Why is Omar Khadr still in jail?

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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  

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