Lies and Injustice: Canada’s Ongoing Mistreatment of Omar Khadr

Last week, in a court in Edmonton, Justice John Rooke, responding to a habeas corpus petition submitted in September by former Guantánamo prisoner Omar Khadr, issued a ruling ordering him to remain in a maximum security federal prison rather than being moved to a provincial prison, “limiting his chances for parole,” as the Toronto Star described it.

Khadr, who was a juvenile — just 15 years old — when he was seized in July 2002 after a firefight in Afghanistan, where he had been taken by his father, was held at Guantánamo for ten years, and only left the prison after agreeing to a plea deal in October 2010, in which he accepted five charges — spying, conspiracy, providing material support for terrorism, attempted murder and murder (of a US Special Forces soldier, Sgt. Christopher Speer), even though that last charge was based on an extremely untrustworthy claim that he had thrown the grenade that killed Sgt. Speer. Under the terms of the plea deal, he received an eight-year sentence, with one year to be served in Guantánamo and the remaining seven in Canada.

Eleven months late, in September 2012, Khadr was eventually returned to Canada, where he was imprisoned in the Millhaven Institution, a maximum-security prison near Kingston, Ontario. In May this year, after he received threats from another prisoner, he was moved to another maximum security prison, the Edmonton Institution in Edmonton, Alberta, and in August his lawyer, Dennis Edney, sought his transfer to a provincial prison. Read the rest of this entry »

Finally, Omar Khadr Leaves Guantánamo and Returns to Canada

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.

Eleven months late, the Canadian government has finally signed the paperwork authorizing the return to Canada from Guantánamo of Omar Khadr. A Canadian citizen, he was just 15 years old when he was seized, in July 2002, after a firefight in Afghanistan, where he had been taken by his father, an alleged associate of Osama bin Laden, and subsequently flown to Guantánamo, where he was held for the last ten years.

As a juvenile — those under 18 when their alleged crimes take place — Khadr should have been rehabilitated rather than being subjected to various forms of torture and abuse, according to 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, the US put him forward for a war crimes trial, on the unproven basis that he threw a grenade that killed an American soldier at the time of his capture, and the Canadian government abandoned him, even though courts up to and including the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that his rights had been violated when Canadian agents interrogated him at Guantánamo. In 2010, the Court stated, “Interrogation of a youth, to elicit statements about the most serious criminal charges while detained in these conditions and without access to counsel, and while knowing that the fruits of the interrogations would be shared with the US prosecutors, offends the most basic Canadian standards about the treatment of detained youth suspects.” Read the rest of this entry »

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

Sign the petition!
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Post your own “Omar Khadr is Welcome Here” photo!

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 »

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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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