The Education of Omar Khadr

In the November issue of Walrus magazine, readers can learn more about the personal life of Omar Khadr through the eyes of his volunteer teachers, in particular Arlette Zinck, Professor of English from Kings College University Edmonton. Up to now, Canadians have never hear Khadr tell his own story as the Canadian government has refused all requests from the media to interview him.

Here are a few excerpts from that article:

“Also out of the ordinary that day: the teacher-student roles had been reversed, and Khadr was instructing Zinck. The prisoner had a math final coming up, one of three remaining grade eleven courses, and he needed practice. “He’s a natural science guy,” she explained a few weeks later, when I met her at her house. Math energizes him; it is a more purposeful and logical discipline than literature, sociology, or law. Zinck, on the other hand, is more comfortable discussing John Bunyan and William Shakespeare—“How absolute the knave is!”—rather than absolute numbers”

“She soaked the lessons in CanLit classics, representing every province and territory—from BC’s Obasan, Joy Kogawa’s story of Japanese internment camp survivors, to PEI’s Anne of Green Gables . “If you’re dreaming of home,” she said, “we’ll structure it around a collection of novels about home.”.

“If he were a university student of mine, he would be in the top 5 percent,” said David Goa, director of the University of Alberta’s Chester Ronning Centre for the Study of Religion and Public Life. Zinck asked Goa to teach the prisoner-student about the intersections of faith and science. “I left thinking that this young man, somehow, by the grace of God, has turned prison into a monastery,” Goa recalled.


Read the full article by Omar Mouallem in the November issue of Walrus magazine: The Education of Omar Khadr: A student and teacher cultivate an unlikely friendship


CBC Coverage of Omar Khadr has Misrepresented the Truth

By Kathleen Copps, Free Omar Khadr Now Committee | October 03, 2014


To Esther Enkin, CBC Ombudsperson

Re: CBC Ombudsperson’s Response to Kathleen Ruff

 

Dear Ms. Enkin:

From its very title, “The Contentious Case of Omar Khadr”, your dismissal of Kathleen Ruff’s complaint reflects an erroneous assumption that details of the case are open to legitimate debate. This opinion is further revealed in your statement: “It is unrealistic, and not required by policy, to provide all sides of an issue in one short radio news script.” A request for factual reporting cannot be dismissed as one side of an issue.

Kathleen Ruff (former  B.C. Human Rights Commissioner) rightly claimed that by referring to Omar Khadr as “a Canadian who pleaded guilty in a U.S. military court to war-crimes charges”, the CBC ignored crucial facts and thereby contributed to misleading and biased reporting. The terms “pleaded guilty”, U.S. military ‘court’ (in fact, there was no court; only an extra-judicial military ‘commission’) and “war crimes” all imply a lawful legal process-which Omar Khadr was denied. A news item which refers to a guilty ‘plea’ without mention of its inadmissibility in a Canadian court, is grossly misleading and disreputable reporting. You quote Jack Nagler (Director of Journalistic Public Accountability and Engagement) that: “Breaking news is not the place for context or nuance”. We agree. It is therefore particularly critical that ‘breaking news’ be scrupulously accurate and not carelessly convey information in direct contrast to the truth. In any case, Omar Khadr’s legal status cannot be considered a part of breaking news. As you pointed out, you have had 12 years to familiarize yourself with the illegalities surrounding the case.

By leaving out essential details (for example: the illegitimacy of the military commission, use of torture to obtain information and extract confessions, violations of Canadian and International guarantees for due process etc) the CBC presented another  misrepresentation of the facts. How can a news article which highlights Omar’s “guilty plea” not point out that the procedure was a judicial sham, a U.S. military kangaroo court deemed illegal by both the U.S. Supreme Court and the Geneva Conventions,  that he had been tortured, that he was 15 when he was taken captive, that the Canadian Supreme Court has found our government to have been complicit in the violation of his fundamental rights and that the UN Committee against Torture has ruled that Canada redress the violation of those rights?

You rejected Ruff’s complaint because: “Practically speaking, it’s impossible to include all or even a good part of that disputed and often contradictory information in one brief radio news report.” Ms. Ruff did not request that contradictory information be included in your report: ironically, it was her request for the facts that you dismissed.

