DONATE TO THE FREE OMAR FUND

 


TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE FREE OMAR 2017 FUND, you have the following options:

  • 2) By Cheque, you can send to: Free Omar Campaign; 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 Campaign; VanCity Credit Union, Branch 13; Account number: 531590; FreeOmar.ca@gmail.com


On May 7, 2015, after a 13 year imprisonment, Omar Khadr was finally freed on bail. His ordeal is far from over.

There are still legal battles ahead. The Free Omar Campaign will continue its work until Omar is completely free to come and go where he wants, and until he is acquitted of all illegitimate charges applied by the widely condemned, extrajudicial Guantanamo military ‘court’. The violation of Omar’s rights must be properly remedied.

We will continue to support Omar’s pro bono lawyers with their mounting costs.

Upcoming 2017 court challenges are:

  • Civil lawsuit against the Canadian government for complicity in his arbitrary detention and cruel and inhumane treatment at the hands of the United States;
  • Appeal to the Court of Military Commission Review in the U.S. to vacate all Omar’s Guantanamo Bay ‘convictions’.

We continue to need your help and ask you to support the Free Omar 2017 Fundraising campaign. The money goes directly to Omar’s defence with no administration fees.

Your contribution makes his defence possible and brings Omar’s case closer to justice.

 

Thank you!

The Free Omar Campaign.

 


 

picture Dennis and Omar; courtesy of Krishna Lalbiharie


 

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:


 

 

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

Print Article [+]

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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Dennis Edney awareness tour in the UK for Omar Khadr

Omar Khadr Fund for Dennis EdneyDONATION BUTTON:  < PLEASE HELP FUND THIS AWARENESS TOUR FOR OMAR KHADR>Omar Khadr tortured Canadian Child

12 – 20 March 2014 – Omar Khadr’s lawyer Dennis Edney QC speaking tour hosted by the London Guantanamo Campaign.

Talks and events

Wednesday 12 March 
– Omar Khadr and the Betrayal of International Law: a public meeting with Dennis Edney, chaired by Professor Bill Bowring at Garden Court Chambers, London. Organised by CAMPACC, the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers and the London Guantánamo Campaign.

  • time: 6.30 -8.30 pm
  • place:  Garden Court Chambers, 57-60 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2A

Thursday 13 March 
– Defending Guantánamo’s youngest prisoner: The struggle to free Omar Khadr. Lecture with Dennis Edney at York University Centre for Applied Human Rights.

Friday 14 March 
– An audience with Dennis Edney QC, chaired by Dr Douglas Guilfoyle at the UCL Faculty of Laws.

and
– Where is the Law in War? An Analysis of Omar Khadr’s case. Organised by the Westminster Law Review.

Monday 17 March
– Afternoon lecture with Dennis Edney at Birkbeck College, University of London. Organised by a coalition of student societies.Omar Khadr 4250 days in jail

and
– Dennis Edney talk on Omar Khadr at the Veterans for Peace UK event.

Tuesday 18 March
– Lecture Dennis Edney at Queen Mary, University of London, organised by the Amnesty society.

  • time: 4.30 – 5.30 pm
  • place: Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS

and
– Amnesty International event with Talks from: Dennis Edney, Aaf Post and Andy Worthington about Omar Khadr at the Human Rights Action Centre.

  • time: 7.00 – 9.00 pm
  • place: Human Rights Action Centre, 25 New Inn Yard, London EC2A 3EA.

Thursday 20 March
– Q&A with Dennis Edney QC lawyer of Omar Khadr former Guantánamo Bay prison inmate at Amnesty St John’s Wood event

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.

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

Validity of Khadr’s guilty plea in doubt

By Paul Koring,  The Globe and Mail  Feb. 28 2013

OmarAppeals court rulings that tossed out the convictions of two al-Qaeda operatives mean that Omar Khadr was also wrongfully convicted and should be freed, his lawyer and rights experts say.

A court of appeals last month overturned the U.S. military court in Guantanamo Bay’s murder and terrorism convictions of Ali Hamza al Bahlul, a Yemeni who was Osama bin Laden’s publicist, on the grounds that the charges on which he was convicted were not internationally recognized as war crimes.

