The imprisonment of Omar Khadr, just 15 years old when he was seized after a firefight in Afghanistan, has always been a disgrace of colossal proportions. The US and the Canadian government have both ignored their obligations to rehabilitate rather than punish children caught up in armed conflict, and the Obama administration then arranged for him to agree to a plea deal in which he admitted that he had thrown the grenade that killed a US soldier prior to his capture, and was an alien unprivileged enemy belligerent whose actions constituted a war crime. It is by no means clear that Omar did in fact throw the grenade, although it is understandable that he agreed to the plea deal to be released from Guantánamo. As a result of the plea deal, announced at the end of October 2010, Omar received an eight-year sentence, with one year to be served at Guantánamo, and the remaining seven in Canada.
Although it remains unforgivable that the US government arranged for a prisoner who was a child when captured to be regarded as a war criminal for being involved in combat during a war, and although it will be an indelible black mark against the Obama administration when the history books about this period are written, the baton of injustice has, for the last eleven months, passed back to Canada, where the government of Stephen Harper is refusing to honor its part of the plea deal, according to which Omar would have returned to Canada last October.
Today, September 19, Omar turns 26 in Guantanamo, and as the Canadian government continues to drag its heels, making a mockery of any claim that Canada cares about human rights or the law, I’d like to ask you to watch the video below, put together by my friend Sara Naqwi, which features a brief recap of Omar’s story, followed by poignant stills of various concerned citizens holding up placards that read, “Omar Khadr is Welcome Here,” from the Facebook page where the idea originated and where the photos first appeared. Please note that you’ll need to watch it full-size, as the text is very small at the beginning.
If you can help to circulate this film it would be very much appreciated, and please, if you haven’t already done so, sign Sen. Roméo Dallaire’s petition demanding that Public Safety Minister Vic Toews signs the paperwork to secure Omar’s return from Guantanamo now! There’s also an Amnesty International page that people can use to send him messages via his lawyers, and if you’re on Twitter right now, please post tweets with the hashtag #khadr to let people know about Omar’s plight.
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, Flickr (my photos) 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.
On Facebook, Michelle Landy wrote:
I wrote to Canadian High Commission in London. They replied to say not in their remit so passed it onto Toews to respond. Still waiting! Will chase this. Delay in Canada seems to be the order of things!
Jonathan Johns wrote:
Happy 65th birthday CIA. Happy 26th birthday Omar #Khadr. Close #Guantanamo end the CIA and its ilk. #cdnpoli http://t.co/YXUsxURb
Thanks, Michelle and Jonathan. Yes, delay is the Harper government’s only way of dealing with Omar’s case, Michelle, and Jonathan, I hadn’t seen the CIA’s founding date before. Hmph. 65 years too long, obviously …
Barbara Carroll wrote:
Thank you Andy for keeping this on our minds. Disgraceful and inhuman of the U.S. policy makers to continue this ‘torture’.
You’re welcome, Barbara. My thanks to Sara Naqwi and Heather Marsh who reminded me in the first place. What a disgrace!
Charlie Garcia Monroy wrote:
At fifteen, most of us are discovering the beautiful opposite sex! I was…Are we now part of China or Russia? A young kid been with the wrong crowd at the wrong time. Man! Yes, he has to pay for what he did…But to keep him out of touch with schooling and rehab…not the one from that joint, I’m talking a real rehab place. Hey you mess up once as a child, next time you have to use the brains wisely like we all do, right? See we should put the drug cartel honchos there for a weekend so they can cry and call for their mommys to come and rescue them from plight. If these people are smart government leaders they should not think twice to carry this one out, and that would be the end of the thousands of drug related killings in Mexico! Thanks Andy always a pleasure to read your material.
Mary Shepard wrote:
Andy, is there any way to write to Omar?
Thanks, Charlie. And it’s always good to hear from you. And Mary, Amnesty International in Canada is collecting people’s messages, which will be given to his lawyers, to try and make sure that Omar receives them. See here: http://www.amnesty.ca/iwriteforjustice/take_action.php?actionid=922
[…] Although it remains unforgivable that the US government arranged for a prisoner who was a child when captured to be regarded as a war criminal for being involved in combat during a war, and although it will be an indelible black mark against the Obama administration when the history books about this period are written, the baton of injustice has, for the last eleven months, passed back to Canada, where the government of Stephen Harper is refusing to honor its part of the plea deal, according to which Omar would have returned to Canada last October. Yesterday, September 19, Omar turned 26 in Guantanamo but the Canadian government continues to drag its heels, making a mockery of any claim that Canada cares about human rights or the law… (Andy Worthington) More here. […]
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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