It’s a very unlikely pairing: Roméo Dallaire, an inspiring hero to many Canadians, and Omar Khadr, often seen as a murderer and terrorist. Here’s the connection:
Last month, Roméo Dallaire launched an online petition calling on the Harper government to bring Omar Khadr home without delay.
In the words of Dallaire: “The case of Omar Khadr – a Canadian citizen and former child soldier – is a stain upon our society and shows a blatant disregard for Canada’s obligations under international law.”
As of August 21st, the petition had received 29,959 signatures.
ROMÉO DALLAIRE’S PETITION LETTER
ADDRESSED TO MINISTER OF PUBLIC SAFETY VIC TOEWS
Do the right thing: Authorize Omar Khadr’s repatriation without delay.
Dear Minister Toews
I am writing to urge you to authorize the repatriation of Omar Khadr without delay—a Canadian citizen and former child soldier held in Guantánamo Bay.
Over the past decade, Khadr’s rights have been violated time and again. He has been denied the right to due process and a fair trial, the right to protection from torture, and the rights stemming from the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol on Children in Armed Conflict.
This month marks the 10 year anniversary of his capture as a child soldier. And while Omar Khadr continues to sit in solitary confinement in Guantánamo, what’s done is done. We now have an opportunity to do the right thing and bring Omar Khadr home.
In 2010, Canada agreed to his return, as long as he served one additional year in Guantánamo. In the House of Commons, then Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon said that Canada would implement the agreement. Khadr has been eligible for repatriation since November 2011 and yet we have seen no action from the government.
The Americans have held up their end of the deal. Omar Khadr has held up his end of the deal. Now Canada must follow through on its commitment. A deal is a deal. We must honour our word.
I call on you to immediately authorize Khadr’s return to Canada.
To sign Roméo Dallaire’s petition, 1) google “Change.org Romeo Dallaire; 2) click on “Petition Minister Toews: Bring back Omar Khadr.”
THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT, THE LAW, AND OMAR KHADR
- UN CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD, ratified by Canada in 1991: The document defines “child” as a “human being below the age of eighteen.” Omar Khadr was 15 when he was taken into custody by US forces in Afghanistan in 2002. He has spent the last 10 years of his life in US military detention, most of it at the infamous and illegal Guantánamo Bay Prison in Cuba.
- UN CONVENTION AGAINST TORTURE, signed by Canada in 1975: In 2003, the Canadian government sent CSIS agents to Guantánamo to interrogate Omar Khadr, knowing that US officials had subjected him to prolonged sleep deprivation and isolation. In 2004, the International Committee of the Red Cross reported that interrogation techniques used at Guantánamo are “tantamount to torture.”
- CANADIAN CHARTER OF RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS, 1982: The Canadian Charter guarantees every Canadian the right on arrest to be informed promptly of the reasons for the arrest; the right to legal counsel; and the right to appear before a court of law. None of these conditions were met in the arrest and detention of Omar Khadr.
- CANADIAN COURTS, 2008-2010: Both the Federal Court and the Supreme Court of Canada have twice ruled that Omar Khadr’s rights under the Charter have been violated. In its 2010 ruling, the Supreme Court concluded that in sending CSIS agents to Guantánamo to interrogate Khadr, the Canadian government had acted “contrary to the principles of fundamental justice.”
- PLEA BARGAIN, October 25 2010: Omar Khadr entered into a plea bargain, pleading guilty to a killing he may or may not have committed, in return for being returned to Canada after having served one more year in Guantánamo. He has been eligible for transfer to Canada since November 1 2011, but the Harper government is refusing to keep its side of the bargain.
- APPLICATION FOR JUDICIAL REVIEW, June 2012: Omar Khadr’s lawyers filed an application in Federal Court in an attempt to force the federal government to keep its side of the plea bargain. In response, Minister of Public Works Vic Toews asked to review the report of psychiatrist Michael Welner before deciding on the transfer application. Welner has said that he was influenced in his evaluation of Khadr by Danish psychologist Nicolai Sennels, a known anti-Muslim racist who believes Muslims are genetically defective.
“[Omar Khadr] was just 15 years old that day and should never have been on that battlefield in the first place. The various adults in his life, including his own father, cajoled, encouraged and allowed him to take part in the fighting, contrary to international standards that prohibit drawing kids into war. But that crucial human-rights reality – Oman Khadr, child soldier – has been ignored at every turn by US and Canadian officials.” – Alex Neve, Secretary General, Amnesty International
OMAR KHADR IS THE LAST CITIZEN FROM A WESTERN COUNTRY STILL IN GUANTÁNAMO. Recognizing the illegality of Guantánamo from the outset, Australia, Britain, Germany, and Sweden all intervened successfully on behalf of their citizens, leading to their repatriation. Canada, on the other hand, has chosen to collude with the illegal system at Guantánamo.