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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Lecture Nov 12 | Attorney Samuel Morison, US Department of Defence

The last in the series of three lectures in Edmonton about Omar Khadr.

OMAR KHADR | THE LAWMorison

With:     Attorney Samuel Morison, US Department of Defence
When:   Tuesday, November 12, 19:00
Where:  The Atrium at King’s University College, 9125 – 50 Street, Edmonton

Samuel Morison has practiced law for more than 20 years and is a national recognized expert on federal executive clemency and the restoration of civil rights. He will speak about Omar Khadr’s appeal before the US Federal Court.

[+] the poster of the lectures

[+] the video of the second lecture, by Brigadier General (ret) Dr. Stephen Xenakis

Court Decision on whether Omar can move to a provincial prison

Herewith the decision of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta. The nightmare for Omar Khadr continues. He has to stay, day in day out, in solitary confinement in a maximum security prison because the judge has decided this is the correct place for a child who has survived the horrors of Guantanamo.

Edmonton Events, Do not miss them

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DENNIS EDNEY | PRESENTATIONDennis

With:     Mr. Dennis Edney, Q.C., Omar Khadr’s defense counsel.
When:   Thursday, October 17, 2013, 19:00
Where:  Room 231/237 U of A Law Centre, Edmonton

CLAIHR U of A is pleased to host a presentation by Mr. Dennis Edney, Q.C., Omar Khadr’s defense counsel. Mr. Edney has agreed to speak to Faculty of Law students concerning Omar Khadr’s highly publicized case. There will be an opportunity for questions following the presentation.

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OMAR KHADR | THE MAN 

With:     Brigadier General (ret) Dr. Stephen XenakisXenakis.
When:   Tuesday, October 22, 2013, 19:00
Where:  University of Alberta Building ETLC Rm-1001, Edmonton

Although Mr. Harper and the Canadian government have chosen to demonize Omar Khadr, there are significant faces from the U.S Military and Canadian public who have actually met and spent time with Mr. Khadr and find that he is a compassionate human being who poses no threat to anyone.

Brigadier General (ret) Dr. Stephen Xenakis is a psychiatrist who has spent hundreds of hours with Omar Khadr over the past 5 years. Come out and join the discussion about his experiences with Omar in Guantanamo Bay and raise your own questions and concerns. Refreshments will be provided.

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OMAR KHADR | THE LAWMorison

With:     Attorney Samuel Morison, US Department of Defence
When:   Tuesday, November 12, 19:00
Where:  The Atrium at King’s University College, 9125 – 50 Street, Edmonton

Samuel Morison has practiced law for more than 20 years and is a national recognized expert on federal executive clemency and the restoration of civil rights. He will speak about Omar Khadr’s appeal before the US Federal Court.

 

Last Weeks Edmonton Court Articles on Omar Khadr

Hope You Are Okay, Omar Khadr

By Ayesha Nasir, Karachi, Pakistan

omar khadrI have something in common with Omar Khadr. We are both fans of “The Hunger Games” – the best-selling trilogy by Suzanne Collins. One of the most obvious differences between us is that I have not spent ten years of my youth in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

As a 15-year-old, Omar Khadr was captured by the US Armed Forces in Afghanistan, when he was wounded twice in the back in a fire fight, which broke out in July, 2002. It was alleged that the teenager had killed a US Special Forces soldier during the fire fight. He had been in an Afghan compound, where he was a translator for his father’s acquaintance. From eastern Afghanistan, Omar was taken to Bagram in a critical condition; he had sustained wounds, which lead to “three holes in his body” and “shrapnel in his face”.

The native-born Canadian remained in the US custody for ten long years, during which his family and activists all over the world pressured the Canadian government to “bring him home”. Heather Marsh, a journalist vocally supporting Omar Khadr’s release, pointed out how “it is legal for US soldiers to kill children”, whereas “it is a war crime for children to kill US soldiers”, raising a valid concern about the double standards, which led to Omar Khadr being alleged with a war crime in the first place.

Omar Khadr’s imprisonment was handed out despite compelling evidence, which stated otherwise, while the United States and Canada ignored the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (to which they are signatories) and went ahead with his imprisonment. It was eight years later, in 2010, that the Canadian Supreme Court acknowledged the blatant abuse of Omar’s rights as a human and as a Canadian; the interrogation, which the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) made the “detained youth suspect” undergo was regarded as “a clear violation of Canada’s international human rights obligations” by the Canadian Supreme Court, who is known for its apparent impartiality and execution of justice.

At the time, Audrey Macklin, a professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto, wondered if the verdict of the Supreme Court of Canada on (a) that the government has violated Khadr’s Charter rights”, and (b) that Canada “should seek repatriation”, was “not enough to motivate this government to act” then there was no saying as to “what is enough to motivate this government to do the right thing”.

“I cried several times during the interrogation as a result of this treatment and pain. During this interrogation, the more I answered the questions and the more I gave him the answers he wanted, the less pain was inflicted on me. I figured out right away that I would simply tell them whatever I thought they wanted to hear, in order to keep them from causing me such pain” – from Omar’s affidavit statement on February 22, 2008.