Mr. Khadr’s lawyer and others say such rulings raise grave doubts about the validity of Mr. Khadr’s guilty plea to terrorism and murder charges in the same court, because those were not war crimes in 2002 when the Canadian teenager was involved in a gun battle in which a U.S. soldier died.

Mr. Khadr, currently in a Canadian maximum security prison, wants his plea-bargained conviction appealed, said his lawyer, Dennis Edney.

And human rights experts believe he has a solid case, although the Canadian government seems keen to keep Mr. Khadr, now 26, locked up as long as possible.

Mr. Edney said Mr. Khadr was wrongfully convicted and wants the Pentagon to appoint counsel to appeal.

Mr. Edney wrote in a Jan. 29, 2013, letter to Bryan Broyles, deputy chief defence counsel for the U.S. war crimes tribunals, that Mr. Khadr wants to “appeal all of the convictions entered against him in October, 2010,” and asked for a legal team to launch the appeal. Mr. Broyles has yet to reply, and declined to respond to written questions from The Globe and Mail.

“It is astounding no notice of appeal was filed on behalf of Omar Khadr while other detainees have had their appeals filed and successfully appealed by military defence counsel,” Mr. Edney said.

After the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia threw out the convictions against Mr. al Bahlul, Mr. Broyles denounced the original prosecution saying: “The only basis on which the United States relied was their fanciful notion of U.S. common law of war, something which doesn’t actually exist.”

The same appeals court had earlier tossed out the terrorism conspiracy conviction of Salim Hamdan, one of Mr. bin Laden’s drivers, on similar grounds, that the crimes he was convicted of did not exist until they were created by the Bush administration.

Mr. Khadr’s chance of having his convictions vacated are complicated by several circumstances, not least that, as part of his plea bargain deal, he waived his right to appeal. He is also now back in Canada, outside of U.S. jurisdiction.

Mr. Khadr also agreed to plead guilty 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.

Even if Mr. Khadr threw the grenade that caused the death of U.S. special forces Sergeant Christopher Speer, killing a combatant on a battleground is not a war crime under international law except in some circumstances. Even if Mr. Khadr should have faced charges for the killing, said Andrea Prasow, the senior counter-terrorism counsel and advocate at Human Rights Watch’s U.S. program, it should have been as a criminal homicide in Afghanistan.“These weren’t crimes in violation of the laws of war at the time they were committed,” Ms. Prasow said in an interview. “They weren’t then, and they are not now,” she added. That was the fundamental reason the U.S. appeals court tossed out the Guantanamo convictions of Hamdan and al-Bahlul.

That a child soldier – Mr. Khadr was 15 in 2002 – was charged at all, let alone by an offshore war crimes tribunal created by the Bush administration to skirt U.S. constitutional protections, has outraged rights groups for more than a decade. But unlike Britain and Australia, which insisted on the rapid repatriation of their citizens, successive Canadian governments wanted Mr. Khadr held and tried in Guantanamo.

Although the military jury sentenced him to 40 years, the plea deal added only another eight years to the eight Mr. Khadr had already spent in Guantanamo, and the chance to be sent to Canada, the country of his birth, to serve most of the remaining sentence. Under Canadian law, he is eligible for parole on July 1, but the Harper government is expected to opposed his release vigorously, arguing he is a dangerous, convicted terrorist.

Were a U.S. appeals court to overturn the conviction on the grounds that the crimes on which he was convicted didn’t exist in 2002, Mr. Khadr might be entitled to immediate release.

Source: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/validity-of-khadrs-guilty-plea-in-doubt/article9145486/

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Harper government’s complicity in torture

PRESS TV: “Unscrupulous Canadian journalists and politicians refer to Omar Khadr as a self-confessed “war criminal” but his lawyer, Dennis Edney, argues that he is a victim of war, who, at the hands of genuine war criminals in Western governments, has been unlawfully incarcerated, tortured, and denied basic civil liberties.”

