Video: On Omar Khadr’s 26th Birthday, Supporters Call for his Return to Canada from Guantánamo

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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. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Omar Khadr from Guantánamo! Please Support Senator Roméo Dallaire’s Campaign

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.

But first, please sign the petition initiated by Canadian Senator Roméo Dallaire, urging Public Safety Minister Vic Toews to sign the paperwork to bring Omar Khadr home from Guantánamo, as agreed in October 2010. This petition has gone viral, and hundreds of people have been signing it every hour. With your help, we can turn this petition into a torrent of concern and indignation that the Canadian government — and the mainstream media — cannot ignore.

Just last week, we encouraged you, our readers, to sign a petition calling for the Canadian government to secure the release from Guantánamo of Omar Khadr, the Canadian citizen and former child prisoner who was supposed to have been returned to Canada last November, as part of a plea deal he agreed to in October 2010.

If you’ll forgive us for the intrusion on your time, we’d now like to ask you to sign another, similar petition, initiated by Senator Roméo Dallaire, a former Lieutenant-General in the Canadian Army, described on his website as a devoted humanitarian. The founder of the Child Soldiers Initiative, a project aimed at eradicating the use of child soldiers, Senator Dallaire recently appeared at a press conference in Ottawa to urge the Canadian government to honor its part of the deal, and to bring Omar home. Read the rest of this entry »

Bring Omar Khadr Home: His Lawyers Demand His Return to Canada from Guantánamo

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.

Frustrated that Omar Khadr, the only Canadian citizen in Guantánamo, is still detained, eight months after he was supposed to be returned to Canada under the terms of a plea deal negotiated in October 2010, his US and Canadian lawyers — and the Canadian Senator Romeo Dallaire — held a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday to demand that the Canadian government honors its part of the agreement and secures Khadr’s return to Canada, the country of his birth.

Khadr was seized in July 2002 after a firefight in Afghanistan where he had been taken by his father, Ahmed Khadr, who is generally described as a fundraiser for Osama bin Laden. At the time of his capture he was just 15 years old, and should have been rehabilitated, 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 the US and Canada are signatories.

Instead, however, he was horribly abused in US custody, and abandoned by the Canadian government. In October 2010, under the terms of the plea deal, he accepted that he had killed US Special Forces soldier Sgt. Christopher Speer, who died in a grenade attack during the firefight, and that he was an “alien unprivileged enemy belligerent,” who had no right to engage in combat with US forces at all, even though there is serious doubt about the claim that he threw the grenade that killed Sgt. Speer, and even though his confession effectively established a scenario in which the US claimed that it was illegal to raise arms against US forces in a war zone. Read the rest of this entry »

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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 and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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