Omar Khadr and the Rule of Law

March 24, 2014
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Dear Member of Parliament:
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Do tortured child soldiers belong in Canadian prisons? On behalf of all Canadians who believe in the rule of law, we urge you to take a stand against the ongoing violation of Omar Khadr’s legal and human rights. The silence of Canadians inside and outside Parliament makes us complicit in a gross miscarriage of justice against a fellow Canadian. 
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“Some cases enshrine the defining moments of their time. Omar Khadr’s is one. Future generations will rightly judge our shocking dereliction of responsibility in this matter [and] our collective Canadian failure to extend justice and humanity.” – Constance Backhouse, Distinguished University Professor of Law, University of Ottawa.
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A Brief Overview of Omar’s case:
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  • At 27, Omar suffers the ongoing effects of his torture and mistreatment: physical injuries, PTSD, chronic pain from infection in old wounds, and potential total blindness.
  • Omar has spent 4258 days in prison since the age of 15; including 93 days in Bagram, 3624 days in Guantanamo and 541 days in Canadian detention.
  • Although a number of children were detained in Gitmo, all were repatriated by Human Rights Watch. Omar was the only child left abandoned by his country and a decade later he was the last citizen of a Western country to be repatriated.
  • The Canadian government reluctantly transferred Omar to Canada in September 2012 and continues to issue prejudicial statements which demonize him as a “heinous terrorist”.
  • While every other Western nation released their citizens upon transfer from Guantanamo, Omar was immediately incarcerated in his native country. Instead of reintegrating him into society, Canada insists on his imprisonment under harsh conditions.
  • In 2013, the Canadian Office of the Correctional Investigator pointed out Omar Khadr showed no signs of aggressive or dangerous behaviour, and “consistently verbalized his goal to conduct a peaceful, prosocial life as a Canadian citizen.” In Guantanamo, Omar had been classified as “minimum security”.
  • Omar was offered his only chance to leave “Gitmo” by signing a “get-out-of-Guantanamo plea deal” before a universally-condemned U.S. military commission.
  • Omar’s ongoing imprisonment ignores that his plea deal was extracted with evidence obtained under torture and the Guantanamo sentence was imposed in violation of the Geneva Conventions, the Rome Statute and the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act.
  • Omar is the only child convicted of a war crime in modern history and the only person found guilty in the death of a U.S. soldier in the recent Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
  • Canada knows there is no proof of guilt, and that Omar was ‘charged’ retroactively with newly created war crimes not recognized by international or Canadian law. Any legitimate court of law would not have tried or convicted him.
  • Reports about Omar’s capture were doctored by the military and conflicting evidence does not support his charges. The only available evidence points to the innocence Omar consistently maintained. Yet he was forced into a confession of guilt, as explained by former Chief Prosecutor of Guantanamo military commissions, U.S. Colonel Morris Davis: “Our joke at Guantanamo was you gotta lose to win, cause if you get charged as a war criminal, convicted and lose you might go home. If you don’t get charged, you can sit there for the rest of your life.”
  • The Supreme Court of Canada, the Federal Court, the Federal Court of Appeal and the U.S. Supreme Court have all ruled that Omar Khadr’s rights were violated by the U.S. and Canada.
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For further background on Omar’s case, please : 
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  • See the November 2013 talk [ > link to video ]: U.S. Department of Defence lawyer, Sam Morison discusses his recent appeal of Omar’s U.S. ‘conviction’ and explains why there is no legal basis for his imprisonment.
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After viewing the above, please answer the following question (with any additional comments you would like to add) and email your answer to: freeomarkhadrnow@gmail.com by April 22 2014.
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  • Do you agree the Canadian government should release Omar Khadr as soon as possible and provide him with the necessary transitional programs to allow for his full participation in Canadian society? Yes/ No/ Don’t know
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All MPs’ responses and non-responses will be shared with media and added to our website page: Politicians Speaking Out! 
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Thank you for making your position, on this defining case, clear to your constituents and all Canadians.
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Yours truly,
Members of the Free Omar Khadr Now Committee
W       www.freeomarakhadr.com
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Contacts: Helen Sadowski and Kathy Copps
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FREE Omar Khadr Now Campaign 