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Source: http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2013/03/02/291531/lawyer-for-gitmo-prisoner-slams-harper-govts-complicity-in-torture/
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IN CANADA | Omar Khadr: From Frying Pan to Fire

By  | Februari 25, 2013

Omar Khadr in 2002 and 2010

Omar Khadr, the youngest prisoner at Guantánamo Bay was released to Canada on 29 September 2012, ten days after his26th birthday. Captured in Afghanistan in July 2002 aged 15, his release should have been good news, ending a journey that started halfway across the world and has seen him spend almost half his life behinds bars. Instead, upon return, he was taken immediately to the Millhaven Institution in Bath, Ontario, a maximum security prison, where he remains imprisoned.

Omar Khadr in 2002 and 2010

Each of the almost 800 prisoners held at Guantánamo has a compelling tale to tell, yet Omar Khadr’s is unique in many ways: the most obvious distinction being his age. Unlike other child prisoners, he was always treated as an adult. Subject to torture, including waterboarding, this provided some of the evidence used to charge him for various war crimes shortly after he turned 19 in 2005.

Omar Khadr’s military commission has unique features: upon inauguration to his first term as president, constitutional lawyer Barack Obama signed a presidential decree to close Guantánamo and suspend military commissions. Neither has happened and with a revised Military Commissions Act in force by the end of 2009, Khadr was the first person to be tried in Barack Obama’s presidency. As the offences he is alleged to have committed took place when he was 15, he is also the only person to be tried by a military tribunal for war crimes committed as a minor since World War II. This disturbing development received international condemnation.

Facing a life sentence without proper due process, in a secret plea bargain in October 2010, he pleaded guilty to all the charges against him: the murder of an American soldier, attempted murder, conspiracy, material support for terrorism and spying. Possibly his only way out, under this deal, he would serve just one more year at Guantánamo Bay and the remaining seven years of his sentence in Canada. Although not a party to the bargain, the exchange of diplomatic notes to the effect that Canada would agree to repatriate him after an additional year in Guantánamo was a part of this agreement. Omar Khadr was due for release in October 2011; it took another 11 months for it to happen.

This is largely down to the Canadian government. Having only met all of Canada’s conditions for repatriation in April 2012, the US then formally submitted Omar Khadr’s transfer application. Vic Toews, the Canadian Minister of Public Safety, responsible for this transfer, sought medical reports and a video to help make his assessment of the security risk he posed. This video was an interview conducted with Omar Khadr by Dr Michael Welner, a psychiatrist and prosecution witness who described him as “highly dangerous” and having “rock star” status at Guantánamo. Influential during the trial, Welner’s evidence is known to be biased and has been discredited by other psychiatrists. Writing in the New York Times shortly after Khadr’s release, Dr Stephen N. Xenakis, a retired psychiatrist and former US army brigadier general, who had spent hundreds of hours assessing Khadr since 2008, stated that he was “emphatically not” the dangerous man Welner claimed.

In his own psychiatric report to Vic Toews, submitted in February 2011, Xenakis dismissed Welner’s findings and approach: “He based his opinion on clinical interviews and reviews of medical records from his capture and detention. His findings are questionable as his medical examination did not follow the standards of usual practice.” Xenakis’ own assessment is that “Mr. Khadr can successfully transition from Guantanamo because of his remarkably positive outlook, his talent for building positive relationships, and his optimistic temperament.” He further advised that “keeping him incarcerated and living under conditions of imprisonment provides little chance for rehabilitation or preparation to live in society.” This report was ignored.

Legal formalities and posturing aside, Canada could have demanded Omar Khadr’s return at any time. Indeed, this request for information was further stalling of the repatriation; having received the information in early September, Vic Toews’ request was accepted days after it was sent. Canada could have requested his return to the country at any time since July 2002. Omar Khadr stands out as the only western citizen whose country did not seek his repatriation.

Canada’s treatment of Omar Khadr has smacked of hypocrisy and duplicity throughout: a champion of the rights of war children, Canada was an early signatory of the Optional Protection of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child (ICRC) on the involvement of children in armed conflict in 2000. In 2008, a report by the Canadian House of Commons Subcommittee on International Human Rights recommended the Canadian government seeks Khadr’s immediate release and that “an appropriate rehabilitation and reintegration program is developed for Omar Khadr.” Also in 2008, it emerged that Canadian intelligence officers had interrogated him at Guantánamo in 2003 in a process that breached international law. The Canadian Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that the Canadian government’s refusal to repatriate him was unconstitutional and breached his rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but stopped short of ordering it to demand his release. As recently as October 2012, in its review of children’s rights in Canada, the ICRC recommended that Canada rehabilitate Omar Khadr.

