Why is Omar Khadr still in jail?

| April 10, 2013
Photo: howlmontreal / flickr

In 2002, Omar Khadr was captured by the Americans in Afghanistan. He was 15 years old. Eleven years later, he's still in jail, and his sentence runs for seven more years.

Last year, the Conservative government was finally forced to repatriate Omar Khadr to Canada where he is now incarcerated in Millhaven maximum security penitentiary, without access to basic education and rehabilitation programmes.

Now a new group in Vancouver, the Free Omar Khadr Committee, says it's time to release Khadr, provide for his rehabilitation and education and compensate him for violation of his rights.

The new committee is inviting Dennis Edney QC, Khadr’s lawyer, to speak in Vancouver on April 16, 7pm at SFU Harbour Center. The meeting is endorsed by the BC Civil Liberties Association, CUPW/Pacific Region, Lawyers against the War, Lawyers Rights Watch Canada, No One is Illegal/Vancouver, StopWar.ca and the Seriously Free Speech Committee.

According to Edney, the entire Omar Khadr saga is a stain on the rule of law and Canadian democracy.

When captured he had committed no crime and yet was held for five years before any charges were laid.

He was finally charged in 2007 “as an unlawful enemy combatant” with crimes invented by the U.S. Military Commission Act of 2006. These are not crimes under international or Canadian law and were not even crimes in 2002 under U.S. law. In any event the U.S. accusations had never been proven in a property constituted court.

In October 2011, in exchange for Omar Khadr confessing to these charges, a U.S. military tribunal sentenced him to eight more years on top of time served with the condition that he could apply to return to Canada. Since Khadr’s confession was extracted after over nine years of torture and mistreatment, it cannot be a valid determinant of guilt says Edney.

Khadr's case was a violation of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child, which places special importance on protecting children, even those in custody according to Edney

Gail Davidson of Lawyers Rights Watch, a local spokesperson for the new committee, said:

Canadian authorities wrongly persist in claiming that the illegal Guantánamo Bay sentencing gives them the legal right to continue to imprison Omar.

The Supreme Court of Canada and the U.S. Supreme Court have confirmed that his rights have been violated by the U.S. and Canada.The UN Committee against Torture called on Canada to honour our legal obligation to provide him with compensation for the violations confirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada.  Canada has a legal duty to release Omar and ensure that the violations of his rights are investigated and remedied.

Dennis Edney, is the recipient of the 2009 Human Rights Medal awarded by the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia for work that "has helped to promote and further human rights" and except for a brief period has represented Khadr since 2004 on a pro bono basis.

Edney has lectured extensively with emphasis on the Rule of Law, to organizations, universities and conferences throughout North America. He has been a keynote speaker on behalf of Amnesty International, speaking at Trinity College, Dublin, on the Rule of Law; and in London, England, at the international conference on the "Global Struggle against Torture." 


Paul Tetrault is a member of Canpalnet. 

Photo: howlmontreal / flickr  



He is still in jail because that't where he belongs. He could have just as easily killed a canadian soldier and that makes him a traitor in my books.  It's too bad the Americans didn't doo us a favor back then and dispatch him with one to the head.  Omar's rights? Really people, take a look around.

Bravo to the Free Omar Khadr Committee! Thank-goodness for such as Dennis Edney and informed citizens who are willing to act on behalf of Omar. 

Omar's case is strewn with the dedicated desecration of his human rights by both Canadian and American governments--our fragile citizenship put to the test--and failed. 

The death of Margaret Thatcher is a sharp reminder of how “wrong” our “leaders” can be:

“...She denounced Nelson Mandela and his ANC as "terrorists", something even David Cameron ultimately admitted was wrong. She was a steadfast friend to brutal tyrants such as Augusto Pinochet, Saddam Hussein and Indonesian dictator General Suharto ("One of our very best and most valuable friends")...”.  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/04/08-3

The abysmal ignorance of too many Canadians about Omar’s experience of “injustice” is a warning about how misinformation and myth feed fear—and a perfect example of--"when they came for...and so when they came for YOU---there was no one left".   

If we are blessed--Canadians might  learn from Omar-- what it is to be a human being, what we
should truly fear, what "justice" really means, and how to be REAL citizens.

Omar Khadr is still in jail because unsrupulous Canadian government officials have been complicit in the U.S. "War on Terror" and its erosion of democratic rights and freedoms. Omar's detainment, charges, and sentencing contravene the Geneva Conventions, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and international conventions on torture. The Canadian Supreme Court has ruled that Omar's fundamental human rights, charter rights and principles of fundamental justice have been violated and the Supreme Court of the U.S. has ruled that the military commissions (created by George Bush to try arbitrarily-designated non-Americans) to which Omar was subjected, are illegal. Omar has never been tried or convicted in a legitimate court of law, because there is no evidence of his guilt. In fact, the only evidence points to his innocence. How shocking that now that Omar has been repatriated, Harper and his ilk have been able to maintain a culture of fear and continue the abuse. It's not too late for Canadians to stand up for justice and demand that Omar Khadr be released immediately. 

It's too easy for our law & order government to continue with it's hostility toward law and order and agreements it's entered into in order to contribute to actual law and order, for there would be no appetite by it for tugging on a thread that could unravel the entire sweater of neoliberalism from which it's members benefit personally. If this government did right by Omar, then it would face a flood of questions about many of it's trangressions (Haiti, Honduras, First Nations...) and the demands that that would engender.

So. You know what to expect.

But I do hope Omar gets his freedom, sooner rather than later. I don't know how it will come about though.

Oh poor Omar. What you people don't realize is that your precious Omar would cut your throat and spit in your face and not think twice about it.  Maybe Annie can let him come live in her house.

Free Omar Khadr. Imprison Stephen Harper...

He's still in jail because of politics of a particularly vicious brand, misinformation and irrational hatred. Until Khadr was transferred to Canada it wasn't easy to tell exactly what the Canadian government was doing or could do. They could endlessly repeat the line about his serious charges and the need not to interfere in the US process. That became particularly absurd when the Supreme Court declared the government complicit in an illegal US process in 2008 and again in 2010, but even they stopped short of upholding the lower courts' order for the government to act, mainly because they didn't know what the government was doing either. Then there was the confused transfer process and what appeared to be an attempt by the government to further demonize Khadr and portray him as dangerous, while reluctantly approving the transfer. It's easy to see why the government wouldn't want to appear supportive of a person from a despised family linked to terrorism, but they have gone beyond that to playing up the hatred and the security risk. Why they would do that is perhaps a combination of vindictiveness, warped ideology and, of course a desire to look tough on terrorism, probably also an opportunity to smear any political opponents who speak out about the issue.
Two silly comments. Canada has never charged Khadr with treason because no sane court would consider him guilty. He was raised mainly in a foreign country and joined a war, at age 15, following his father's beliefs. Holding him responsible for treason in that circumstance would be stupid. People who claim Khadr is dangerous should back up the claim with some evidence. Telling people who object to Khadr's treatment by the government he should live with them is such a mindless remark, and repeated so often, that it could be a Conservative Party talking point.

I am very worried about Omar Khadr's present condition.  The government has forbidden any access to him by the press.  Has something happened to him?  Is he even still alive?

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