On September 19, Omar Khadr turned 28. Captured in a firefight in Afghanistan in 2002, he has now spent more than 12 years ‒ and almost half his life ‒ in prison cells in Bagram Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay Cuba, and now Bowden Institution Canada.
- Omar Khadr was 15 years old when he was captured by US forces. He was a child soldier.
- The offences with which he was charged are not crimes under Canadian, American, or international law.
Omar Khadr should never have been imprisoned.
“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.” ‒ Roméo Dallaire
BREAKING THE LAW: THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT & OMAR KHADR
Omar Khadr was born in Toronto to Canadian parents. He is a Canadian citizen.
In its treatment of Omar Khadr, the Canadian government ‒ first the Liberal, then the Conservative ‒ has broken both Canadian and international law. The proper functioning of a democracy depends on the government respecting the rule of law.
- CHILD SOLDIER: Omar Khadr was 15 when he was captured by US forces in Afghanistan in 2002. The UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, ratified by Canada in 1991, defines “child” as a “human being below the age of eighteen.”
- TORTURE: Confessions were extracted from Omar Khadr through the use of torture and other prohibited treatment, including threats, beatings, and prolonged solitary confinement. In 2003, the Canadian government twice sent CSIS agents to Guantánamo to interrogate Omar Khadr, knowing that US officials had subjected him to prolonged sleep deprivation and isolation. It was only a federal court injunction that stopped further interrogations. Canada signed the UN Convention against torture in 1975.
- GENEVA CONVENTIONS: Omar Khadr was and is properly presumed to be a “prisoner of war” and is entitled to protection under the Geneva Conventions signed by Canada in 1949.
- CANADIAN CHARTER OF RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS: The Canadian Charter, signed into law in 1982, 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.
ADVOCATES FOR OMAR KHADR
Amongst those who advocate on Omar Khadr’s behalf are:
ROMÉO DALLAIRE, who said in a 2012 speech to the Canadian Senate: “We have… learned that after being hospitalized at Bagram, this seriously injured 15-year-old was pulled off his stretcher onto the floor and his head was covered with a bag while dogs barked in his face. Cold water was thrown on him; he was forced to stand for hours with his hands tied above his head and to carry heavy buckets of water to aggravate his wounds. He was threatened with rape, and bright lights were shone on his injured eyes. In fact, he has lost one eye.”
DESMOND TUTU, who said after talking to Omar Khadr by phone in 2014: “Many people were incarcerated [in South Africa] for endless periods, held in solitary confinement simply on the say so of some lackey of an unjust and oppressive system. It has been galling in the extreme to discover that those in other countries who even helped us overthrow our oppressive system of apartheid, should have no qualms it seems in employing the same discredited methods as those of a system they purported to oppose.”
STEPHEN XENAKIS, who said in 2010, after interviewing Omar Khadr extensively: “For a person who has had to endure what he has in these kinds of settings now for 10 plus years, he has an equanimity about him and a sensitivity and a thoughtfulness that is extraordinary.”
OMAR KHADR IN HIS OWN WORDS
Omar Khadr is currently seeking to have lifted a media ban imposed on him by the Harper government. In the meantime, we are able to hear his voice through his response to letters. Here is part of a letter he wrote to us at the Making Peace Vigil: “I can never get used to people who care for me without knowing me personally. It is always heart-warming and reassuring, and it never ceases to inspire me to keep on going. People like yourselves are what we, as Canadians, pride ourselves with, the generosity to empathize with others in hardship and suffering.”
SOURCES AND RESOURCES
Learn more about Omar Khadr and his on-going illegal imprisonment.
- Visit the following website: Lawyers Against the War and Free Omar Khadr Now: http://freeomarakhadr.com/
- Watch the documentary You Don’t Like the Truth: 4 Days Inside Guantánamo, available on You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hx-0G_pAgPE
- Read Roméo Dallaire’s They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children: The Global Quest to Eradicate the Use of Child Soldiers, available at Regina Public Library.
FREE OMAR KHADR NOW
Omar Khadr has been illegally imprisoned for 12 years, first in Bagram, then at Guantánamo, and now in Canada. He needs justice.
- Contact Prime Minister Stephen Harper and ask for the immediate release of Omar Khadr: email@example.com or 613-992-4211.
- Send the same message to Peter MacKay, Minister of Justice, and Steven Blaney, Minister of Public Safety: firstname.lastname@example.org or 613-992-6022 email@example.com or 613-992-7434