OMAR KHADR’S LONG MARCH TOWARDS JUSTICE | VANCOUVER EVENT


SORRY, TICKETS NO LONGER AVAILABLE – SOLD OUT.


Attention Free Omar supporters in B.C.’s lower mainland: An opportunity to meet Dennis Edney, lawyer for Omar Khadr, share a meal and help cover Omar’s upcoming legal costs.

Wednesday April 8th 6:30 p.m. Tamam Restaurant 2616 E Hastings St. Vancouver, B.C.

$45 (pay at the door) Limited seating so be sure to contact freeomar.ca@gmail.com for reservations.


An Open Letter to the World | Omar Khadr

By Hazel Gabe

Everyone, Omar Khadr has been in prison for THIRTEEN YEARS. Since he was FIFTEEN. Now he’s twenty-eight. And not just prison. Illegal black hole detention with no rights, and people torturing him, and, for years on end, no end in sight, no knowledge of if it would ever stop. Since he was FIFTEEN. Ten years in Guantanamo Bay.

Who is Omar Khadr, you might ask? He’s an innocent young man whose story proves what happens when racism and Islamophobia is used by powerful, cowardly governments that want a scapegoat. Let me tell you about him. He is important.

He’s a Canadian citizen. He was born in Toronto. He grew up in Toronto and Pakistan. When he was fifteen, his dad left him with some men in Afghanistan, telling him to translate for them, since he spoke several languages. His father was supposed to come back to get him, but he never did. Omar was stuck there. If he’d run away, it would have shamed his father, and he might have been killed. The men were Taliban fighters.

While he was there, Americans attacked. First they bombed the house. Bombed it with 500-pound bombs. It was reduced to rubble. Then they stormed it. Eighty feet from the entrance, in a small alley, a special forces soldier recalls seeing Omar face down in rubble, screaming from the shrapnel wounds from the bombing, which had pierced his eyes and all over this body. The soldier shot him twice in the back. (This was a war crime.)

Omar was taken to a place called Bagram. He was unconscious for a week. When he woke up, his suffering had only just begun. Soldiers there told him he had killed an American soldier. They tortured him. He was still wounded from the shrapnel and the gunshot wounds and the head trauma from the bombs. He didn’t know anyone there and he was a fifteen year old kid. They shackled him in painful positions to make his wounds hurt, they hung him by his wrists, they threatened him with rape. They waterboarded him. They made him confess to anything they wanted. He confessed to killing an American soldier.

They didn’t bring him consular officials from Canada, they didn’t let him talk to a lawyer. They didn’t have someone there who was on his side (International law forbids the lengthly incarceration of children, stipulates that they must be provided education and must have access to adult advocates. International law forbids torture).

They asked Canada if it was ok they were treating a Canadian citizen like this. Canada said we don’t care. Canada said let us prove our loyalty to the United States by sacrificing one of our own. Let us help you torture him.

They brought him to Guantanamo Bay. They didn’t charge him with anything. They just held him there, for years. Sixteen, seventeen. Most kids are in high school. He had no schooling opportunities, no books. He was tortured with cells that are constantly kept freezing cold, no blankets, lights that never turn off. Sleep deprivation. Stress positions. Other things, no doubt worse.

Canadian officials came to visit him, but they were only there to ask him more questions. He cried for his mother when he realized they weren’t going to help him.

Finally they charged him with something. It wasn’t a crime. It was a fake crime they invented. War crimes are things that exist in international law, because wars are things that happen between countries. The Geneva conventions tell us what are and are not war crimes. War crimes include things like killing a medic, killing a prisoner, or torturing a prisoner of war. Omar did not commit any war crimes. Even if he had thrown a grenade that killed an American soldier, it would not have been a war crime. The soldier would have been a war casualty, and Omar would have been a child soldier, protected under international law because child soldiers are vulnerable and not held responsible.

So the US invented some new “crimes”. They called them war crimes, even though they couldn’t be, because no one country can unilaterally decide that they’ve changed the rules of war without consulting with the rest of the world. That way lies no laws at all. But this is what the Americans did.

