Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace

BREAKING THE LAW: THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT AND OMAR KHADR

Posted by strattof on May 23, 2010

 THE BACKGROUND

●Omar Khadr was born in Toronto and is a Canadian citizen. ●He was 15 when he was taken into custody by US forces in Afghanistan in 2002, after a gun battle in which he was seriously wounded. ●He was detained, first at the US air base in Bagram in Afghanistan, and then at the US Guantánamo Bay Prison in Cuba where he remains incarcerated. ●There is compelling evidence he was tortured during his interrogation at both locations. In 2003 and 2004, the Canadian government became directly involved in the torture when it sent CSIS agents to interrogate Mr Khadr at Guantánamo, knowing he had been subjected to prolonged sleep deprivation and isolation. ●The main charge against Omar Khadr is that he threw a grenade that killed a US soldier. His trial by military tribunal is scheduled to begin in August.

THE LAW AND OMAR KHADR

  • Under Canadian law, an accused person is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Although Omar Khadr has spent nearly 8 years in US military detention, he has not yet been tried in a court of law.
  • The evidence against Omar Khadr is unreliable. No eyewitnesses saw him throw the grenade. It has been revealed that US soldiers were throwing grenades at the time of the incident, raising the possibility that friendly fire may have caused the soldier’s death. It has also been determined that Mr. Khadr was crippled, blinded, and trapped beneath rubble at the time the grenade was thrown.
  • The only real evidence against Omar Khadr is what he confessed to under torture. 

THE LAW AND THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT

  • In January 2010, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously that the Canadian government had violated Omar Khadr’s “right to liberty and security of person” under the Canadian charter of Rights and Freedoms when it sent CSIS agents to interrogate him under “oppressive circumstances” and then shared the information with US officials.
  • The Court said of the interrogation that it breached “the most basic Canadian standards about the treatment of detained youth suspects.”
  • The Court also ruled that Mr. Khadr’s Charter rights continue to be violated, given the role of the information in his upcoming trial.
  • Finally, the Court advised the government that a request for repatriation would be an appropriate remedy to the violation of Mr. Khadr’s rights.
RESPECT FOR THE RULE OF LAW

Four months have passed since Canada’s highest court ruled that the government is breaking the law and must remedy the situation. The government has a legal obligation to act, but it has failed to do so. Does the Canadian government think it is above the law?

The proper functioning of a democracy depends on the government respecting the rule of law. Respect for the rule of law would lead the Prime Minister to request the United States to repatriate Omar Khadr.

Let Stephen Harper know that you want the Canadian government to act according to the law: 613-992-4211 or pm@pm.gc.ca  

 INTERNATIONAL LAW AND THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT

By not seeking Omar Khadr’s repatriation, the Canadian government has also broken a number of international laws.

  • Cape Town Principles on Child Soldiers (1997), signed by Canada: This document defines “child soldier” as “any person under 18 years of age who is part of any kind of regular or irregular armed force or armed group in any capacity.” According to the Cape Town Principles, child soldiers are to be reintegrated into society, not punished. If Omar Khadr’s case goes to trial, he will be the first ever Canadian juvenile to be tried for war crimes.
  • UN Convention Against Torture (1975), signed by Canada: Evidence shows that Omar Khadr was tortured both at Bagram and Guantánamo. While at Bagram, he was interrogated by Sergeant Joshua Claus, who was later convicted in the murder of a Bagram prisoner. In 2004, the International Committee of the Red Cross reported that interrogation techniques used at Guantánamo were “tantamount to torture.”
  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), signed by Canada: The rights guaranteed by the Declaration include the right of prisoners to not be tortured, to have their case reviewed by a court of law, and to a fair trial. Eight long years have passed and Omar Khadr’s case has still not been reviewed by a court of law. Trial by military tribunal is not a fair trial for a number of reasons, including that it does not adequately exclude hearsay evidence and it restricts a defendant’s access to evidence.
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