Freedom Denied

Sunday, January 31, 2010

By Erika Klein

The Supreme Court of Canada handed down its ruling Friday in the case of Omar Khadr, a Canadian child soldier who was captured by US forces in Afghanistan during a fire fight that left one US medical officer dead. Instead of being returned to Canadian authorities, Khadr, then only 15, was sent to Guantanamo Bay where he suffered interrogation and threats of torture. Khadr has been held for seven years and has fought for his innocence and his right to be treated as a child soldier under international law. Khadr's situation is very unique, as he is the only Westerner being held in Guantanamo. What's even more strange, Canada has not sought extradition or repatriation for Khadr. Advocacy groups all over the world have urged the Canadian Foreign Affairs Department to have Khadr returned to Canada. Friday's decision by the Supreme Court recognized the violation of his rights, but stopped short of sending him home. It begs the question for many Canadians, why?

Though the high court's decision acknowledged the violation of Khadr's rights, they ruled that nothing could be done for Omar Khadr. "The federal government violated the constitutional rights of Canadian citizen Omar Khadr, but need not do anything to remedy this wrong." Many legal experts agree that the shared, foreign policy relationship between Canada and the US had much to do with this decision.

International law like the Geneva Convention and other treaties involving the use of child soldiers in modern war protect Khadr. The Canadian Charter of Rights also protects him, yet our courts and Prime Minister have done the very minimum in adhering to these laws and treaties. As a Canadian, I am outraged at the Supreme Court's decision. How can the government acknowledge a violation of Khadr's fundamental rights and then deny or refuse appropriate legal redress? Because of the war on terror and the ever increasing security measures enveloping our society, I believe Omar Khadr is being made an example; that no matter age or citizenship, if anyone is caught involved in terrorist activities, they will be treated as a war criminal, subject to life imprisonment, torture and no chance for a fair trial. It's a startling message to the world that serves as a warning and aims to keep a tight grip on power.

In 2002, Former President Bush disallowed the Geneva Convention to apply to terrorist detainees by instead calling them "unlawful combatants of war." It was the beginning of many grave human rights violations and it created an atmosphere for torture. It seems US authorities would prefer to continue punishing Khadr, though by all definitions he has more than served his time. He should have been questioned, interrogated, repatriated, rehabilitated and released. Canadian Intelligence sources say that Khadr has very little knowledge or role in any known terrorist groups or acts. The longer he is held, the more chance of him becoming a radical. It is inhumane and also counterproductive to continue Khadr's imprisonment.

Yet Khadrcontinues to remain in a military prison, abandonded by his country and afforded no human rights whatsoever, all to serve the interests of the government's agenda. If it could happen to Khadr, it could happen to anyone. The case of Omar Khadr is nothing short of a grave miscarriage of justice. A signal to the free world that all of the laws, treaties, conventions and protections can be ignored to suit any agenda governments and military deem necessary. I have no doubt in my mind that the court ruling on Friday was just a futile exercise in bureaucy, an empty process that failed to address Khadr's plight. Ultimately, Canada is responsible for Khadr's treatment and imprisonment. It is a shame on Canada indeed. You can read the Supreme Court's ruling and more information about Khadr's case on a website devoted to the case: http://www.omarkhadrproject.com/.

 

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Erika Klein is an author and freelance writer who spent many years serving the community through volunteer work, board of directorships and performing media work and public education.