Bring Omar Khadr Home from Guantánamo: Please Sign the Petition to the Canadian Government

10.7.12

Update July 13: Senator Romeo Dallaire has a new petition calling for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews to sign the paperwork to bring Omar Khadr home. Please sign it!

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January with US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

Please sign this petition calling for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to secure Omar Khadr’s return from Guantánamo. 

Hosted by Change.org, this petition can be signed by anyone anywhere around the world who cares about bringing to an end the long injustice to which Omar Khadr has been subjected.

*****

Here at “Close Guantánamo,” we share the disdain that decent people everywhere feel regarding the Canadian government’s refusal to honor the terms of a plea deal that Omar Khadr, the Canadian citizen still imprisoned at Guantánamo, agreed to in October 2010, when he pleaded guilty to war crimes in exchange for a promise that he would receive an eight-year sentence, with one year to be served in Guantánamo before his return to Canada.

It is now eight months since he became eligible to be returned to Canada, but he remains in Guantánamo, where, moreover, he has been in solitary confinement since he agreed to his plea deal.

We have no respect for the plea deal, which required Khadr to admit that he threw a grenade that killed a US soldier at the time of his capture, after a firefight in Afghanistan in July 2002, and also to accept that he was an “alien unprivileged enemy belligerent,” who was not allowed to engage in military combat with US forces under any circumstances, and, by doing so, was guilty of war crimes.

This is an outrageous and unjust attempt by the US administration to make those who fight against US forces in a military context into war criminals, but what is also depressing in Omar Khadr’s case is that, under the terms of his plea deal, he also had to claim that he was responsible for his actions, when he was 15 years old at the time, and therefore a juvenile, whose responsibility is borne by whoever placed him in a war zone. In Omar Khadr’s case, this was his father, Ahmed Khadr, who had indoctrinated him and taken him to Afghanistan and Pakistan on numerous occasions since he was a child.

The governments of Canada and the United States both accept that children seized in wartime should be rehabilitated rather than punished, under the terms of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, to which both countries are signatories. In Omar Khadr’s case, however, both countries have shamefully discarded their obligations, and continue to do so to this day.

Of particular concern right now, as we highlighted in an article two weeks ago, “Omar Khadr’s Lawyers Demand His Return to Canada from Guantánamo,” focusing on a press conference called by his lawyers and by Canadian Senator Romeo Dallaire, is the role of the Canadian government in this ongoing debacle. Although the US government is seeking Khadr’s return to Canada, to honor the terms of the plea deal — and, cynically, to persuade other prisoners that plea deals are a route for them to leave Guantánamo by ratting on their fellow prisoners — the Canadian government is dragging its heels, refusing to sign the paperwork that will bring him home, out of simple political cowardice.

Ten years of ignoring Khadr’s plight — and actively depriving him of his rights as a Canadian to be helped by his government — has led to a situation in which he has become a victim of a casual and dangerous racism, and there is a widespread and largely unchallenged belief that Canada can continue to wash its hands of him, even though there is not a chance of that ever happening.

The Canadian government’s delay will not mean that Omar Khadr can somehow be refused re-entry into Canada, because he is a Canadian citizen, who was born in Canada, and has as many rights as his Islamaphobic and racist critics have — in other words, to be supported by their government if they were held by a foreign country that abused them and deliberately disregarded the rule of law.

So, again, please sign the petition calling for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to secure Omar Khadr’s return from Guantánamo, and please tell your friends and family to sign it too.

The text of the petition is as follows:

What has been done to this child is shameful and immoral. We demand that the Canadian government uphold Omar’s human and citizenship rights. We demand that the Canadian government follow the law.

Omar was a child soldier when captured at the age of 15 in Afghanistan. He pleaded guilty in October 2010 in return for an eight-year sentence and a diplomatic deal that made him eligible to serve his detention in Canada.

The US signed off on Omar’s transfer in April.

The UN Committee Against Torture has criticized the Canadian government for delaying his return to Canada and [has said that Canada] was “complicit” in his human rights violations.

PM Harper has brought shame on Canadians by his continued violation of Omar’s human rights. We join Senator Romeo Dallaire in demanding the immediate release of Omar Khadr.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in April 2012, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo campaign,” and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

25 Responses

  1. Yumna Desai says...

    To those in control: Don’t you have any shame? Omar has basically spent 1/2 of his life and 3/4 of his youth in a cage. Where are the ‘so called’ who are supposed to stand up for ‘human rights’? Where are the basic rights of children, since when are kids treated as terrorists? Even if you people consider him one, do you think your harsh methods will harden or change him? And even if he is one, your treatment of our beloved brother will only turn him into a hardcore terrorist – who has and will learn who are the true terrorists! World, governments, leaders! It’s time to put your lawless laws behind you and stand up for the TRUTH!