The stronger one’s convictions about an issue, the stronger the conviction that one’s views should be emphatically reflected.” How disturbing that the CBC, our national public broadcaster, can reduce Ruff’s insistence that the international right to a fair trial and freedom from torture, are merely her personal and subjective “views”. How can we then differentiate your news organization – with its mandate to inform and enlighten Canadians – from other media outlets with much less lofty goals? Why should we care about the future of the CBC if it is not committed to reasonable and accurate reporting in a case that according to Constance Blackstone (Distinguished Professor of Law, University of Ottawa) enshrines the defining moment of our time.

Your rejection of Kathleen Ruff’s complaint is highly troubling because it attests to the fact that the CBC does not appreciate either the unique nature of this case or its relevance for the future of human rights in Canada. A young Canadian, the only Westerner to be released from Guantanamo and imprisoned in his native country, is, two years later, still behind bars and subjected to overt government intervention to keep him there. The fact that you see the case as “contentious” is because CBC has abrogated its responsibility to “inform and enlighten” citizens regarding our government’s complicity in the detainment and torture of a juvenile, their defiance of a unanimous vote of parliament, their refusal to abide by a Supreme Court ruling, their violation of the fundamental rights of a citizen, their maintenance of an illegal incarceration and their unrelenting efforts to demonize Omar Khadr and promote irrational fears and racial bigotry

Please review your dismissal of Kathleen Ruff’s criticisms and offer some reassurance that the CBC is committed to factual reporting and not manufacturing a mythical debate which promotes a continued travesty of injustice for Omar Khadr.

Kathleen Copps,
Free Omar Khadr Now Committee


 

FREE Omar Khadr Now Campaign 

E        freeomarkhadrnow@gmail.com
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“Some cases enshrine the defining moments of their time. Omar Khadr’s is one. Future generations will rightly judge our shocking dereliction of responsibility in this matter [and] our collective Canadian failure to extend justice and humanity.” – Constance Backhouse, Distinguished University Professor of Law, University of Ottawa.    

 


 

 

Gail Davidson of Lawyers’ Rights Watch Slams CBC Coverage of Omar Khadr

By Gail Davidson, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada

Attention CBC Ombudsperson;

Re: CBC’s Reply to Kathleen Ruff’s complaint on the Omar Khadr case reporting by CBC

Omar Khadr did not ‘plead guilty’, was not charged with ‘crimes’ and has never been ‘sentenced.’

The terms, ‘plead guilty’, ‘crimes’ and ‘sentenced’ are all words understood by Canadians to refer to widely known concepts that are the underpinnings of our criminal law system. Crimes are violations of statutory penal law; a guilty plea is the accused’s freely and voluntarily given confession in open court, to the crime(s) with which he has been charged; sentencing is the judgment made by a court after an accused is convicted in accordance with law. The term ‘court’ refers to a competent, impartial and independent tribunal mandated to conduct a fair hearing, according to law, and in open court. In the Omar Khadr case there were no charges no court, no guilty plea.

Imposition of sentence, as done by the Guantanamo Bay military tribunal, “without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized people” is a grave breach (i.e. a crime) of the Geneva Conventions and a crime in Canada.

By using these terms the CBC invited listeners to accept a description of what has transpired in the Omar Khadr case that is not only misleading but wholly false. This in turn promotes acceptance of what the law forbids absolutely, violations of rights by state authorities coupled with denial of remedies. CBC has a duty in all its reporting, to accurately convey and honour the meaning of these important words and the principles of fundamental justice they represent in our legal system: principles upon which we all depend.

I would be pleased to provide correct legal information to CBC and to contribute to fair, accurate and balanced reporting by the CBC on the Omar Khadr case.

Gail Davidson
Lawyer’s Rights Watch Canada – LRWC
3220 West 13th Avenue
Vancouver, BC CANADA, V6K 2V5
Tel: +1-604 736-1175
Fax: +1-604 736-1170
Skype: gail.davidson.lrwc
Email: lrwc@portal.ca
Website: http://www.lrwc.org

Lawyers Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) is a committee of lawyers who promote human rights and the rule of law internationally by protecting advocacy rights. LRWC campaigns for advocates in danger because of their human rights advocacy, engages in research and education and works in cooperation with other human rights organizations. LRWC has Special Consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

Fund to Help Free Omar Khadr

PLEASE HELP DENNIS EDNEY, OMAR’S PRO BONO LAYWER FOR 10 YEARS, TO FREE OMAR.