The Free Omar Khadr Now Committee is a diverse group of citizens who advocate on behalf of Omar Khadr and raise awareness about the loss of his legal rights and protections.
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Omar Khadr and the Rule of Law

March 10, 2014
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Dear Member of Parliament:
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Do tortured child soldiers belong in Canadian prisons? On behalf of all Canadians who believe in the rule of law, we urge you to take a stand against the ongoing violation of Omar Khadr’s legal and human rights. The silence of Canadians inside and outside Parliament makes us complicit in a gross miscarriage of justice against a fellow Canadian. 
.
“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.
.
A Brief Overview of Omar’s case:
.
  • At 27, Omar suffers the ongoing effects of his torture and mistreatment: physical injuries, PTSD, chronic pain from infection in old wounds, and potential total blindness.
  • Omar has spent 4258 days in prison since the age of 15; including 93 days in Bagram, 3624 days in Guantanamo and 541 days in Canadian detention.
  • Although a number of children were detained in Gitmo, all were repatriated by Human Rights Watch. Omar was the only child left abandoned by his country and a decade later he was the last citizen of a Western country to be repatriated.
  • The Canadian government reluctantly transferred Omar to Canada in September 2012 and continues to issue prejudicial statements which demonize him as a “heinous terrorist”.
  • While every other Western nation released their citizens upon transfer from Guantanamo, Omar was immediately incarcerated in his native country. Instead of reintegrating him into society, Canada insists on his imprisonment under harsh conditions.
  • In 2013, the Canadian Office of the Correctional Investigator pointed out Omar Khadr showed no signs of aggressive or dangerous behaviour, and “consistently verbalized his goal to conduct a peaceful, prosocial life as a Canadian citizen.” In Guantanamo, Omar had been classified as “minimum security”.
  • Omar was offered his only chance to leave “Gitmo” by signing a “get-out-of-Guantanamo plea deal” before a universally-condemned U.S. military commission.
  • Omar’s ongoing imprisonment ignores that his plea deal was extracted with evidence obtained under torture and the Guantanamo sentence was imposed in violation of the Geneva Conventions, the Rome Statute and the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act.
  • Omar is the only child convicted of a war crime in modern history and the only person found guilty in the death of a U.S. soldier in the recent Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
  • Canada knows there is no proof of guilt, and that Omar was ‘charged’ retroactively with newly created war crimes not recognized by international or Canadian law. Any legitimate court of law would not have tried or convicted him.
  • Reports about Omar’s capture were doctored by the military and conflicting evidence does not support his charges. The only available evidence points to the innocence Omar consistently maintained. Yet he was forced into a confession of guilt, as explained by former Chief Prosecutor of Guantanamo military commissions, U.S. Colonel Morris Davis: “Our joke at Guantanamo was you gotta lose to win, cause if you get charged as a war criminal, convicted and lose you might go home. If you don’t get charged, you can sit there for the rest of your life.”
  • The Supreme Court of Canada, the Federal Court, the Federal Court of Appeal and the U.S. Supreme Court have all ruled that Omar Khadr’s rights were violated by the U.S. and Canada.
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For further background on Omar’s case, please : 
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  • See the November 2013 talk [ > link to video ]: U.S. Department of Defence lawyer, Sam Morison discusses his recent appeal of Omar’s U.S. ‘conviction’ and explains why there is no legal basis for his imprisonment.
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After viewing the above, please answer the following question (with any additional comments you would like to add) and email your answer to: freeomarkhadrnow@gmail.com by April 22 2014.
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  • Do you agree the Canadian government should release Omar Khadr as soon as possible and provide him with the necessary transitional programs to allow for his full participation in Canadian society? Yes/ No/ Don’t know
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All MPs’ responses and non-responses will be shared with media and added to our website page: Politicians Speaking Out! 
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Thank you for making your position, on this defining case, clear to your constituents and all Canadians.
.
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Yours truly,
Members of the Free Omar Khadr Now Committee
W       www.freeomarakhadr.com
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Contacts: Helen Sadowski and Kathy Copps
 .
.
FREE Omar Khadr Now Campaign 

The Free Omar Khadr Now Committee is a diverse group of citizens who advocate on behalf of Omar Khadr and raise awareness about the loss of his legal rights and protections.
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Tory MP shares government’s prejudices about Omar Khadr

Free Omar Khadr Now committee member, Helen Sadowski, contacted Tory MP, Laurie Hawn, in November 2013, informing him about the facts of Omar’s case and asking when will his government stop using Omar Khadr as a political scapegoat to win votes. She invited him to hear Omar’s U.S. Dept. of Defense lawyer, Sam Morison, speak about the appeal to overturn all of Khadr’s convictions at Kings College University in Edmonton.