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Yumna. Yes indeed.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Kevi Brannelly wrote:

    done!

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Maryam Lafargue wrote:

    Done, thank you Andy!

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Bojan Budimac wrote:

    Done 🙂

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Thank you, Kevi, Maryam, Bojan and everyone who has signed this. Please keep signing and sharing!

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Akeela Makshood wrote:

    Signed! Thank you for sharing this!

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    You are welcome, Akeela. Thank you for your interest!

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Chris Dorsey wrote:

    Thanks Andy sharing

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    You’re welcome, Chris!

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Heather Marsh wrote:

    Thank you, Andy, Your support has made a huge difference 🙂

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Thank you, Heather. I’m very glad to hear that. There are 600 signatures now! Please keep signing and sharing, my friends!

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Allison Lee-Clay wrote:

    got some issues over here these days:

    “…The government bill was a massive 425 pages, amending almost 70 laws. The Conservatives said it embodied an essential and integrated plan to protect Canada from an uncertain world economy. But, as well as trimming benefits for the old and the unemployed, its provisions include a long list of apparently unrelated matters: cutting fisheries protection, curbing government oversight of the federal intelligence agency, limiting environmental reviews of big natural-resource projects, tightening some immigration laws and
    **********allowing American officials to arrest Canadian citizens in Canada.**********

    The opposition said lumping all this together was an abuse of Parliament. So they kept Conservatives voting non-stop for almost 24 hours to defeat a long list of amendments, before the bill eventually passed unchanged on June 18th.

    During his six years as prime minister—five of them with a parliamentary minority until he won a majority at an election last year—Mr Harper has acquired a reputation for playing fast and loose with the rules. He twice prorogued Parliament, once to avoid a censure vote and then apparently to duck embarrassing questions from a parliamentary committee.

    Though the prime minister once campaigned as a crusader for accountability and openness, he has acquired the habit of secrecy. In April the auditor general accused the government of misleading Parliament about the cost of an order for F-35 jet fighters. The parliamentary budget officer, an independent watchdog, is considering going to court to force the government to release details of job and service losses in the budget’s C$5.2 billion ($5.1 billion) of spending cuts. The courts are “perhaps the only institution of accountability this government does not seem prepared to harass, intimidate, ignore or roll over,” wrote Andrew Coyne, a columnist for the conservative National Post. …”
    http://www.economist.com/node/21558303

    Cross-border policing provokes sovereignty worries
    U.S. officers have powers to make arrests in Canada

    “… So far, the government has revealed few details about the land-based version of the plan. The Beyond the Border plan, agreed to by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S President Barack Obama in 2011, had called for two land-based pilot projects to begin this summer.

    Government officials will only say that consultations are continuing, with the possibility of pilot projects starting no earlier than the fall….”
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2012/07/10/cross-border-policing-integration-sovereignty.html

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Allison. Why does that sound so much like the Tories here in the UK? Must be the corruption, the ineptitude, the playing fast and loose with the rules …

  15. arcticredriver says...

    Andy, you may know this already.

    The DoD recently published the OARDEC documents from 2008
    http://www.webcitation.org/query?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.dod.mil%2Fpubs%2Ffoi%2Frecent.html&date=2012-07-12

    Missing are the CSR Tribunals for captives 10025-10030 and ARB documents for 10011-10024.

    This recent FOIA release seems to contain half a dozen related documents that may be interesting.

    Cheers!

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, arcticredriver. I’ll look into it! No surprise that the wall of secrecy is maintained for the HVDs, the victims of torture …

  17. arcticredriver says...

    If I read the documents carefully enough seven captives were cleared for transfer, ISNs 81 Walid Mohammad Ali, ISN 200 Said Muhammad Husayn Qahtani, ISN 328 uyghur Ahmed Mohamed, ISN 566 Mansoor Muhammed Ali Qattaa, ISN 669 Ahmed Zaid Salim Zuhair, ISN 687 Abdelaziz Kareem Salim al-Noofayee, and ISN 1015 Hussein Salem Mohammed.

    Remarkably, there are just three transcripts, from ISN 29 Muhammad al Ansi, ISN 32 Faruq Ali Ahmed and ISN 200 Said Muhammad Husayn Qahtani.

    About 60 percent of the captives showed up for their 2004 CSR Tribunals. By 2007 only 20 captives showed up — about 10 percent.

    In 2008 slightly less than 100 captives had their status reviewed, because most captives either faced charges or had already been cleared for release. There are only three transcripts — suggesting just 3 percent of the captives felt attending was worthwhile.

    Cheers!

  18. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, arcticredriver. Useful analysis. 3 percent turnout really discredits the review boards’ credibility, doesn’t it? More depressing is the realization that, since Obama became President and the Task Force issued its report and the D.C. Circuit Court took over detainee policy, there’s nothing that even matches those feeble ARBs.

  19. arcticredriver says...

