Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Continuing Imprisonment of Omar Khadr

This is an absolute disgrace:

OTTAWA – A Guantanamo judge has dismissed an argument that Omar Khadr was a child soldier when he was captured in Afghanistan and so in need of protection, not prosecution. The ruling clears the way for the Toronto detainee’s trial.

U.S. Army Col. Peter Brownback’s ruling today, which upholds the Pentagon’s position that there is no minimum age for prosecution for war crimes, comes on the heels of an appearance by Khadr’s U.S. military lawyer before Canadian legislators.

That flies in the face of international law and basic morality and despite domestic and international pressure, Canada's Conservative government absolutely refuses to act until all legal proceedings and appeals have been exhausted with their useless foreign affairs minister, Maxime Bernier, towing the party line by stating that they're not concerned because he's "being well-treated".

That's not the point and we have no way of knowing if that's actually true, especially since Khadr's lawyers claim that he has been tortured and mistreated to the point where his psychological and physical well-being is at serious risk:

Mr. Edney said that when he saw Mr. Khadr recently, his client was so mentally debilitated that he wanted nothing more than crayons and some paper to colour on. Contrary to federal government assurances that Mr. Khadr is doing just fine, Mr. Edney said, his client is actually "ill and going blind. He needs all sorts of help."

The secrecy involved in these so-called tribunals also ought to be enough cause for concern as the Bush administration keeps changing the rules:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Bush administration assured the Supreme Court last December that Guantanamo Bay prisoners who felt they were unfairly being detained could have their cases thoroughly reviewed by a federal appeals court. Now, it's not so clear.

When the first case arrived at the appeals court, the Justice Department told the judges they could look at the evidence but should act on the assumption that the military made the right decisions at Guantanamo Bay.

That assertion led to a testy exchange recently between Appellate Judge Merrick B. Garland and Justice Department attorney Gregory Katsas. Garland wanted an explanation for the contradiction. Katsas said there was no contradiction at all.

The exchange underscores the challenge facing the administration: It doesn't want judges overseeing terrorism cases, but it can't eliminate them from the process without first getting their approval.

Normally, a prisoner who believes he's being unfairly detained can ask the courts to free him. It's a right known as habeas corpus that dates back to the 1300s and was written into the Constitution.

But the administration says that right does not exist for Guantanamo detainees. For years, administration officials have tried to limit judges' role in hearing detainees' cases and twice the administration has been set back by the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court is expected to rule soon on the new detainee law. In doing so, it might spell out what role the appeals court is supposed to play.

It may sound like a mere argument about words — a semantics debate between "preponderance" and "deferential" — but the outcome will help determine how much oversight courts have over what happens at Guantanamo Bay.

The legal quagmire has gone on for years while the Gitmo prisoners are held in a hellish limbo while being presumed guilty.


GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba, April 28 -- The Defense Department's former chief prosecutor for terrorism cases appeared Monday at the controversial U.S. detention facility here to argue on behalf of a terrorism suspect [Salim Ahmed Hamdan], that the military justice system has been corrupted by politics and inappropriate influence from senior Pentagon officials.

Sitting just feet from the courtroom table where he had once planned to make cases against military detainees, Air Force Col. Morris Davis instead took the witness stand to declare under oath that he felt undue pressure to hurry cases along so that the Bush administration could claim before political elections that the system was working.

Davis told Navy Capt. Keith J. Allred, who presided over the hearing, that top Pentagon officials, including Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon R. England, made it clear to him that charging some of the highest-profile detainees before elections this year could have "strategic political value."

Davis said he wants to wait until the cases -- and the military commissions system -- have a more solid legal footing. He also said that Defense Department general counsel William J. Haynes II, who announced his retirement in February, once bristled at the suggestion that some defendants could be acquitted, an outcome that Davis said would give the process added legitimacy.

"He said, 'We can't have acquittals,' " Davis said under questioning from Navy Lt. Cmdr. Brian Mizer, the military counsel who represents Hamdan. " 'We've been holding these guys for years. How can we explain acquittals? We have to have convictions.' "

Does anybody, including our foreign affairs minister, need any more evidence that the entire military tribunals process is just a political farce created by an imperialist administration bent on justifying to the public that its 'war on terror' is supposedly succeeding at the expense of defendants whose fates are predetermined?

Several other countries have long ago repatriated their citizens who were interred at the Gitmo gulag, yet Canada's government - holding on to its Bush poodle status even though he will soon be a distant memory (good riddance) - continues to try to boost the political image of the Republicans by using Omar Khadr as a political pawn. If only there was a way to hold this government criminally responsible for abandoning the one Canadian citizen left rotting in Gitmo.

The situation is simple: Canada's Conservatives are complicit in the prosecution and mistreatment of a child soldier and there is absolutely no defence for that.

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