Testimonies from other prisoners, such as Moazzam Begg, give detailed reports on the treatment he was made to undergo; David Hicks, an Australian prisoner, declared that he “saw US soldiers dragging Omar from his cage to a room used for interrogation just opposite from mine. For at least an hour, I heard him scream and yell in pain as they abused him. Omar was yelling, ‘Why are you doing this? … Please stop. … Somebody help me!’ There seemed to be no point to this brutality except to hurt him and break his will.”

It appears that living in the black hole for human rights did not break Omar’s spirit, for he was sent home to Canada on September 30, 2012, where, as of now, he remains incarcerated in a maximum security prison. Andy Worthington, a journalist, who has been following Omar Khadr’s case closely, admits that the Canadian government could keep him in custody for roughly half a decade more; an outcome of a plea deal made in October, 2010. Despite how reports on his case acknowledge his good behaviour during his ten-year imprisonment, parole remains nowhere near until at least 2015. After having spent considerable time with him, two of Omar Khadr’s US military lawyers describe him as “an intelligent young man” who possesses a “love of learning”.

This “love of learning” has been explored by Arlette Zinck, a professor of English at King’s University College in Edmonton, who took up the task of designing and delivering a study plan for Omar Khadr, while he was detained at Guantanamo Bay. The coursework assigned to him was something he pursued eagerly, a clear sign of a young mind being freshly exposed to a world of literature. As a teenager myself, I do not find it surprising, when interaction with Professor Zinck revealed that Omar identifies most to the character of Primrose Everdeen in “The Hunger Games” trilogy, regarding her as the “moral centre” of the story. Through correspondence via letters and classes held inside prison, Zinck notes a “remarkable” thing about her unique student that regardless of his “exceptionally difficult circumstances”, he manages to find “a way to stay positive and hopeful when many grown men would not.” This is depicted in the “impressive” levels of “energy and determination he puts into his studies”.

Unpopular belief will see Omar Khadr as a political pawn in history by those, who wanted to justify and escape from their criminal actions. There are people, who view Omar Khadr as a radicalized terrorist; despite him having served more than his sentence under an unfair trial, they refuse to allow him to walk as a free man. The boy who will “forever be a murderer” for many is now a young man of 26, whom they do not want to walk as a free man, pursue his education, put his past behind him or even reunite with his family. Being a child soldier, who has been consistently deprived of the most basic of his rights, has put Omar Khadr in a unique position in history, the likes of which were seen somewhere around the second World War.

True rehabilitation, however, is a psychological experience, which will require efforts on the part of Omar, his family, supporters and legal team – the wounds left by the US military penal system will take time to heal. Rehabilitation is part of Corrections Canada’s philosophy and the attempt by the Professor Zinck and Omar’s legal team depicts, how false are the distortions surrounding Omar Khadr. His portrayal in the media is polarized, and, as Pakistanis, who can know better than us about the media’s role in electing the bad guy in the tale. The debate rages on the morality of acts done in the name of love and war, but as we have seen in the case of Omar Khadr, nothing was ever fair.

A decade ago, I was sitting in my school’s library watching “Dumbo” (1941), a Disney classic, and hiding tears over the imprisonment of a baby elephant’s mother, just because she was trying to protect him and appeared a threat while doing so. That is when it struck me: the bad guy in the tale is not always the one everyone points out to be. From this childhood lesson, I have learnt that although the true justice may never be handed out, it is not futile to pursue it. The struggle of the human spirit to resist injustice is a real one; the efforts of conscious individuals, who seek to bring pain to a closure, will echo in the pages of history for those ahead, who will look back and wonder, why there was so much silence for so painful a wound.

“About myself, what can I say? We hold on to hope in our hearts and the love from others to us and that keeps us going until we reach our happiness” – Omar Khadr to Arlette Zinck, in a letter dated January 22, 2009.

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Letter writing campaign against Vic Toew’s denial of a media request, interview Omar Khadr

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Dear Supporters of Omar Khadr,

In light of recent media coverage of Vic Toew’s denial of a media request for an interview with Omar Khadr, the Vancouver Free Omar Khadr Campaign is encouraging a letter writing campaign to share our criticism of his appalling interference.
[+] Omar Khadr prison interview overruled by Vic Toews’ office (CBCnews)

Please forward or edit the template letter as you see fit. It would be very helpful if you sent copies to Stephen Harper and your M.P. Address/Contact information is provided below.

Thank you for your support!

Vancouver FREE Omar Khadr NOW Committee

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Date___________________

Vic Toews
Minister of Public Safety
Suite 306
Justice Building
House of Commons
Ottawa, Canada
K1A 0A6

Dear Mr. Toews:

I am writing to protest the political interference of the office of the Minister of Public Safety in an application for a prison interview with Omar Khadr. Your decision to overrule the warden’s approval is considered to be highly unusual and outside the bounds of your authority. Only recently you reassured Canadians that decisions related to the future of Omar Khadr would be determined by Correctional Services Canada independent of government involvement. Political interference in the judicial process threatens the foundations of our democracy, Mr. Toews. I therefore urge you to:

1. allow the warden’s decision to take precedence and allow media access to Omar Khadr.