The following is MP Hawn’s response:

In our view, Omar Khadr was convicted of a crime by a legitimate judicial process. When he has finished serving his sentence, he will be released and treated like anyone else. There is a bit of a contradiction in your request. At the time, some people were saying that Khadr couldn’t possibly be a soldier, because he was only 15 when he murdered Sgt Speer. A great many Canadians understandably put the Canadian context onto a place like Afghanistan. I have followed that conflict very closely and have been there several times. A 15-year-old in that environment is not like a 15-year-old in Canada. He is effectively an adult and there are many, many Omar Khadrs in Afghanistan and other primitive societies the likes of radical Islamism. I can have sympathy for Khadr growing up in a freely-admitted terrorist family, who took disgraceful advantage of their Canadian connection. But, I don’t agree that he should not pay for what he did, and there are more sides to the story than the one you’ll hear from his lawyers. I also appreciate your concerns on press releases regarding Omar Khadr. I don’t necessarily agree with everything that we do in this regard either. Thank you once again for writing. If there is any other way that my office can be of assistance to you in the future please do not hesitate to contact us.
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Sincerely,
Laurie Hawn

Our response to Laurie Hawn’s email:

Dear Laurie
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Thanks for taking the time to respond to my comments. I’m not sure how open you are to debating these issues, but I would like to share the following with you in regards to your comments:
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1. You say: “Omar Khadr was convicted of a crime by a legitimate judicial process”.   
The crimes that Omar Khadr was convicted of were “invented” in 2006 by the US government and these crimes are not recognized by Canada nor other international jurisdictions. In addition, these newly defined laws were then applied retroactively to actions of 2002.  The US Federal Court has already ruled  in another case of a Guantanamo detainee that retroactive convictions are illegal. The judicial process was a military process and therefore an inferior legal process. US citizens are prohibited by law from being tried by a military tribunal as it would be a violation of their rights as it is of course for Canadian citizens.
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Omar Khadr’s legal rights were violated and this was well expressed by Romeo Dallaire, retired LGeneral: “During the 10 years that this nightmare has gone on, we have realized that the most serious violations of Khadr’s rights have been covered up: violations of the right to due process, the right to protection from torture, the right to protection from arbitrary imprisonment, the right to protection from retroactive prosecution, the right to a fair trial, the right to confidential legal representation at the appropriate time and place, the right to be tried by an independent and impartial tribunal, the right to habeas corpus, the right to equality before the law and the rights stemming from the Convention on the Rights of the Child”.
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If the above violation of legal rights was the case, how is it possible to determine guilt or innocence?  Both national and international law associations as well as academics have spoken on the “legal blackhole” that is Guantanamo. While your government has shown a disdain for academic elites and scientists in the past, there is no doubt that a democracy relies on its citizens and representatives to have respect for the law, otherwise we are bordering on fascism.
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2. You say: “When he murdered Sergeant Speer“.
The laws of war don’t recognize this as murder, but it is rather a combat fatality.  Paul Koring recently wrote in the Globe and Mail: “Sergeant Christopher Speer, helmetless and wearing Afghan garb, was killed by a grenade blast. Sgt. Speer, a qualified medic, was part of assault team when he suffered fatal head wounds”.  Being a military man yourself, you might also wonder why Speer was dressed in Afghan garb when he undertook the assault and if he was in fact an unlawful combatant himself.
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It  is highly improbable that Khadr who was unconscious, blinded in one eye and covered in rubble could have thrown a grenade 80 ft. backwards over a high fence. There were no eyewitnesses to the actual throwing of the grenade and later evidence shows that it was an American grenade that killed Speer. Omar Khadr while in a prone position and defenceless was shot twice in the back by a US soldier. Omar Khadr was himself a victim of a war crime, that is internationally recognized. The Pentagon lawyer Sam Morison who is launching an appeal to overturn all the convictions  has evidence of this breech in the laws of war.
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3. You say: “A 15-year-old in that environment is not like a 15-year-old in Canada. He is effectively an adult and there are many, many Omar Khadrs in Afghanistan and other primitive societies the likes of radical Islamism”. 
