Khadr while in a prone position and defenceless was shot twice in the back by a US soldier. Omar Khadr was himself a victim of a war crime, that is internationally recognized. The Pentagon lawyer Sam Morison who is launching an appeal to overturn all the convictions  has evidence of this breech in the laws of war.
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3. You say: “A 15-year-old in that environment is not like a 15-year-old in Canada. He is effectively an adult and there are many, many Omar Khadrs in Afghanistan and other primitive societies the likes of radical Islamism”. 
That comment and especially “primitive societies” made me feel sick to my stomach. I worked in the Federal government for 30 years and was for a period of time head of the Citizenship Court. For me it is deeply insulting to categorize other countries in such ways.  Again, respect for the law is fundamental to a democracy.  While you may not agree with the definition of a minor, you are not in a position to just make up some other laws that suit you better. Canada recognizes child soldiers in Africa and gives them refuge in our own country. Can you explain the difference as to the treatment of Omar Khadr? Does someone’s ethnic, religious or racial background disqualify them from the rights and protections normally guaranteed by citizenship and our laws?
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4. You say: “I can have sympathy for Khadr growing up in a freely-admitted terrorist family who took disgraceful advantage of their Canadian connection“.
You have no facts to prove that  the family of 7 children and 2 parents was a terrorist family. Comments made by the mother and daughter while dressed in a hijab were not terrorist actions, even if you didn’t agree with them. One son was an informant for the US government. Family members, including Omar cannot be held responsible for the alleged actions of the father. At this point in time, Khadr has been denied his legitimate rights as a Canadian citizen and that has been upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada and will be part of an upcoming civil suit against the government. Most likely the mistakes of this government and its decision to ignore the rule of law will cost taxpayers upward of $20M.
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5. You say: “Press releases regarding Omar Khadr”.
Vic Toews, while the Minister of Public Safety oversaw the return of Omar Khadr to Canada. Toews used a publicly discredited analysis by a forensic psychiatrist and prosecution witness to condemn Khadr as a jihadist and threat to Canadian society.
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The psychiatrist, Dr. Michael Welner spent less than 15 hours with Khadr while another military psychiatrist, Dr. Stephen Xenakis, also a retired Brigadier General spent more than 100 hours with Khadr.  Toews would not accept the expert findings of Xenakis as they contradicted Welner’s findings. In addition Dr. Marc Sageman, recognized expert in terrorism,  wrote a lengthy critical analysis of Welner’s findings. In his piece https://freeomarakhadr.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/dr-sageman-letter.pdf  he states “However, Dr. Welner is not known to have any knowledge of terrorism, Islamic extremism or deradicalization. In his c.v. he has not contributed to the literature on terrorism, al Qaeda or deradicalization. He is not known as an expert in these fields. Furthermore as an internationally recognized expert in terrorism and counter terrorism, I know of no published study that addresses the issue of dangerousness in terrorists.
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 The similarities of the Omar Khadr case to the French Dreyfus affair, the Jewish military man charged with spying, are truly haunting … interference at the highest political levels, miscarriage of justice, racism and the dissemination of misinformation and emotionally charged material.
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I share the above as a concerned citizen who believes that our country’s democracy depends on the equal treatment of citizens,  a respect for the rule of law and an informed and educated population.
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I hope elected representatives will start a debate about the treatment of Omar Khadr and seek to consider all available information. In that respect, please share your sources with me on any of the above points that support your views.
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All the best
Helen Sadowski
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Today Omar’s security classification changed to medium

Free Omar Khadr Now Committee, December 13, 2013

Omar Khadr’s security classification has been changed from maximum to medium. Omar was transferred from Guantanamo to Canada in September 2012 and placed in a maximum security jail. This placement was harshly criticized by The Office of the Correctional Investigator (OCI). “The OCI has not found any evidence that Mr. Khadr’s behavior while incarcerated has been problematic and that he could not be safely managed at a lower security level. I recommend that Mr. Khadr’s security classification be reassessed taking into account all available information and the actual level of risk posed by the offender, bearing in mind his sole offence was committed when he was a minor.”

Omar Khadr was classified as minimum security in Guantanamo. The OCI further noted that “According to a psychological report on file, Omar Khadr interacted well with others and did not present with violent or extremist attitudes”.

Many Canadians are pleased that the new classification will allow Omar to access programs, and services. However, it doesn’t alleviate the fact that Omar’s imprisonment is an abuse of human rights and the rule of law.