In making his safety assessment, Vic Toews chose to rely on Dr Welner’s prejudiced analysis. In astatement he made upon Omar Khadr’s return to Canada, Toews called Khadr “a known supporter of the Al-Qaeda terrorist network and a convicted terrorist”. Dr Welner’s untested allegations about the Khadr family’s association with terrorism and Omar Khadr’s alleged fundamentalist fervour saw him transferred immediately to “Millhaven, one of the toughest prisons in the country. [which has…] been dubbed “Guantanamo North”.” These elements were picked up immediately by the Canadian media, keen to paint Omar Khadr as unrepentant, an image that, while feeding media hysteria, also successfully deflected the Canadian government’s own negligence and betrayal of a Canadian citizen.

His situation is as precarious as it has been over the past decade, and his fate lies in the hands of Canadian justice, specifically the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), which is overseen by Vic Toews. In late December, it emerged that the CSC considers Omar Khadr a “maximum security” prisoner due to his murder and terrorism conviction, with his status due to be reviewed in December 2014. This assessment fails to take into account the dubious conditions that, involving torture and an unfair legal process, helped to obtain this conviction and as a result, day parole which otherwise would have been due next month is now almost completely unlikely. Applying the “Custody Rating Scale” point system, his first-degree murder conviction confers him with enough points to be considered a “maximum security” risk. With Khadr back home, the Canadian government’s attitude does not seem to be changing. Recognising some of these longstanding issues, Amnesty Canada launched a campaign action last year, Omar Khadr: The Case is not closed.

One of the most unfortunate aspects of Omar Khadr’s ordeal is the Canadian government’s singular and dogged faith in the military commission system at Guantánamo Bay. During his military commission, the Canadian government was satisfied with US assurances about proceedings, particularly with respect to his age at the time being taken into consideration, in spite of international condemnation of both the US and Canada in this regard. Canada’s blind faith in the lawfulness of such convictions is one not even shared by the US’ own federal courts.

On 16 October 2012, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned the 2008 conviction of former prisoner Salim Hamdan by military commission for “material support for terrorism”, one of the charges Omar Khadr was also convicted of, due to the retroactive nature of the offence, as the alleged offences took place years before the Military Commissions Act created them. This crucial judgment made just weeks before the US presidential election shattered the illusion of any legitimacy the few convictions obtained at Guantánamo Bay may have. The US government had until January to appeal but did not. Last month, based on this judgment, another conviction, the life sentence of Yemeni prisoner Hamza Al Bahlul was also overturned. Omar Khadr is likely to appeal too. The Canadian government’s faith in the military commissions is undermined further by the ongoing farce of the 9/11 military commissions, also affected by the Hamdan ruling.

The onus is now on the Canadian government and questions over its failure to meet its legal and moral obligations to one vulnerable citizen. Beyond its mantra of “Omar Khadr is a convicted terrorist”, there is very little to sustain its untenable position.

Omar Khadr is not the only prisoner to have been further incarcerated on his release from Guantánamo Bay. Australian David Hicks, the first person to be convicted at Guantánamo Bay, entered a similar plea bargain where he pleaded guilty in return for a seven-year sentence, which was suspended except for 9 months which he served in an Australian jail. He was released in 2007. One day after the Hamdan judgment, he said he would appeal his conviction.

Guantánamo Bay has created its own “refugee” situation: of the remaining 166 prisoner, more than half are unable to return home. For many of the prisoners cleared for release, the option of going home does not exist for fear of further persecution and imprisonment.  To deal with this “refugee” situation, various third states have accepted more than 40 prisoners. Slovakia agreed to resettle three such prisoners in a “”gesture of solidarity” in support of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy” in late 2009. However, by June 2010, six months after their arrival in Slovakia, the men went on hunger strike in protest at their continued detention at an asylum detention centre whose conditions they claimed were “worse than Guantánamo”. All three had been cleared for release years before arriving in Slovakia and were under the impression they would be resettled and rehabilitated. The situation improved following international awareness and criticism. After the Arab Spring in 2011, two of the men felt that the security situation in their home countries would be safe enough for them to return. Rafiq Al Hami returned to Tunisia where he is rebuilding his life with his family. Adel Al Gazzar, optimistic of the changes under the new regime in Egypt, was promptly arrested and imprisoned upon his return to the country in 2011 for a conviction made in his absence in 2002. He has since been released and reunited with his family. The third man, Polad Sirajov from Azerbaijan, remains in Slovakia.