    The Globe and Mail published an article today about a plea deal Lt Cmdr William Kuebler tried to put together in 2008.
    https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/prosecution-nixed-khadr-guilty-plea-two-years-before-conviction/article4441774/

    In that plea deal Omar would have pled guilty via a video-link to a Canadian court. The evidence would have been the video showing him helping to assemble land mines earlier in July 2002.

    Related — David Hicks got permission to keep the profits from his book.
    http://www.calgaryherald.com/news/Australian+government+ends+fight+profits+from+exGuantanamo+detainees/6978079/story.html

    According to the Associated Press:


    The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions said in a statement that Hicks had provided “evidential material not previously available” to prosecutors after the initial legal challenge over his book profits was launched. The prosecutor’s office did not explain what that evidence was, but said it subsequently decided that Hicks’ admissions to the U.S. military commission could not be relied upon and opted to drop the case.

    I think the same ought to apply to Khadr’s admission

  20. Andy Worthington says...

    Good to hear from you as ever, arcticredriver. What particularly appalled me about Omar Khadr’s plea deal was the requirement that he had to claim – repeatedly – that he was responsible for his actions when he wasn’t, because he was a child.

  21. arcticredriver says...

    I’ve wondered whether Omar should try to contact Tabitha Speer and her children, when he is finally free.

    I don’t respect Speer’s comrade Layne Morris. Morris was wounded in the firefight, and lost the vision in one eye. He encouraged Speer’s widow to sue Omar’s father’s estate for $10 million dollars.

    What surprised me about this lawsuit, is that it argued Khadr senior’s estate should pay, as Khadr senior was responsible for Omar’s actions.

    I doubt Khadr’s charity had even a million bucks flow through it, during its entire existence. I doubt Khadr senior diverted charitable funds into a personal bank account.

    There have been accounts in the Toronto papers of how the Khadr family lived during the year or so he was in Toronto after his leg was injured by a land-mine in the 1990s. They were, apparently, as poor as church mice.

    For several years Morris used to be contacted for a sound-bite every time there was a new wrinkle in the progress of Khadr’s case. Reporters used to allow him to make comments on Khadr’s appearance, his character, his training, his role in the firefight — as if he had genuine knowledge of these matters.

    But what did he know of Khadr’s appearance? Only what all the rest of us know from the pictures that have been made public, as Morris was wounded prior to the firefight, and would never have met or seen Omar. Morris used to call Omar “the grenade man” — he has no personal knowledge of whether Omar threw any grenades.

    What were his comments about Omar’s motives, character based on? It was based on watching the same interview with his mother and older sister all the rest of us have seen.

    In one of the articles about the lawsuit a Federal official said that if Khadr senior’s estate actually contained any money the Federal government would get first crack at it, and the lawsuit in Utah state court would be irrelevant.

    That article, or another one, said that if Morris or Tabitha Speers ever saw any money as a result of that lawsuit, it would be from a Federal fund to compensate the victims of terrorism

    Anyhow, I hope you enjoyed Womad.

  22. arcticredriver says...

    Oh, I started the message above wondering whether Omar should consider contacting Tabitha Speers and her children. They seem deeply traumatized by Christopher Speer being killed by a terrorist. And I wonder whether they deserve to know that Omar’s confession was coerced — and not to be taken at face value.

    Unlike Morris, there seems to be no reason to doubt Sergeant Speer was an honorable soldier. There are accounts he treaded into a minefield to rescue and treat children who had been injured by a land mine. I imagine he thought of his own children while doing so.

  23. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, arcticredriver. Great information about Layne Morris, and his non-existent “expertise” regarding Omar, and also about the humanity of Christopher Speer. I have no idea if his widow would ever be interested in hearing a different point of view. She is, of course, entitled to feel as angry as anyone is entitled to feel when a loved one is killed in wartime, but it remains alarming to me that Sgt. Speer has been singled out as someone killed by a terrorist, and Omar Khadr has been singled out as that terrorist, when that is a gross and propagandist distortion of the truth.

  24. arcticredriver says...

    I just re-read my comments about Layne Morris — who was sought out for sound bites again when Omar was repatriated. I realized that there was one point I didn’t comment on.

    The position Layne Morris and Speer’s widow Tabitha took in the civil suit against the estate of Ahmed Said Khadr was the complete reverse of every hateful sound-bite he offers.

    Specifically, over and over, he wants harsher measures imposed on Omar, and holds him completely responsible, for Speer’s death, his own wounds, etc. But the position for suing his father’s estate is that Omar was just a kid, and that it was Ahmed Said Khadr who was wholly responsible for all hostile acts Omar may have committed.

    I wish the reporters who keep contacting Morris for a cheap sound bite would call upon him to justify this cynical reversal of positions.

  25. Andy Worthington says...

    So do I, arcticredriver. You have found something very significant.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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