Dennis Edney, Omar’s lawyer said “My position is similar to that of the Ombudsman’s office he should be classified as minimum and released.”

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Related:

Edmonton Journal: Khadr reclassified, likely to be transferred to Bowden

Ombudsman scolds officials for branding Omar Khadr a maximum security inmate

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Omar Khadr’s pro bono lawyer wins prestigious Human Rights Award!

On International Human Rights Day:

Dennis Edney QC who has defended Omar Khadr on a pro bono basis for over a decade, wins the Gerald L. Gall Human Rights Award.  It is the highest honor one can receive from the John Humphrey Centre.

There are times in your life when something is so terribly wrong that to walk away is not an option” -Dennis Edney

Two excellent articles on Omar Khadr on the International Human Rights Day:

[+] Harper, International Human Rights Day and Nelson Mandela | Kathy Copps, Rabble.ca

[+] Khadr lawyer receives human rights award | Sheila Pratt, Edmonton Journal

 

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Omar Khadr appeals two court decisions

Appeal in the U.S. – Against the conviction in Guantanamo Military Court

Today, November 8, Omar and his lawyers filed an appeal in Washington, to fight his illegal conviction in a Military Court in Guantanamo, for the war crimes that didn’t exist under international law, when he was captured by the U.S. as a 15-year-old in Afghanistan in 2002. Therefor the military commission had no legal authority to try him or accept his guilty pleas. He pleaded guilty to the war crimes to get out of the Guantanamo Bay detention centre where he was held for 10 years.

Read more here:

Appeal in Canada – Against judge Rooke’s decision; that thwarts transfer from maximum-security federal prison to a provincial jail

On the 6th of November Omar and his lawyer filed an appeal against the Court of Queen’s Bench decision that denied his request to be transferred to a provincial jail. There he can finally receive appropriate rehabilitation. Dennis Edney states: “I am essentially arguing that the judge got it wrong in both fact and law”.
Omar’s detention in the Edmonton maximum-security institution is illegal because he was a child when captured by the U.S.. 

Read more here:

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Politicians Speaking Out!

CONSERVATIVES

Tory MP shares government’s prejudices about Omar Khadr

In November 2013 we contacted Tory MP, Laurie Hawn, informing him about the latest facts of Omar’s case and asking when his government will stop using Omar Khadr as a political scapegoat to win votes. His unsubstantiated response adds to the government’s prejudicial rhetoric and shows his lack of knowledge about the case. Helen Sadowski of the Free Omar Khadr Now campaign explains the falsehoods in his letter point by point. … Continue reading .

GREEN PARTY OF CANADA

Green Party of Canada

Press Release Oct. 28, 2013 | Omar: An Abuse of Human Rights and International Law

Last Friday, Omar Khadr, a former child soldier, was denied a request to be moved to a provincial prison to serve out the remainder of his highly questionable sentence. “It is sadly evident that even after more than a year of his being back in Canada, programming has not been put in place that recognizes his right to treatment and support for all he suffered as a child soldier,” said Elizabeth May, MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands and Green Party of Canada Leader.

Omar Khadr will now remain in a maximum federal prison and will not likely be able to meet parole requirements. In spite of his desire to learn, he may also be denied the opportunity of education.

read more here: Press Release | Omar: An Abuse of Human Rights and International Law, Oct. 28, 2013 and Green Party | Backgrounder – Omar Khadr

 
Our response:

Dear Elizabeth May and the Green Party of Canada:

The Free Omar Khadr Committee would like to thank the Green Party-in particular Elizabeth May and Joe Foster-for yesterday’s media release which highlighted the recent denial of Omar Khadr’s court application, the highly inflammatory statements of Stephen Harper, and many of the shocking violations of Omar’s fundamental rights in a decade-long history of abuse. Your ongoing commitment to justice for this vulnerable young Canadian is much appreciated.

Our committee seeks to remind Canadians that our government has a legal duty to release Omar who has been illegitimately imprisoned (largely in solitary confinement) since 2002 when he was only 15 years old.

We urge the Green Party and all fair-minded Canadians to:

1. Demand the immediate release of Omar Khadr and ensure violations of his rights are investigated and remedied.

2. Protest against the Canadian authorities who wrongly claim that the illegal Guantanamo Bay sentencing gives them the right to continue to imprison Omar.

3. Condemn all prejudicial statements and shocking interference in a judicial process by government officials particularly Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Public Safety Minister Stephen Blaney, and former Public Safety Minister, Vic Toews.