To make a donation you have the following options:

  • 2) By Cheque, you can send to: Free Omar Khadr Now Committee P.O. Box 57112 RPO East Hastings Street Vancouver, V5K 1Z0 B.C. Canada (Please enclose your email address)
  • 3) By Bank Deposit/Interac e-transfer: Free Omar Khadr Now Committee VanCity Credit Union, Branch 13 Account number: 531590 freeomarkhadrnow@gmail.com

 

“I went into Guantanamo Bay as a lawyer and I came out as a broken father.” – Dennis Edney


To hear Dennis Edney speak about Omar, you can watch:


 

 

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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Assault, arrest and 13 years of illegal detention of Omar

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[+] Watch CBC video (graphic) of the assault, arrest and illegal captivity of Omar Khadr 

Facts of the attack

– The first explosion of the US attack had hit Omar in the face, and he passed out during the rest of the attack, with a smashed eye and a shattered ankle.
– A US soldier soldier, who was hit by friendly fire, died shortly after the attack.

After the 4-hour firefight

– The US soldiers shot Omar twice in his back. When he was found lying unconscious –close to death– on his front, under the rubble of the bombarded building. 
– The other survivor in the compound was shot point-blank through the head. (Omar was not the sole survivor after the firefight, what the US later falsely claimed).

The US falsified the original field report to hide crucial facts in order to blame an innocent child

– In the doctored field report the US falsely blamed the 15-year-old Omar; falsely declaring that he was the sole survivor and wiping out the fact that a US grenade killed the US soldier. After six years the original unadulterated report accidentally came to light.

heavy air strikes on compound4-hour bombardment with 2,000 pounds of missiles on compound.Omar’s exit wounds, from shots in the back when found in a helpless position. U.S. soldiers shot Omar when they found him under the rubble of the bombarded building, hidden away against a wall. Shrapnel had already permanently blinded his left eye. Omar was immediately interrogated when he woke up, severely wounded, in his hospital bed in Bagram. 15-year-old Omar, hanging from his wrists in Bagram, for hours, when he didn’t give the answers they wanted.

What Can You Tell Us about Omar Khadr? Interview with Dennis Edney QC

By Aisha Maniar (London Guantanamo Campaign) | June 3, 2014

Aisha Maniar interviewed Dennis Edney about the upcoming court cases (including the appeal to overrule Omar’s illegitimate Guantanamo conviction), the unacceptable government interference and Omar’s admirable personality. The interview took place during the UK speaking tour of Dennis Edney QC, to raise awareness for his client Omar Khadr, organized by London Guantanamo Campaign and the Free Omar Khadr Now Campaign.

Dennis Edney – “For me, it’s a privilege to represent Omar. I learn from him. I admire him. There are times when I look at him that I have to remind myself of all the horrors that he has been through, and yet he has retained his humanity and his compassion. He is full of excitement about … Read the full interview →

 

Dallaire says bye to Senate, will advocate for child soldiers like Khadr

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Romeo Dallaire Omar KhadrOn the occasion of Senator Roméo Dallaire’s announcement that he is leaving the Senate, the Free Omar Khadr Now Campaign would like to thank him for his unwavering support for Omar Khadr and his strong moral convictions in speaking up for the rule of law and human decency.

Not many in our government have had the courage to speak on behalf of Omar Khadr who continues to be unlawfully imprisoned.

Thank you Romeo Dallaire, you are a true hero in every sense.


Roméo Dallaire spoke out in the Senate (June 29, 2012) about the abuse and mistreatment of Omar. He said the following:

Honourable senators, I am rising now to put on the record the case of the only child soldier prosecuted for war crimes.

Canada has been the world leader in drafting and promoting the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, specifically addressing child soldiers. This convention entered into force in 2002 and has been signed by 130 countries.

That same year, Canada again led the charge in developing that optional protocol, and now 150 countries have signed to it. This protocol prohibits the use and recruitment of children under the age of 18 in armed conflict. The Optional Protocol led to the drafting of the Paris Principles, which clearly established the definition of a child soldier. I have read this definition in the chamber previously, but I wish to do so again simply to remind us:

Any person under 18 years of age who is compulsorily, forcibly or voluntarily recruited —

Of course, in conflict zones, the term “voluntary” is questionable.

— or used in hostilities by any kind of armed forces or groups in any capacity, including, but not limited to, soldiers, cooks, porters, messengers, sex slaves, bush wives and those accompanying such groups. It includes girls recruited for sexual purposes and forced marriage. It does not, therefore, refer exclusively to a child who is carrying or has carried arms.

