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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.
- time: 4.00 – 5.30 pm
- place: Bowland Auditorium (BS/005), Berrick Saul building, University of York, Heslington, York
- link to event: Defending Guantánamo’s youngest prisoner: The struggle to free Omar Khadr
Friday 14 March
– An audience with Dennis Edney QC, chaired by Dr Douglas Guilfoyle at the UCL Faculty of Laws.
- time: 1.00 – 2.00 pm
- place: UCL Faculty of Laws Moot Court, Bentham House, Endsleigh Gardens, London, WC1H 0EG
- link to event: An Audience with Dennis Edney QC, Chaired by Dr Douglas Guilfoyle
– Where is the Law in War? An Analysis of Omar Khadr’s case. Organised by the Westminster Law Review.
- time: 5.00 – 7.00 pm
- place: University of Westminster, 4-12 Little Titchfield Street, London, W1W 7UW
- link to event: Where is the Law in War? An Analysis of Omar Khadr’s Case.
- time: 2.00 – 4.00 pm
- place: Room B20, Birkbeck College, Malet Street, Bloomsbury, London, WC1E 7HX
- link to the event on Facebook: Omar Khadr, Guantanamo’s Child: A Travesty of Justice.
– Dennis Edney talk on Omar Khadr at the Veterans for Peace UK event.
- time: 7.00 – 8.30 pm
- place: Housmans bookshop, 5 Caledonian Road, London N1
- link to event: Dennis Edney talk on Omar Khadr hosted by Veterans For Peace UK
- and on facebook: Dennis Edney talk on Omar Khadr.
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
– 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
With: Mr. Dennis Edney, Q.C., Omar Khadr’s defense counsel.
When: Thursday, October 17, 2013, 19:00
Where: Room 231/237 U of A Law Centre, Edmonton
CLAIHR U of A is pleased to host a presentation by Mr. Dennis Edney, Q.C., Omar Khadr’s defense counsel. Mr. Edney has agreed to speak to Faculty of Law students concerning Omar Khadr’s highly publicized case. There will be an opportunity for questions following the presentation.
With: Brigadier General (ret) Dr. Stephen Xenakis
When: Tuesday, October 22, 2013, 19:00
Where: University of Alberta Building ETLC Rm-1001, Edmonton
Although Mr. Harper and the Canadian government have chosen to demonize Omar Khadr, there are significant faces from the U.S Military and Canadian public who have actually met and spent time with Mr. Khadr and find that he is a compassionate human being who poses no threat to anyone.
Brigadier General (ret) Dr. Stephen Xenakis is a psychiatrist who has spent hundreds of hours with Omar Khadr over the past 5 years. Come out and join the discussion about his experiences with Omar in Guantanamo Bay and raise your own questions and concerns. Refreshments will be provided.
With: Attorney Samuel Morison, US Department of Defence
When: Tuesday, November 12, 19:00
Where: The Atrium at King’s University College, 9125 – 50 Street, Edmonton
Samuel Morison has practiced law for more than 20 years and is a national recognized expert on federal executive clemency and the restoration of civil rights. He will speak about Omar Khadr’s appeal before the US Federal Court.
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
Minister of Public Safety
House of Commons
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.
1. Phone Vic Toews:
1-613-992-3128, toll free: 1-800-944-4875
2. Send an email message:
3. Send a letter: (no stamp needed). Hard copy letters have the greatest impact. Please write to:
Minister of Public Safety
Suite 306, Justice Building
House of Commons
4. Tweet Toews:
Vic Toews @ToewsVic
5. Send a copy to your M.P.
addresses listed here:
6. Send a copy to Stephen Harper:
7. Call Stephen Harper:
8. Send a copy to Mulcair:
9. Send a copy to Trudeau:
10. Send a copy to May:
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.
MORE RELATED TO THIS STORY
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.
By Aisha Maniar | Februari 25, 2013
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.
I’m writing to you because sometimes there are things you can’t say, but rather write on paper, and even if I were to tell you you won’t understand. So anyway here are the things:
First: About this whole MC [Military Commission] thing we all don’t believe in and know it’s unfair and know Dennis that there must be somebody to sacrifice to really show the world the unfairness, and really it seems that it’s me. Know Dennis that I don’t want that, I want my freedom and life, but I really don’t see it coming from this way. Dennis you always say that I have an obligation to show the world what is going on down here and it seems that we’ve done every thing but the world doesn’t get it, so it might work if the world sees the US sentencing a child to life in prison, it might show the world how unfair and sham this process is, and if the world doesn’t see all this, to what world am I being released to? A world of hate, unjust and discrimination! I really don’t want to live in a life like this. Dennis justice and freedom have a very high cost and value, and history is a good witness to it, not too far ago or far away how many people sacrificed for the civil right law to take affect. Dennis I hate being the head of the spear, but life has put me, and as life have put me in the past in hard position and still is, I just have to deal with it and hope for the best results.