Without independent, impartial courts and the equal application of laws, the rights of all citizens are threatened. The struggle for justice for Omar Khadr is in the interest of all Canadians and we are hopeful it will be a topic for the Green Party in the upcoming session of Parliament.

Sincerely,

Free Omar Khadr Now Committee

P.S. Thank you so much for including the website in your release! (www.freeomarakhadr.com)

SENATOR ROMEO DALLAIRE

[+] Speech on Omar Khadr in the Senate by LGen the Hon. Romeo Dallaire, Senator
[+] Petition Senator Dallaire | Bring back Omar Khadr from Guantanamo Bay

Dallaire has been an outspoken advocate for Omar’s rights, as former child soldier. In July 2012, Dallaire set up a petition putting pressure on Public Safety Minister, at that time, Vic Toews, to honour the plea bargain deal Khadr agreed to in 2010.
35,000 concerned citizens signed the petition. Omar was repatriated in September 2012.

“Omar has been 10 years in jail already, in a jail so many have considered illegal and inappropriate. He’s been tortured to get testimony out of him and through all that has seen no support whatsoever.
Now that he’s back in Canada the government should simply clam up. It has no more duty in regards to this individual. He’s now within the process of our judicial system and in that context the executive has no right to interfere in the judicial process.” ~Dallaire, Sept. 2012.

LIBERALS

“Omar Khadr needs to be treated the way we treat Canadians according to the rules that exist, according to the laws and principles that govern. He should be treated like any Canadian who as been incarcerated outside of the country. We need to be fair to the way we treat Canadians.” ~Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, Aug. 2013, Halifax.
Trudeau isn’t ruling out compensation for Omar for the time he served in Guantanamo Bay.

[+] Official Statement by Liberal Leader Bob Rae on Omar’s repatriation, Sept. 2012.

“Mr. Khadr, a Canadian citizen, was a child soldier. It is extremely unfortunate that it took the Conservative government this long to fulfil its responsibility to bring him back to Canada. Now Mr. Khadr will serve the remainder of his sentence under the supervision of the Canadian correctional system, and we can ensure that he receives proper treatment and rehabilitation.” ~Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae, Sept. 2012

“The over-the-top rhetoric that we’ve come to expect from this minister of Public Safety is most unfortunate, I hope it doesn’t influence the parole board’s deliberations.” ~Liberal MP Sean Casey, Sept. 2012.

NDP

ndp“Today, the Conservatives ended nearly a decade of unnecessary delays and allowed Omar Khadr to serve out the remainder of his sentence in Canada. Canada is the last Western country to repatriate their citizens from the discredited Guantanamo prison system.
Mr. Khadr’s return to Canada was inevitable, yet the Conservatives chose to drag this process out for years at great cost to taxpayers. Their mishandling has hurt our relationship with the United States, our closest ally, and tarnished Canada’s reputation on the international stage.
Both the Supreme Court of Canada and the U.S. Supreme Court, based on the full facts of this case, have found that the military commission proceedings in Guantanamo violated both U.S. domestic law and Canada’s international human rights obligations.
Conservatives have previously faced court judgments against them for their mishandling of the case and failure to respect human rights.
The government should now allow Mr. Khadr to be handled by Canadian authorities in accordance with Canadian law, free from interference.” ~[+] Official Statement from NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar on Omar’s repatriation, Sept. 2012.

“This government decided to play politics with a straightforward foreign affairs case. Rather than simply bringing its citizen home from Guantanamo Bay as other countries did, they tried to polarize and turn this into something else.
They’ve obviously screwed up massively when it comes to this case, so hopefully they won’t do any further damage when it comes to our reputation as a country.” ~NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar, Sept 2012.

“Mr. Khadr was the only Western citizen left in Guantanamo. And that’s because other countries, Australia for instance and others, had repatriated their citizens back to their countries. We had not done that, we had foot dragged. We’d frankly been pushed in the end by the Americans to take him back. The Conservatives were very stubborn on returning Khadr to Canada, not living up to their responsibility to deal with one of our citizens. Khadr’s prolonged detainment in Guantanamo Bay has already been established as a human rights violation and now the government should explain why they resisted bringing him back to Canada. The question now is, what’s the government’ s explanation for having waited so long to have him come home? Just what was it that made the government so intransigent on this issue? That’s going to be an issue for the next number of months for us to delve into” ~NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar, CTV News Sept 2012.

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