Imagine, honourable senators, that you are a 13-year-old boy. For your whole life your family has moved around, never settling for very long. You live in a culture where your father is never questioned. If he says “Jump,” you ask “How high?” No matter what he asks you to do, you comply. You are barely an adolescent; you cannot fully grasp the meaning or consequences of your tasks. You live in a country where armed conflict surrounds you. Listening to your father is, in fact, your survival.

Your father sends you to live and work with his associates. He tells you to stay there and to listen to what you are told. As you are working one day, the compound you are in comes under attack by U.S. Special Forces. In the firefight frenzy, you are shot three times. Then you are wrenched from the rubble and accused of killing an American soldier. It is 2002, you are 15 years old, and your name is Omar Khadr.

To produce a professional soldier, the minimum standard in NATO is about one year. That is a basic infantryman. To produce a Special Forces soldier, the minimum time and experience is four years of service, plus up to another year to year and a half of special training.

This compound was first, as we say, softened up by air attacks, bombed by 500-kilogram bombs from the air, and then assaulted by a full-fledged Delta Special Force, which Omar Khadr finds himself in the middle of.

Today, honourable senators, I speak about the case of Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen and former child soldier currently held in prison at Guantanamo Bay. It is my intention to speak about the nightmares this now man has suffered, the failures of our government to protect him, and the immediate necessity for this government to sign the transfer agreement and bring Omar back home.

It is believed that during the firefight, Omar Khadr threw a grenade, killing Sergeant Christopher Speer, a Delta Force strategic forces soldier and special forces medic. He was sent to the Americans’ notorious Bagram prison. Once identified, the Canadian government sought and was denied consular access.

In September 2002, Foreign Affairs sent a diplomatic note to the U.S. Department of State. The note made three points.

  • First, there was “ambiguity as to the role Mr. Khadr may have played” in the battle of July 27, 2002.
  • Second, Guantanamo Bay “would not be an appropriate place for Mr. Omar Khadr to be detained,” since “under various laws of Canada and the United States,” his age provided “for special treatment of such persons with respect to legal or judicial processes.”
  • Finally, the diplomatic note went on to ask for “discussions between appropriate officials on Mr. Khadr prior to any decisions being taken with respect to his future status and detention.”

In spite of our government’s concerns, Omar was transferred to Guantanamo Bay, where he has remained a prisoner for the last 10 years. Despite the best efforts of the truth, what has followed in the last 10 years has been a nightmare for this ex-child soldier, a stain upon our society, and a fundamental reproach upon our respect for international law and conventions that we have signed.

We have since learned that after being hospitalized at Bagram, this seriously injured 15-year-old was pulled off his stretcher onto the floor and his head was covered with a bag while dogs barked in his face. Cold water was thrown on him; he was forced to stand for hours with his hands tied above his head and to carry heavy buckets of water to aggravate his wounds. He was threatened with rape, and bright lights were shone on his injured eyes. In fact, he has lost one eye.

We have learned that, while prepping him for American and Canadian interrogators at Guantanamo Bay, this boy was subjected to further tortures, such as extreme sleep deprivation and endless hours of standing up, designed to exhaust him. After being held without charge for three years, Omar is charged by the U.S. as an “enemy combatant” in November 2005 and put to trial through the Military Commissions Act.

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.

The status of child means that the person concerned is unable to understand the world into which he was thrown. The need to protect and take care of children has always been the code of humanity. The use of child soldiers is a violation of that code. The status of child soldier means that the person concerned is subject to the most atrocious form of indoctrination, to physical and psychological torture and to the most poignant mental poverty into which an innocent child can be thrust.

For too long, we have done nothing. We must remember that the substance of the Khadr case involves children’s rights. In this type of case, we must demonstrate wisdom, compassion and a true willingness to take into account the overall context and remember that all children have inalienable rights, even if they or their families have done things of which we disapprove. These rights are meaningless if we respect them only selectively.

When the military commission in Guantanamo dismissed the charges on a technicality in June 2007, the Government of Canada could have exerted pressure to have Omar repatriated, particularly given the Kafkaesque possibility that the United States government would, as it had promised, appeal the decision before a tribunal that had yet to be set up.

I went to Washington to talk to members of Congress, the Senate and the State Department. They said that the only entity refusing to go ahead with Omar’s departure was the Pentagon, backed by the Canadian government’s lack of action.

From the outset, the U.S. administration adopted rules as the need arose whereas Canada’s representatives shirked their responsibilities towards a citizen. The charges of murder, attempted murder, conspiracy, material support for terrorism and espionage under the Military Commission Act are reiterated in the appeal.