Then they “tried” him in something that looked like a court, but wasn’t. It had the judge and the lawyers, but it didn’t have fairness, what’s called due process. He wasn’t allowed to see the evidence. He wasn’t allowed to choose his lawyers. He wasn’t allowed to bring witnesses for the defence, such as psychologists who knew him and could attest that he was a good person who was remarkably peaceful and generous and kind and without hate, amazingly, a person who spoke of peace and not a radicalized jihadist.

This false court allowed the confessions. The confessions that had been made by a fifteen-year-old who was being tortured, who was concussed and injured and bleeding, and had never been told that anything he said could be used against him in a court of law. Indeed it could not have been used in a real court. But this wasn’t a real court.

He was twenty-three by the time it went to “trial.” He was told that the trial wouldn’t change anything. Even if he was ruled innocent, they could keep him there forever.

Or he could plead guilty. Then he’d have a chance of going back to Canada.

He had no choice.

Canada let him come home, a year late. Age twenty-six. The government officials labelled him a dangerous terrorist, and stuck him in solitary. The first time he was allowed out, he was attacked by one of the violent criminals in the max security prison. At Guantanamo he had been considered minimum risk.

Government officials call him a terrorist. Newspapers call him a terrorist. And they keep him locked up, even though the Guantanamo Bay “court” wasn’t a real “court.” Australia and Great Britain protected their citizens from the flagrant abuse of their rights by taking them out of there as soon as possible. Canada abandoned a child there.

Canada continues to pretend Omar is guilty. It continues to pin its hatred of immigrants, its hatred of Muslims, and its hatred of people it sees as interlopers who come and take advantage of our “freedoms,” on Omar. It continues to abuse him and pick and choose what citizens it wants to uphold and what citizens it wants to abuse. The government continues to break the law by keeping him in prison.

Finally Omar is in a medium security prison, has friends in the nearby city of Edmonton who visit him, and teachers who have been supporting him from a nearby college. All faciliated by his Canadian lawyer and other supporters. His lawyer has worked without pay for him for over ten years, almost bankrupting himself in the process.

Omar Khadr has just applied for Bail. He’s in court this week. If he gets it, he could be free!! Free for the first time in thirteen years!!!

Pray for him. Pray for freedom for Omar.
Even if he gains freedom, Omar’s still got a long fight ahead of him to clear his name in the American courts and the Canadian courts.

You can donate to his legal fund here: https://freeomar.ca/donate/donate/

US Ruling Could Help Omar Khadr Successfully Appeal his Guantanamo ‘Conviction’

The US Court of Military Commission Review (CMCR) made an important decision that acknowledged its illegitimacy in convicting on charges of providing material support for terrorism. The CMCR decision follows on the ruling by the D.C. Circuit Court (Al Bahlul v. United States), which held that material support for terrorism is not an offense that the military commission could try.

David Hicks, a former Guantanamo prisoner was convicted by the military commission of this offense but now that conviction has been quashed. He is innocent. His lawyer Stephen Kenny said that the decision confirms that Mr Hicks’ actions were not illegal. “He wasn’t doing anything that was a breach of Australian, international or US law. US civilian courts have ruled that the charge of providing material support for terrorism cannot be considered a war crime in cases that were brought for actions before 2006, when new laws were adopted.”

US civilian courts have ruled that the charge of providing material support for terrorism cannot be considered a war crime in cases that were brought for actions before 2006, when new laws were adopted.”

Omar Khadr was also ‘convicted’ of providing material support, and like David HIcks was told that he had no appeal rights as part of the plea deal. Now it’s clear that appeal rights have not been extinguished, rather they continue to exist.

Nate Whitling, Omar’s lawyer suggested that the ruling could help Omar’s U.S. appeal and stated that “(The) decision in the David Hicks case is important to Omar Khadr’s appeal before the same court. Essentially, it confirms that the form of waiver signed by Omar as part of his plea deal is invalid, and that he may appeal all five of his ‘convictions’.”