2. end the complicity of Canadian government officials in the ongoing violation of Omar Khadr’s human rights that are protected by international law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

  

Sincerely,

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Name_______________
Addess______________

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TAKE ACTION:

1. Phone Vic Toews:
1-613-992-3128, toll free: 1-800-944-4875

2. Send an email message:
vic.toews@parl.gc.ca

3. Send a letter: (no stamp needed). Hard copy letters have the greatest impact. Please write to:
Vic Toews
Minister of Public Safety
Suite 306, Justice Building
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ont.
K1A 0A6

4. Tweet Toews:
Vic Toews @ToewsVic

5. Send a copy to your M.P.
addresses listed here:
http://www.parl.gc.ca/Parlinfo/Compilations/HouseOfCommons.aspx?Menu=HoC

6. Send a copy to Stephen Harper:
pm@pm.gc.ca

7. Call Stephen Harper:
1-613-992-4211

8. Send a copy to Mulcair:
thomas.mulcair@parl.gc.ca

9. Send a copy to Trudeau:
justin.trudeau@parl.gc.ca

10. Send a copy to May:
elizabeth.may@parl.gc.ca

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Canadian Omar Khadr to appeal terrorism convictions

By Paul Koring,  The Globe and Mail  Apr. 27 2013

Omar Khadr’s plea-bargained guilty plea and conviction on murder, terrorism and spying charges will be appealed to a U.S. civilian federal court that has tossed out similar Guantanamo military tribunal convictions for two high-profile al-Qaeda defendants.

If the appeal succeeds, Mr. Khadr could be freed immediately.

His lawyers expect the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to overturn Mr. Khadr’s conviction – just as it did in the cases of two of Osama bin Laden’s close personal aides, Ali Hamza Bahlul and Salim Hamdan, both also convicted at Guantanamo.

That would create consternation in Ottawa, where ministers have called Mr. Khadr a terrorist and successive Liberal and Conservative governments refused to extricate him from Guantanamo despite his Canadian citizenship and his hotly debated status as a child soldier under international law. He pleaded guilty in 2010 to multiple crimes committed in Afghanistan in 2002. As part of that plea, he confessed to throwing a grenade that killed U.S. Sergeant Christopher Speer.

The Pentagon’s Office of the Chief Defense Counsel has named an appellate team of attorneys for Mr. Khadr led by a civilian Sam Morison. Now armed with a formal go-ahead from Mr. Khadr, the team is expected to file the appeal soon.

They’re confident the military tribunal convictions will be overturned. “In our view there are serious questions about the validity of all these convictions,” Mr. Morison said, adding: “As the law now stands, I don’t see how his convictions can be affirmed.”

In rulings on Mr. Hamdan last October and again in January on Mr. al-Bahlul, the civilian appeals court overturned the terrorism convictions against the two. It concluded the military war crimes tribunal created by the George W. Bush administration after the 2001 terrorist attack that levelled New York’s twin towers and left the Pentagon ablaze had tried and convicted detainees on crimes that didn’t exist when the defendants were captured. President Barack Obama has opted to retain the military commissions and keep Guantanamo running, despite his pre-2008 election vow to close the infamous prison complex.

Mr. Khadr’s case is additionally complicated because, unlike Mr. Hamdan or Mr. al-Bahlul, he pleaded guilty at his week-long trial in October, 2010, that included a remorseful statement to Sgt. Speer’s widow. As part of that deal, Mr. Khadr waived his right to appeal.

Mr. Khadr admitted to murder in violation of the law of war, attempted murder in violation of the law of war, conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism and spying.

But if the underlying acts weren’t crimes – at least not war crimes – then the waiver may also be unreliable and the appeal could still be accepted by the U.S. federal court.

“Not only weren’t they war crimes at the time of their commission but, I would argue,” Mr. Morison said, “that none of them are crimes today, not in international law.”

The exception is spying, which was so broadly redefined in the Military Commissions Act, it bears little resemblance to espionage as defined in international law.

It could be months before the appeal is formally launched, let alone heard.

In the meantime, Mr. Khadr, who has been held prisoner since 2002, will be eligible under Canadian law for a parole hearing in July this year, when he will have served one-third of the eight-year sentence he agreed to at his 2010 trial.

Mr. Khadr, near death, was dug out of the rubble of an Afghan compound bombed by U.S. warplanes in June, 2002, where the then-15-year-old son of a major al-Qaeda figure was living with a group of militants building and planting roadside bombs.

Even if Mr. Khadr threw the grenade that killed Sgt. Speer, killing a combatant on a battlefield isn’t a war crime except in narrowly defined cases. Those include shooting a defenseless descending parachutist, a wounded soldier or one indicating surrender.

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Source: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/canadian-omar-khadr-to-appeal-terrorism-convictions/article11587422/?cmpid=rss1

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MORE RELATED TO THIS STORY

Omar Khadr or: How Canada Rejects the Very Principles of the Rule of Law and the Further Erosion of Our Values.

Omar Khadr’s lawyer Dennis Edney’s Talk | Vancouver April 16, 2013