That comment and especially “primitive societies” made me feel sick to my stomach. I worked in the Federal government for 30 years and was for a period of time head of the Citizenship Court. For me it is deeply insulting to categorize other countries in such ways.  Again, respect for the law is fundamental to a democracy.  While you may not agree with the definition of a minor, you are not in a position to just make up some other laws that suit you better. Canada recognizes child soldiers in Africa and gives them refuge in our own country. Can you explain the difference as to the treatment of Omar Khadr? Does someone’s ethnic, religious or racial background disqualify them from the rights and protections normally guaranteed by citizenship and our laws?
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4. You say: “I can have sympathy for Khadr growing up in a freely-admitted terrorist family who took disgraceful advantage of their Canadian connection“.
You have no facts to prove that  the family of 7 children and 2 parents was a terrorist family. Comments made by the mother and daughter while dressed in a hijab were not terrorist actions, even if you didn’t agree with them. One son was an informant for the US government. Family members, including Omar cannot be held responsible for the alleged actions of the father. At this point in time, Khadr has been denied his legitimate rights as a Canadian citizen and that has been upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada and will be part of an upcoming civil suit against the government. Most likely the mistakes of this government and its decision to ignore the rule of law will cost taxpayers upward of $20M.
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5. You say: “Press releases regarding Omar Khadr”.
Vic Toews, while the Minister of Public Safety oversaw the return of Omar Khadr to Canada. Toews used a publicly discredited analysis by a forensic psychiatrist and prosecution witness to condemn Khadr as a jihadist and threat to Canadian society.
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The psychiatrist, Dr. Michael Welner spent less than 15 hours with Khadr while another military psychiatrist, Dr. Stephen Xenakis, also a retired Brigadier General spent more than 100 hours with Khadr.  Toews would not accept the expert findings of Xenakis as they contradicted Welner’s findings. In addition Dr. Marc Sageman, recognized expert in terrorism,  wrote a lengthy critical analysis of Welner’s findings. In his piece https://freeomarakhadr.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/dr-sageman-letter.pdf  he states “However, Dr. Welner is not known to have any knowledge of terrorism, Islamic extremism or deradicalization. In his c.v. he has not contributed to the literature on terrorism, al Qaeda or deradicalization. He is not known as an expert in these fields. Furthermore as an internationally recognized expert in terrorism and counter terrorism, I know of no published study that addresses the issue of dangerousness in terrorists.
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 The similarities of the Omar Khadr case to the French Dreyfus affair, the Jewish military man charged with spying, are truly haunting … interference at the highest political levels, miscarriage of justice, racism and the dissemination of misinformation and emotionally charged material.
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I share the above as a concerned citizen who believes that our country’s democracy depends on the equal treatment of citizens,  a respect for the rule of law and an informed and educated population.
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I hope elected representatives will start a debate about the treatment of Omar Khadr and seek to consider all available information. In that respect, please share your sources with me on any of the above points that support your views.
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All the best
Helen Sadowski
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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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Omar Khadr or: How Canada Rejects the Very Principles of the Rule of Law and the Further Erosion of Our Values.

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

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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Omar Khadr’s letter to his lawyer Dennis Edney

 

Dear Dennis:

Letter Omar Khadr to Dennis Edney

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,

Omar

26 May 2010 at 11:37am

P.S. Please keep this letter as private as can be, and as you see appropriate.

Remember Canada is complicit in the ongoing torture of Omar Khadr!

> because Canada keeps Omar Khadr in jail, solitary for 23 hours a day,

  • after 10 years of torture in Guantanamo; an ordeal that no 15-year-old Canadian child should ever have to endure,

  • based on the illegal conviction in Guantanamo Military Court for alleged crimes, that did not existed under international law and where he could not defend against.

Why the World understands what Canada does’t get:

[Canadian embassy, London UK, January 11, 2013]