Sam Morison, Pentagon appointed lawyer is currently appealing all of Omar’s ‘convictions‘. This challenge has been delayed by other appeals in the system, nevertheless we are hopeful that Omar’s innocence will also be established.

In light of this US appeal and other decisions which have successfully negated the legitimacy of the military commission, Omar’s lawyers have requested bail. The bail hearing is set for March 24-25 in Edmonton. Let’s hope that justice and fairness will prevail for Omar.


Here is a listing of media articles as well as the Hicks decision:

 


 

Newsletter Free Omar Khadr Now | Jan – Feb 2015


Recent 2015 articles in the media about Omar :


Christian university in Edmonton offers spot to Omar Khadr | CBC As it Happens, with Carol Off & Jeff Douglas, Feb 5, 2015Melanie Humphries

Listen to radio interview here →

“We seek to serve community and society to bring about reconcilation,” university president Melanie Humphries tells As It Happens guest host Laura Lynch. “We really feel that society increasingly has become about retribution and fear.” She adds that about 30 per cent of the university’s students don’t identify as Christian.

Humphries, who has spent time with Khadr, says he has been wrongly portrayed in the media — and by the federal government — as a terrorist and a jihadist. “My impression of him is that he’s an articulate, thoughtful, non-radicalized individual,” she says.

Continue reading →


Edmonton university has no qualms offering Omar Khadr a spot | Video by Chris Purdy, Feb 4, 2015

Watch video →

King’s University in Edmonton says offering Omar Khadr admission is the right thing to do. The Christian-principled school is giving the former Guantanamo Bay inmate a spot as part of his bail application to be heard next month.


Educating Omar Khadr: ‘Just doing what we do,’ Christian university saysBy Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press, Feb 4, 2015

Dan Vankeeken“This completely matches what we’re about: Our mission is about inspiring and educating learners to be agents of reconciliation and renewal,” Dan VanKeeken, the school’s vice-president, said in an interview in Toronto this week.
“We don’t have a position on Omar. We’re just doing what we do.”
Khadr, 28, pleaded guilty in 2010 before a widely maligned U.S. military commission to five war crimes he was accused of committing as a 15-year-old in Afghanistan in July 2002. He is now serving out the rest of his eight-year sentence in Bowden, Alta,. as a medium security prisoner.
He is applying for bail — to be heard in March — pending an appeal of his conviction based on U.S. legal rulings that what he did was not a war crime under either international or American law.

Continue reading →


Omar Khadr applies for bail | By Michelle Shephard, Toronto Star, Feb 03 2015

Kings UniversityA Christian university in Edmonton has offered to admit former Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr if he wins his bid for freedom next month after 12 years in custody.
“What better way to prepare someone for success in life than with education,” said Dan Vankeeken, vice-president of The King’s University, in an interview Tuesday as he visited Toronto.
Although the Khadr case has been highly politicized and has divided Canadians, Vankeeken says the university’s decision has been well received by the community.

Continue reading →


Omar Khadr hopes to restart his life in EdmontonBy Caley Ramsay, Global News, Jan 31, 2015

27 Omar grijs langwerpig“He’s a bright, intelligent, dedicated student and there’s a good number of faculty that have been in a relationship with him,” said Humphreys. “We feel like it was pretty much a logical step.”
Khadr’s Canadian lawyer Dennis Edney said the Toronto-born Khadr would live with him in Edmonton.
Khadr’s bail hearing is set for March 24. It will be his first attempt at freedom since his return from a notorious U.S. Prison in Cuba where he was held for eight years.
“It’s becoming clearer and clearer in the United States from recent cases that Omar’s convictions are invalid,” his lawyer, Nate Whitling, told the Canadian Press last week.

Continue reading →


Khadr hopes to study at Edmonton university, live with lawyer’s family | By Sheila Pratt, Edmonton Journal, Jan 30, 2015

Omar Khadr will be offered a place at King’s University as a mature student and he will receive help from several agencies and citizens to integrate into the community, according documents filed in court Friday for a bail hearing.

