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  • July 17th, 2017

Omar Khadr settlement a victory for the rule of law

Child soldier demo UK

“On behalf of the Government of Canada, we wish to apologize to Mr. Khadr.” – Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale

“I hope Canadians take away two things today…. First, our rights are not subject to the whims of the government of the day. And second, there are serious costs when the government violates the rights of its citizens.” – Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould

The terms of the settlement provide Omar Khadr with compensation for the many ways that Canadian action and inaction contributed to the serious human rights violations he experienced beginning in 2002, continuing through three months in US detention at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, 10 years of imprisonment at Guantánamo Bay, and two and a half years of further detention in Canadian jails in Ontario and Alberta before he was finally released on bail in May, 2015.  For more details click here.

“Omar Khadr was a child soldier illegally interrogated by Canadian agents while detained and tortured by a foreign power. He was convicted by a kangaroo court.

The ONLY way that anyone can disagree with this assessment is to ignore international law, the Supreme Court of Canada, and a decade of rigorous reporting by professional journalists such as Michelle Shephard at the Toronto Star and Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald.” – Michael Byers, Facebook post of 7 July 2017.

The settlement has proven to be extremely controversial with a CBC poll finding that a majority of Canadians oppose it.

One of the most contentious issues, completely unrelated to the reasons why compensation was paid to Omar Khadr, concerns his confession and subsequent guilty plea to a charge of murder for allegedly throwing a grenade and killing an American soldier, Sgt. Christopher Speer. It is undisputed that Khadr was told he would never get out of Guantanamo Bay if he did not plead guilty. Click here for a review of the alleged evidence against Khadr – which casts grave doubt on the prosecution’s version of the case.

“Without Khadr’s confession, obtained essentially by force, there is no compelling evidence that he threw any grenade at all. No one saw him do it, and from all appearances he’d been under that rubble the entire time.” – Sandy Garossino

But the lack of evidence is not the only glaring problem with the American government’s case for murder against Omar Khadr. Here is what Audrey Macklindirector of the Centre for Criminology and Sociolegal Studies at the University of Toronto, has to say about the charge of murder:

“Mr. Khadr was treated neither as a combatant nor as an accused criminal. Instead, the United States invented a new war crime called “murder by an unlawful alien enemy combatant.” The new offence made it lawful for U.S. soldiers to kill Mr. Khadr, but made it a war crime if he killed a U.S. soldier. This ersatz war crime was invented by the United States after his capture and then applied to his actions retroactively. No system governed by the rule of law does this.”

A terrible legacy of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s gross mishandling of this case is the distortion of facts for political gain, whatever the human cost. Click here for Michael Coren’s examination of this ugly phenomenon – the antithesis of political leadership – which is now on full display once again.

We must not let this ugliness blind us to the significance of this settlement as a triumph of Canadian justice and the rule of law:

“Redress for Omar Khadr …. plays a critical role in countering the immunity for national security-related human rights violations that is by far the norm in similar cases.” – Alex Neve, Amnesty International-Canada

“An apology is not only for the benefit of the aggrieved, but for the integrity of the apologizer. Canada and Canadians deserves the atonement, the reaffirmation and restoration of our values, that is made possible by the settlement.” (Law Professor Craig Martin)

“At the same time the government must also go further and make systemic changes in order to avoid such horrendous abuses of civil liberties and human rights in the future.” – ICLMG and Rideau Institute Statement on Omar Khadr’s settlement

One issue not addressed in this blog post is the civil judgement against Omar Khadr awarded to the widow of Sgt. Speer by a Utah court. Legal experts believe Canadian courts would be reluctant to enforce this judgement given its dubious legal standing.

Photo credit: Huffington Post UK

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