Second: The thought of firing everybody as you know is always on my mind so if one day I stop coming or fire you please respect it and forget about me, I know it is hard for you. Just think about me as a child who died and get along with your life. Of course I am not saying that will or willn’t happen but its on my mind all the time.
Dennis. I’m so sorry to cause you this pain, but consider it one of your sons hard decisions that you don’t like, but you have to deal with, and always know what you mean to me and know that I will always be the same person you’ve known me and will never change, and please don’t be sad and be hopeful and know that there is a very merciful and compassionate creator watching us and looking out for us and taking care of us all, you might not understand these thing, but know by experience they have kept me how and who I am.
With love and my best wishes to you, and the family, and everybody who loves me, and I love them back in Canada, and I leave you with HOPE and I am living on it, so take care.
Your truly son,
26 May 2010 at 11:37am
P.S. Please keep this letter as private as can be, and as you see appropriate.
On September 29, 2012, Omar Khadr was finally transferred from Guantanamo Bay to Canada after ten long years. Captured in Afghanistan at the age of 15 in July 2002, he never should have been on a battlefield in the first place. As the Canadian government stated at the time: “It is an unfortunate reality that juveniles are too often the victims in military actions and that many groups and countries actively recruit and use them in armed conflicts and in terrorist activities.” But instead of demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration, Omar Khadr and other children sent to Guantanamo faced torture and ill-treatment, unlawful detention and the hopelessness of indefinite legal limbo.
Accused of throwing a grenade that ended the life of a US Special Forces soldier, Omar Khadr’s trial by military commission ended in a plea agreement in October 2010. He was sentenced to eight more years in detention, the first of which was to be served in US custody before he would be eligible for transfer to Canada. Diplomatic notes exchanged between the US and Canada at the time of the plea agreement stated that the “Government of Canada is inclined to favourably consider Mr. Khadr’s application to be transferred to Canada to serve the remainder of his sentence.” In November 2010, then Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon told the House of Commons that Canada would “implement the agreement.”
Almost a year after Omar Khadr became eligible for a transfer to Canada, the request stil sat unsigned on the Minister of Public Safety’s desk. In the face of too many delays, Omar Khadr’s lawyers launched a Federal Court action in mid-July. That pressure and the work of many others over the years – including Amnesty members from all over the world – ultimately contributed to his transfer at the end of September 2012.
An explanation for the long delay is owed not just to Omar Khadr, but to the Canadian public. The courts, UN bodies and numerous NGOs including Amnesty International have repeatedly pointed to the outstanding human rights violations yet to be remedied in Omar Khadr’s case. The allegations of torture and ill-treatment are credible and troubling, and must finally be investigated. Canadian officials were also found to have violated Omar Khadr’s Charter rights when they continued to interrogate him in Guantanamo despite the fact that his detention and treatment violated international standards. His status as a child combatant – and the obligations that follow from that – also continue to go unacknowledged.
Please use the form on the Amnesty International Canada website to send a message to Prime Minister Harper that the case of Omar Khadr is not closed. Not only are there violations yet to be recognized and remedied, but we must ensure that there is greater consistency in the government’s approach to Canadians detained abroad facing serious human rights violations.
Please sign and send the following email to Prime Minister Stephen Harper calling on him to resolve the outstanding human rights issues in the case of Omar Khadr. You can use the comment box to make additional points in your letter.
Dear Prime Minister Harper:
While a welcome step, the transfer of Omar Khadr to Canada after many long delays does not resolve the outstanding human rights issues in this case. I urge your government to promptly:
- Investigate the credible and troubling allegations of torture and ill-treatment while Omar Khadr was detained in Bagram and Guantánamo Bay.
- Recognize Omar Khadr as a child soldier in line with the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict.
- Acknowledge the grave human rights violations associated with the detention facility in Guantánamo Bay, including the fact that the military commissions fall far short of international standards for fair trials.
- Provide a remedy as required by the 2010 Supreme Court of Canada decision, particularly with a view to ensuring non-repetition of the human rights violations experienced by Omar Khadr.
- Ensure that the Correctional Service of Canada is able to manage Omar Khadr’s case without political interference.
Monday, 22 October 2012 08:21 | Written by Catherine Morris
The Canadian government has claimed Omar Khadr had the benefit of due process in the United States.
His return to Canada on Sept. 29 prompted yet more official statements and headlines labelling him a war criminal and a convicted terrorist. These assertions distort and contradict both the facts and the law.
As a result, many people hold an erroneous belief that Khadr pleaded guilty to legitimate charges in a properly constituted court. In fact, Khadr was never charged with any U.S. criminal offences or international war crimes.