In his affidavit, Khadr, 28, sets out his hopes to stay Edmonton, study at King’s, join an interfaith community and play some pickup games of soccer in the neighbourhood if he is released on bail this spring.

Continue reading →


Omar Khadr seeks bail pending US appeal of war crime convictionBy Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press, Jan 23, 2015Omar Khadr

TORONTO – Former Guantanamo Bay inmate Omar Khadr is seeking bail pending disposition of his appeal in the United States against his disputed conviction for war crimes. The bail hearing, set for March 24, would be Khadr’s first attempt at freedom since his return from a notorious U.S. prison in Cuba where he was held for eight years.
“It’s becoming clearer and clearer in the United States from recent cases that Omar’s convictions are invalid,” his lawyer, Nate Whitling, said from Edmonton on Friday. “The Court of Military Commission Review is simply taking too long to state the obvious, and so it’s time for Omar to be released.”

Continue reading →


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
W       www.freeomarakhadr.com
FB      please follow: Free Omar Khadr Now

“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.    

 


 

 

Omar Khadr and the Validity of Guantanamo Military Commissions

By Aisha Maniar | August 31, 2014

Omar Khadr’s appeal case against his conviction by a Guantánamo Bay military commission has been the subject of court action in the U.S., both directly and indirectly, in recent weeks.

In the first instance, a redacted memo by the U.S. Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), released in June under a Freedom of Information order and dated shortly before Omar Khadr’s 2010 military commission hearing, shows that the U.S. deliberately designated Khadr an “unprivileged belligerent”. This enabled the U.S. to charge him with offences it knew did not exist under domestic or international law and to deny him protection under the Geneva Conventions.
(Gail Davidson of Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada reported on the bogus nature of the charges against Omar Khadr in detail here.)

Following this revelation, on 30 June 2014, Khadr’s legal counsel in the U.S. filed a motion with the U.S. Court of Military Commission Review (CMCR) to have the stay on Khadr’s case lifted and his conviction quashed on the basis that “the disclosure of a previously secret memorandum […] which provided authoritative legal guidance to the Department of Defense several months prior to Mr. Khadr’s guilty plea, invalidates the theory of criminality underlying this prosecution and therefore defeats the premise of the Court’s order.” The motion sets out that the memo made it clear to the U.S. authorities that there was no legal basis for the case against Omar Khadr and that the U.S. was fully aware of this.

On 7 July, counsel for the U.S. government filed a motion asking the court to deny the motion filed by Khadr’s lawyers “because there has been no change in the underlying basis” of the court’s original stay of the case in March 2014 and because the memo is “irrelevant” to Khadr’s case. However, the CMCR denied Khadr’s motion before his lawyers had an opportunity to respond. Khadr’s U.S. lawyer Sam Morison called this response predictable. As a result, according to Morison, “the issue is not going away any time soon”. Indeed.

Four months earlier, in March 2014, Khadr’s case (and that of Australian former prisoner David Hicks) was stayed by the CMCR pending a judgment in an appeal by another Guantánamo prisoner, Ali Hamza Al-Bahlul from Yemen. Bahlul had been given a life sentence in 2008 for conspiracy, providing material support for terrorism, and soliciting others to commit war crimes. Following the successful appeal by fellow Yemeni Salim Hamdan in 2012, in which Hamdan’s conviction was quashed on the basis that his offence, providing material support for terrorism, “did not constitute a war crime,” Bahlul saw his three convictions quashed in January 2013, but the U.S. government was granted a retrial en banc (whereby all the judges in the appeal court make a ruling). The judgment in this long-awaited appeal was handed down on 14 July 2014. It essentially ruled to “reject Bahlul’s ex post facto challenge to his conspiracy conviction and remand that conviction to the original panel of this Court for it to dispose of several remaining issues. In addition, we vacate his material support and solicitation convictions.”

Bahlul’s case has a knock-on effect on pending and future military commissions as well as on other appeals, such as those of Khadr and Hicks. The en banc rehearing was largely admitted on the basis that, while the U.S. government conceded that the quashed convictions of Hamdan (this ruling was also reconsidered by the seven-judge panel) and Bahlul were not recognized under the international laws of war prior to 2006, when the Military Commissions Act 2006 came into force, they were recognized under the “U.S. common law of war.” On this basis, the court quashed two of Bahlul’s convictions (material support and solicitation of others to commit war crimes), finding that the government did not provide historical evidence so that such charges could be upheld in a U.S. domestic context. But, the court decided that there was sufficient precedent in the case of conspiracy and, hence, this conviction was upheld.

Nonetheless, that does not settle this key issue or the other key point of the rehearing – whether the U.S. common law of war can provide a basis for these alleged war crimes – as the court then sent the conspiracy issue back to the three-judge panel, who heard the original appeal, to consider arguments. This granted them the possibility of overturning this ruling before the entire case is returned to the CMCR to assess the effect of the judgment on Bahlul’s life sentence. Essentially, in a confusing 150-page sentence, the court failed to settle the key questions put to it, and its judgment paves the way to further arguments and appeals.

The 4–3 decision by the seven-judge panel overhauled a major aspect of the Hamdan ruling by deeming that the Military Commissions Act 2006 can have retroactive effect. Thus it can be used to charge and try crimes committed prior to it – as it claims that the Act is unambiguously intended to try any offence punishable by it committed “before, on, or after September 11, 2001” and to prosecute individuals allegedly involved in the 9/11 attacks that took place in 2001. In spite of this, the court dismissed Bahlul’s claim on his ex post facto conspiracy conviction, finding that engaging in a conspiracy to kill a national of the United States is already criminalized under the U.S. Constitution and that a precedent for this already exists in U.S. case law.

While the court clearly established that material support and solicitation are not war crimes under international or domestic law, the decision on conspiracy is couched in such vague terms that it is not clear how it will apply to other prisoners, including Omar Khadr, who was also convicted of this charge under his secret plea bargain. Al-Bahlul’s lawyers now have the option of appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court or waiting to see what the original panel has to say on the outstanding matters. In either case, nothing will be settled before next year.

The decision was always going to be complicated and highly politicized, with the largest ramifications for Al-Bahlul himself, who even if cleared, may remain held in limbo at Guantánamo. The impact on other cases is also unclear. In Hicks’s case, the judgment should mean that his sole conviction of material support for terrorism is now quashed; his Australian lawyer has stated that overturning the conviction should now be “a purely administrative matter.” The U.S. Centre for Constitutional Rights announced that it will assist David Hicks in filing of the motion to get his Guantanamo conviction overruled.

For Omar Khadr, the implications are vaguer and indirect. While his conspiracy conviction is affected, the U.S. government has nonetheless conceded, “Khadr did not violate either a pre-existing statute or the international law of war.” Both Khadr and Hicks may have to await the final outcome in Al-Bahlul’s case, which could take years, in order for the CMCR to progress with their own appeals. The waiting game continues.

The only two things that can be concluded are that the web of deceit spun by the use of military commissions and their extralegal devices can only become further tangled, and that the procedure itself is designed only to waste the time of prisoners who the U.S. knows in many cases to be innocent of the charges against them. Responding to the judgment, the Center for Constitutional Rights, stated: “The court merely deferred the inevitable by failing to recognize that conspiracy is no more appropriately tried in a military commission than material support. We urge the Supreme Court to review today’s ruling regarding conspiracy and dispense with all fabricated war crimes charges once and for all.”

 


Aisha Maniar is a human rights activist who works with the London Guantánamo Campaign.

The London Guantánamo Campaign has been campaigning since 2006 for the release of all prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay, the closure of Guantánamo and other similar prisons and an end to the practice of extraordinary rendition.


 

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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


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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 →

 

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