While Omar was waiting for his trial to begin in Guantanamo Bay, the Canadian courts studied his case. In May 2008, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Canada’s representatives had violated Omar Khadr’s rights, which were guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, when he was illegally interrogated in 2003.

The court ordered that the fruits of the interrogations sent to the American authorities be disclosed to Omar. Canada complied with the order to disclose the information, but it has done nothing to put an end to this nightmare.

In January 2010, once again, the Supreme Court of Canada concluded that the Government of Canada had continued to infringe Omar’s rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, finding that the treatment Omar was subjected to offended the most basic Canadian standards. The court stopped short of ordering the government to repatriate Omar, because of the Crown’s prerogative over foreign affairs.

Therefore, the situation is focused specifically on the Crown.

The government sent a diplomatic note to the United States to ask the Americans not to use the fruits of the Canadian interrogation. This was nothing but a symbolic gesture that did nothing to compensate for the serious, fundamental violation of Omar’s rights by Canadian agents.

In August 2010, Omar Khadr’s trial started in Guantanamo Bay, even though he was a child soldier. He decided to plead guilty because he wanted a chance to live. Ultimately, he is the one who took responsibility.

Canada was intimately involved in the pre-trial plea deals and negotiations. In October 2010, Canada committed to return Omar to complete his sentence in Canada after he served one additional year in Guantánamo Bay.

On November 1, 2010, in the House of Commons, then Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon said that Canada will implement this deal; yet, eight months later, he was eligible to return to Canada and we have seen nothing from the government. Why the delay?

This government has turned what should have been a technical, bureaucratic decision into a political game, a political football. The Americans have held up their end of the deal. Omar Khadr has held up his end of the deal. The Americans have signed his release, dated April 16, so that the Canadian government can take him and incarcerate him in appropriate establishments in this country in order that he can receive, as other prisoners do, rehabilitation and reintegration into our society. Why is the Canadian government refusing to follow through on its word? If this is a political decision, what is the political impediment for bringing him here?

The U.S. government is not known for being soft on terrorism. The U.S. would never agree to transfer a detainee, especially to an ally, if they believed that that detainee was in any way a threat.

He will not be walking the streets; he will be going to a Canadian prison. Despite this, our government continues to stonewall the United States’ efforts to return Omar Khadr to Canada. In fact, the Canadian specialist or technocrat in Washington refused to meet with the Americans to even start discussing the details of how to bring him back, under what means and under whose control.

The Minister of Public Safety tells us that the matter is under consideration. That is not a particularly good response. Perhaps, as Mr. Khadr’s Canadian lawyers have said, the minister thinks that it has not been that long, but the minister has not been in Guantánamo Bay for a decade under less than appropriate conditions, even compared to our jails. The minister does not sit shackled to a floor waiting for the decision to return him to Canada. Khadr does.

There is a great deal of frustration in the American government towards Canada. Not only is the patience of our closest ally wearing thin, but the world has been watching Canada’s missteps in this case. Just this month, the UN Committee against Torture in its report urged Canada to promptly approve Omar Khadr’s transfer application. Canada’s reputation as a defender of human rights continues to be sullied the longer this process and his detention in Guantánamo Bay continue. It is a simple fact of fulfilling a promise; you either sign the deal and you implement it, or you go against the deal and lose your credibility as being a fair negotiator with your closest ally.

As Omar Khadr’s defence lawyer put it last week in a press conference:

The United States and Canada are supposed to be the good guys. We’re supposed to be the people that the other places in the world who are looking for freedom look at for how things are supposed to be done the right way. We’re supposed to stand for human rights, dignity and the rule of law. The cornerstone of the foundation on which the rule of law is built is honouring your agreements.

Canada must honour the agreement it has with Omar Khadr and return him immediately to Canada. There are all kinds of planes waiting to bring him back. There is a whole program already in place through the university in Edmonton where he has already commenced his rehabilitation while incarcerated in Guantánamo Bay.

There can be no doubt, and I conclude, that the case of Omar Khadr taints this government, this country and all of its citizens. Our credibility in attempting to extricate, demobilize, rehabilitate and reintegrate child soldiers, as I recently was doing in the Congo and South Sudan, is affected by the fact that we are not playing by the rules that we have instituted and want other people to play by. They are not stupid. They know we are not playing by the rules. It was put into my face that the Khadr case is an example where we sign the papers, we even make deals with our allies, but we do not have the guts to implement them.

 

 

 

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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