After his 2002 capture on a battlefield in Afghanistan at age 15, Khadr waited more than three years before facing charges at a military tribunal set up by an executive order of former president George W. Bush’s administration.
In 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld found the tribunals to be unlawful and in violation of the Geneva Conventions.
The U.S. Congress hastily passed a new Military Commissions Act and Khadr was recharged with newly created offences even though international law and the U.S. Constitution forbid prosecutions for ex post facto offences, as does Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The military commission procedures provide for relaxed rules of evidence and permit coerced evidence not allowed by U.S. or Canadian criminal law.
Evidence obtained in violation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment can also be admitted because of the Military Commissions Act’s narrow definition of torture that’s at odds with the convention. Nor is the military commission viewed as independent.
In June 2007, Col. Peter Brownback, then the military commission’s presiding officer, dismissed the charges against Khadr. He said that while the commission had jurisdiction over unlawful enemy combatants, prosecutors had failed to prove Khadr had taken up arms against the United States unlawfully.
A quickly convened military commission review overturned that decision in September 2007 and reinstated the charges.
Brownback acknowledged he took heat from the Pentagon for dismissing the charges. In June 2008, Brownback threatened to suspend the proceedings against Khadr unless prosecutors handed over Khadr’s medical and interrogation records. Later that month, the Pentagon replaced Brownback.
In May 2008, the Supreme Court of Canada in Canada (Justice) vs. Khadr ruled that participation by Canadian officials in the process in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was contrary to Canada’s binding international obligations.
In January 2010, the top court in Canada (Prime Minister) v. Khadr denounced Canadian officials’ violation of Khadr’s s. 7 Charter rights.
The top court declared Khadr’s entitlement to a remedy but left it up to Canada’s executive to decide how best to respond. Canada’s response was a diplomatic note asking the United States not to use information turned over by Canadian agents.
In July 2010, Canada’s Federal Court in Khadr v. Canada gave the government seven days to supply a list of all possible remedies to cure the continuing Charter violations. The House of Commons standing committee on foreign affairs had already made one recommendation in June 2008 that Canada secure Khadr’s repatriation.
Majority votes of the Senate on June 18, 2008, and the House of Commons on March 23, 2009, had urged repatriation. Instead of suggesting remedies, the government appealed the ruling on the seventh day.
Predictably, the Guantanamo Bay military commission ruled all of Khadr’s statements admissible, including those made as a result of treatment that violated the convention against torture, in August 2010.
Radhika Coomaraswamy, then the United Nations special representative for children and armed conflict, pointedly stated that in international law, child soldiers “must be treated primarily as victims and alternative procedures should be in place aimed at rehabilitation.”
Canadian officials paid no attention. Instead, they agreed to Khadr’s October 2010 plea bargain and said Canada would be “inclined to favourably consider” repatriation to Canada after a year of his sentence.
Lawrence Cannon, then the foreign minister, promised the House of Commons that Canada would implement the agreement. The year came and went.
In June of this year, the UN committee against torture urged Canada to repatriate Khadr and to redress the human rights violations found by the Supreme Court. Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews responded by complaining that “when there are serious concerns regarding human rights violations across the world, it is disappointing that the UN would spend its time decrying Canada.”
Khadr has never faced a trial before any properly constituted court that afforded the judicial guarantees recognized in international law as indispensable to fair proceedings.
This is in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions. In addition, the case demonstrates serious and flagrant violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the convention against torture, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the protocol on children in armed conflict.
We must view the voluntariness of Khadr’s plea bargain in the context of the U.S. policy of holding Guantanamo Bay prisoners until the end of the so-called war on terror. Without the deal, Khadr faced indefinite detention whether the military commission found him guilty or innocent.
This catch-22 followed eight years of detention marked by denial of virtually all of his rights. They included the rights to habeas corpus, access to an independent tribunal for determination of rights, proper legal representation, family visits, and freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.
Such conditions defy the very concept of voluntary negotiation. The U.S. plea agreement is not a reliable indicator of guilt in or out of court.
Some Canadians have expressed fears about public danger. Safety is an important consideration that is served only when facts and law are respected. Public safety is at risk in a polarized climate of suspicion, fear, and hatred fomented by public officials’ derogatory characterizations of Khadr.
Toews is responsible for Corrections Canada as well as appointments and renewals of adjudicators at the Parole Board of Canada. It is improper for a minister to make statements about Khadr that could influence the impartiality of adjudicators at tribunals vested with the responsibility for independent determinations.
The Khadr case raises concerns about disrespect by Canadian government officials for our courts, the UN human rights system, and, indeed, the rights of all of us. Canadian ministers and officials must start treating Khadr in accordance with Canadian and international law.
Catherine Morris teaches international human rights at the University of Victoria. She also teaches courses in negotiation and conflict studies at universities in Europe and Asia. In addition, she monitors human rights in several countries for Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada.