Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace

HAPPY BIRTHDAY OMAR KHADR

Posted by strattof on September 29, 2013

Captured during a firefight in July 2002, Omar Khadr has now spent more than eleven years – and almost half of his life – in prison cells in Afghanistan, Cuba, and Canada. Many people still imagine Omar Khadr as a child soldier. On September 19th, he turned 27 years old. The crimes for which he is incarcerated do not exist in Canadian, American, or International Law.

OMAR KHADR IN EDMONTON INSTITUTION

“The domestication of Khadr’s incarceration may make it easy to forget him.” Fathima Cader, briarpatch

For almost a decade, people who understood that Khadr was a child soldier at the time of his capture, and that he was being tried in a court that operated outside of international and domestic laws, argued that he should be repatriated to Canada. The fact that Khadr is back in Canada does not mean that justice has been served.

PRISON VIOLENCE

  • When Khadr was repatriated in September 2012, he spent several months in isolation before joining the general population in February 2013. Khadr was put on food line duty. When he refused to give an inmate more than his share, the inmate threatened to stab Khadr. Khadr was put back into isolation.
  • Sent to the “hole” for “protection,” Khadr was forced to spend 23-hours a day in solitary confinement. This made it virtually impossible for him to participate in the type of prison programming that would prepare him for parole.
  •  At the end of May, Khadr was moved to Edmonton Institution. Not only was Khadr moved away from the threat, but he was also closer to an English professor who had been providing him with lessons from Edmonton for years (even when he was being denied educational opportunities at Guantanamo Bay, his lawyer was smuggling in these lesson plans in his boot).
  • Only two weeks after being moved to Edmonton, Khadr was assaulted by another prisoner. 

MAXIMUM OR MINIMUM SECURITY?

  • Before he was transferred to Canada, Khadr’s American jailers classified him as a minimum security inmate. In spite of this, the Correctional Service of Canada gave Khadr a maximum security designation.
  • In a recent letter to a prison official, Canada’s prison ombudsman criticized Khadr’s maximum security designation, calling it “unique and exceptional.”
  • Khadr’s sole offense was committed while he was a minor. He has never been charged for another offense while in prison.
  • Although he has been attacked by other inmates, a psychologist’s report points out that Khadr interacts well with others. An American psychiatrist’s report makes similar claims, further pointing out that Khadr has “consistently verbalized his goal to conduct a peaceful, prosocial life as a Canadian citizen.”
  • Khadr’s security designation affects his access to prison programming, and his eligibility for parole.

 LEGAL BATTLES CONTINUE

  • On September 23rd, Khadr’s lawyer argued that his designation as a maximum security inmate was illegal under the International Transfer of Offenders Act.
  • Khadr’s lawyers are also preparing to file an appeal to overturn the military tribunal convictions with the U.S. Court of Appeals. The crimes for which Khadr was convicted did not exist when he was charged, nor do they exist in international law today.
  • In the midst of all of this, Khadr was supposed to be eligible for day parole in January 2013, and for a full parole hearing in July 2013. The fact that he is in legal and prison limbo makes his progress very difficult. Instead of preparing him for release, Khadr’s conditions of confinement in Canada are regressive: they are ill-suited to who Khadr is, and to who he strives to become.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

The Minister of Public Safety has recently changed.  

  • Contact Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney. Let him know that you object to Khadr’s designation as a maximum security inmate. Khadr has spent far too long in prison. It is time to take steps towards his release: (613) 992-7434 or steven.blaney@parl.gc.ca  
  • Send the same message to your MP:

     Ray Boughen: ray.boughen@parl.gc.ca

     Ralph Goodale: ralph.goodale@parl.gc.ca

     Tom Lukiwski: tom.lukiwski@parl.gc.ca

     Andrew Scheer: andrew.sheer@parl.gc.ca

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