Thursday, April 23, 2009

Good News for Omar Khadr

As the Globe and Mail reports, a federal court has ruled that the Canadian government must seek the repatriation of Omar Khadr from the hell of Gitmo immediately.

No more stonewalling.

No more excuses.

No more fearmongering.

No more pushing the idea that he's guilty before he's even had a fair trial.

No more abandoning a child soldier who has allegedly been tortured while in US custody.

It ends now. Today.


According to the ruling (.pdf file) the judge decided that Khadr's Charter rights under Section 7 had been infringed.

[8] In his affidavit, Mr. Khadr describes various forms of mistreatment both at Bagram and Guantánamo Bay. For purposes of these proceedings, it is unnecessary for me to make any definitive factual findings about the conditions of Mr. Khadr’s imprisonment. However, there are three significant facts that are relevant to this application and on which there is agreement between the parties.

[9] First, on detention, Mr. Khadr was “given no special status as a minor” even though he was only 15 when he was arrested and 16 at the time he was transferred to Guantánamo Bay.

[10] Second, Mr. Khadr had virtually no communication with anyone outside of Guantánamo Bay until November 2004, when he met with legal counsel for the first time.

[11] Third, at Guantánamo Bay, Mr. Khadr was subjected to the so-called “frequent flyer program”, which involved depriving him of rest and sleep by moving him to a new location every three hours over a period of weeks. Canadian officials became aware of this treatment in the spring of 2004 when Mr. Khadr was 17, and proceeded to interrogate him.

The judge then details the history of Khadr's detention including so-called interviews (i.e. interrogations) by CSIS:

[17] By the spring of 2004, then, Canadian officials were knowingly implicated in the imposition of sleep deprivation techniques on Mr. Khadr as a means of making him more willing to provide intelligence. Mr. Khadr was then a 17-year-old minor, who was being detained without legal representation, with no access to his family, and with no Canadian consular assistance.

Let's not forget that these actions happened under both Liberal and Conservative governments.

Khadr and his lawyers have been looking for justice from our government for years on end, constantly coming up against the political concerns of the parties in power.

[23] Mr. Khadr has launched a number of other proceedings in Federal Court. In 2004, he commenced an action for damages and a declaration that his Charter rights had been infringed.

Justice Konrad von Finckenstein granted him an injunction against further interrogations by Canadian officials, but no further action was taken in the proceedings (Khadr v. The Attorney General of Canada and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, 2005 FC 1076, T-536-04).

[24] Also in 2004, Mr. Khadr applied for judicial review of a decision of the Minister of Foreign Affairs not to seek further consular access to him. Again, there has been no recent action taken on this file (Khadr v. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, 2004 FC 1145, T-686-04).

It's quite obvious upon reading the ruling that CSIS has a lot to answer for - again - in this case. The judge notes that the sleep deprivation technique used against Khadr was torture, as specified in the CAT (Convention Against Torture) and that CSIS, knowing it had garnered so-called evidence as a result of that torture had no right to hand it over to then be used against him in whatever quasi-judicial proceedings would be invented for Gitmo prisoners.

Additionally, the judge found that the government violated the CRC (Convention on the Rights of the Child) on several fronts - including the right not to be tortured.

[63] The CRC imposes on Canada some specific duties in respect of Mr. Khadr. Canada was required to take steps to protect Mr. Khadr from all forms of physical and mental violence, injury, abuse or maltreatment. We know that Canada raised concerns about Mr. Khadr’s treatment, but it also implicitly condoned the imposition of sleep deprivation techniques on him, having carried out interviews knowing that he had been subjected to them.

Our government failed Omar Khadr on a number of levels for far too long.

This ruling is a huge victory for him, his lawyers, his family and Canadian justice.


Asked about the ruling during Question Period, Harper stated that his government had been following the same policy as the previous government for years. He also said that he would review the ruling to decide if the government would appeal.

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