Omar Khadr: Blood lust up against the rule of law
Odoardo Di Santo
TORONTO - Last Friday, the Government of Canada offered up its official apologies to Omar Khadr for the conduct of Canadian Security agencies in his regard as he suffered abuses at the hands of American military, and others, while detained, as a minor, in an American detention camp at Guantanamo in Cuba.
The Government agreed to pay out $10.5 million in compensation, thus ending the on-going legal proceedings in the Courts. Khadr had asked for $20 million in damages. The payout set off a firestorm of reactions that reveals the soft underbelly of our Canadian psyche that should give us all cause for reflection and concern.
The Canadian government has only now admitted that it had no choice. Canadian Courts had repeatedly decided against the Government’s obdurate and obstinate contrary position in respect of Khadr’s legal standing.
In 2007, the Federal Court ruled that the Government of Canada was in violation of International Law (to which it is a signatory). In May of 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that the Government had violated Khadr’s rights under Article 7 of the Charter. In April of 2009, the Federal Court determine that his rights had been violated [thanks in part to the negligence of the government].
Finally, in January of 2010, the Supreme Court issued a more complete clarification indicating that Canadian Secret Service Agents (CSIS) had been in violation of the most fundamental principles governing procedures of interrogation guiding questioning of minors; pointing accusatory fingers at those agents for active participation in abusive interrogation techniques (torture) committed against the internees of the (American) military prison in Guantanamo.
Ralph Goodale, Minister for Public Security, clarified that the Supreme Court had ruled beyond doubt that the conduct of Canadian officials was wrong.
Even the Minister of Justice, Wilson-Raybould, admitted that the Charter Rights of a Canadian citizen had been [wilfully] violated, therefore he was due compensation.
An important consideration entered into the mix was the fact that Khadr was deprived of sleep for three weeks and compelled to switch from cell to cell every three hours in order to induce more malleable responses.
The ensuing public debate has revolved around two “life issues”. For those on the “Right” of the socio-political spectrum the Law must protect “the Good” and punish “the Evil”.
It’s a point of view that is unfortunately, perhaps, compromised by the actions of no less an authority figure than the President of the USA. Donald Trump “suggested” to the then head of the FBI, James Comey, that he should go easy on his investigation of Michael Flynn in the infamous Russiagate, because the latter was a “good man”.
The other point of view maintains that the Law defines rights and duties for all citizens, and that all citizens be treated equally. In Canada, this latter, fundamental, principle is embedded in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The “solution” to the Khadr affair has unleashed a torrent of visceral reactions for its $10.5 million figure, but, nothing for the issue of unalienable citizen rights and obligations.
The [Conservative] Leader of the Official Opposition, Andrew Sheer, in a contorted response maintains that it is wrong to compensate a convicted terrorist; that it is an offense to an entire country [Canada] against whose principles Khadr was fighting.
Same sentiments express by his colleague and former Cabinet Minister Tony Clement whose financial largesse with public funds on the occasion of an event marking the G20 in his riding has now achieved epic notoriety.
Not even the former Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, who authorized the spending of millions of dollars in legal fees to contest Khadr in Court, could resist wading in with a contrary view.
In 2002, in the company of his father, Omar was a part of a firefight in Afghanistan that saw the death of several “insurgents”, including the senior Khadr.
Omar was captured and shortly after was transferred to Guantanamo as the youngest ever detainee, charged with having launched the grenade that killed the American sergeant Christopher Scher.
Omar was the youngest prisoner, since World War II, ever charged with having committed War Crimes as a minor. The action was condemned by the United Nations. And by organizations advocating Human Rights everywhere.
Under arguably onerous, even indescribably cruel, circumstances, he agreed to a confession that would allow him to serve out his sentence in Canada.
He was then released in 2015, even as his Appeal of his conviction was under consideration, and, as the Alberta Court of Appeal rejected a manoeuvre by the Government of Stephen Harper to prevent his release.
Many Canadians think its time to recognize that Khadr has paid sufficiently, suffered unjustly and is continuing to meet obstacles to his re-integration. Perhaps it’s time Canadians showed a little of the compassion for which they are noted.