Perhaps the worst case of post-return persecution is that of 29-year old Russian citizen Rasul Kudaev. From the Kabardino-Balkaria Republic (KBR) in the North Caucasus (southern Russia), he was arrested in Afghanistan aged 17* where he fled to avoid military service. Posing no risk, he was considered for transfer back to Russia by the US once the two countries had shared the intelligence beaten out of him at the end of 2002. He was released in February 2004. He returned home with a series of illnesses, a limp and physically unable to work. [Source: HRW].

Following militant attacks in October 2005 in the city of Nalchik where he lived, he was arrested with 58 others, and has been held since at a pre-trial detention centre where they are awaiting trial. Beaten as he was taken from his home, he had to be carried into court a few days later due to the severity of the beatings. By early November, pictures of his abuse and that of other prisoners circulated; Kudaev’s face was swollen and bruised. He was beaten so badly that human rights investigators fear he has permanent facial disfigurement. He was charged with various terrorism offences as a result. In 2006, his lawyers contested the evidence as it was obtained through torture but that was thrown out. His health has deteriorated progressively and his mother expressed serious concerns after a visit in January 2013.

The trial has been delayed for various reasons. The prosecution has given its evidence and Rasul Kudaev will be one of the last defendants to give his next month; the case should conclude later this year. His lawyers will also apply for bail until the judgment. In what has been largely a show trial, Amnesty International has expressed “little hope” in the outcome.

Years of abuse and injustice at Guantánamo Bay have so far resulted in a zero successful conviction rate and no credible evidence, just George Bush’s say-so that these are “bad men”. The least one may expect released prisoners to expect is rehabilitation and due process, and certainly not further imprisonment and persecution, especially of the most vulnerable. To deal with this pressing need,Reprieve, the human rights NGO which has and continues to represent dozen of prisoners, including the three men sent to Slovakia, set up the Life After Guantanamo project in 2010. Polly Rossdale from the project explains the needs former prisoners have and why such a project is so important:

There has been no justice, apology, or compensation to a single victim of US-sponsored torture in Guantanamo.  Former detainees are faced with the challenge of recovery from trauma in places and communities that are often either poorly resourced, lacking the necessary torture rehabilitation skills or are hostile to their presence.  The Life after Guantanamo project seeks to facilitate appropriate medical, psychological, legal and social support for these men and their families.  We assist with a range of issues including finding accommodation; family reunification; countering isolation; dealing with restrictions on freedom of movement and an uncertain legal status; and obtaining financial support to accessing education, training and employment.”

This year has seen some positive changes for Omar Khadr: last month, Dennis Edney, who previously acted as Khadr’s lawyer and championed his case far and wide, was reappointed to represent him in a case before the Canadian Federal Court against the Canadian government for breach of his constitutional rights. This move is likely to expedite his other demands and see the positive profile of his case rise again. Earlier this month, he was also moved out of solitary confinement, and is reported to be getting on well with other prisoners; this is the first time he has been out of solitary confinement since his conviction in 2010. A new petition has been put together calling on the Canadian government to release Omar Khadr and rehabilitate him, both a reasonable and the only viable proposition to deal with the current situation.

Many thanks to Reprieve and Amnesty International for their assistance. You can write to Omar Khadr at: Omar Khadr, Millhaven Institution, Hwy 33, PO Box 280, Bath, Ontario, K0H 1G0, Canada

* Rasul Kudaev was captured aged 17 (a minor) in Afghanistan, however by the time he arrived at Guantánamo in 2002 he was 18, a legal adult.

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Source: http://onesmallwindow.wordpress.com/2013/02/25/omar-khadr-from-frying-pan-to-fire/


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