Why is Omar Khadr still in jail?

Aaf Post:

This article Why is Omar Khadr still in jail? is reblogged from Kyle Farquharson’s Blog: Here’s the thing… (see below)


The Harper government unleashed another spiel of melodrama over Omar Khadr last week, when Corrections Canada officials asserted that no media interview of Khadr could take place without extraordinary security measures, including a prison lockdown. (Several media organizations are suing Ottawa for the privilege of interviewing Khadr in the first place.)

For years, our federal administration has treated Khadr as though he were a uniquely pernicious supervillain—repeatedly delaying his repatriation to Canada before relegating him to a maximum-security prison. His security level was finally downgraded last year, from maximum to medium, after a ruling by the Alberta Court of Appeal clarified his status as a young offender.

The government’s histrionics seem particularly misplaced, since, if justice were served, Khadr would be a free man by now.

Let’s revisit the facts.

In 2002, when Khadr was 15, a group of U.S. soldiers found him crouched near a pile of rubble in the village of Ayub Kheil in eastern Afghanistan. A firefight had just taken place involving the American sentries, Afghan security forces, and local militants in a residential compound, which escalated to the point where the Americans called in air support. In the course of the battle, a grenade explosion severely wounded U.S. soldier and medic Christopher Speer, who died soon afterward. However, no one who survived the confrontation, with the possible exception of Khadr, can positively identify the person who threw that grenade.

Khadr had already been injured by shrapnel, when a U.S. soldier shot him twice in the back on sight. His captors then transported him to a field hospital at Bagram Air Force Base for medical treatment and, following a period of convalescence, he was detained, interrogated, and transferred to the U.S.-controlled offshore penal colony at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. After eight years in custody without trial, he pleaded guilty to the allegations against him, which included the “murder” of Speer (even though Speer was a member of an occupying army whose death occurred during a firefight), planting of land mines to target Allied convoys, and material support for terrorism. He received an eight-year sentence, with no credit for time served during his indefinite detention.

Crucially, one condition of the agreement was the promise of repatriation. However, the Harper government dragged its feet, obliging Khadr to remain in U.S. custody for an additional two years.

In 2013, Khadr filed a law suit against the Harper regime, alleging that it turned a blind eye to the violations of his rights—including torture. (Among other things, he was subjected to sleep deprivation, physical and mental abuse, and extended periods of solitary confinement.) He identified the opportunity to escape Guantanamo as a key motivating factor in his decision to enter a guilty plea, maintains that he has no memory of having thrown the grenade that killed Speer, and says U.S. officials concocted the plea agreement in its entirety.

Was it the strength of the evidence against Khadr that laid the groundwork for the plea deal? This hardly seems plausible. As mentioned above, Khadr was alleged to have killed a U.S. army medic with a grenade, but no eyewitnesses happened to see him throw it.

Another piece of “evidence” commonly cited, is a video in which Khadr appears to be assembling improvised explosive devices (IEDs). If one assumes that the intent of Khadr or his associates was to violate the laws of war by targeting civilians with said explosives—hardly a safe assumption—he was 15 years old at the time the video was recorded, and there is no evidence linking him directly to attacks against either civilian or military targets.

(On a side note, the moral indignation of the U.S. and Canadian governments on this issue is curious, given that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency outfitted Pashtun tribesmen with anti-aircraft missile launchers, and provided them with plastic explosives, detonators, and explosives training, in order to frustrate a Soviet invasion of Afghanistan during the 1980s. It seems the same people the U.S. government labeled “freedom fighters” when they resisted Soviet occupation, are deemed illegitimate combatants or “terrorists” when they employ similar tactics to resist American/Western occupation.)

Even if one assumes (implausibly, given the dearth of evidence) that Khadr would have been found guilty of murder in Canada, what sort of punishment might he have received? The maximum youth sentence for first-degree murder in Canada is 10 years, with a maximum of six years in custody.

Now consider some of the other factors. Khadr chose to plead guilty—a decision that, in Canada, may have elicited a more lenient sentence. In our country, it is customary (despite the efforts of the Harper government through its Truth in Sentencing Act) for judges to allot credit, on a discretionary basis, for time spent in pre-trial detention. Khadr received no credit whatsoever for his time at Guantanamo prior to the plea deal, and the rights of habeas corpus, a speedy trial, and the option of trial-by-jury were not accorded him. Canada’s Youth Criminal Justice Act includes a provision that the identity of minor offenders not be publicly disclosed—Khadr clearly enjoys no such protection. Finally, it is fair to assume that few Canadian suspects are subjected to torture, psychological abuse, or severely degrading treatment during pre-trial detention. At Guantanamo, Khadr experienced all three.

What accounts for the Harper government’s aversion to according Khadr the rights to which he is legally entitled? A number of theories have been advanced over the years, and I would suggest that the following interrelated points are especially pertinent:

  • Racism/Islamophobia: Khadr is regarded as a “special” threat because he is physically intimidating to those individuals in whom a lifelong suspicion of brown people has been inculcated. As if that weren’t enough, he is Muslim, and thus extraordinarily susceptible to “radicalization.” (At least, this is what Islamophobes would lead us to believe.) The fact that his father was a jihadi who may have “indoctrinated” his son—a detail with no bearing on the question of justice for Omar Khadr—is an additional source of anxiety nonetheless.
  • Khadr’s is a high-profile case that allows the Conservative Party to pander to the faithful: The longtime defence counsel for Khadr, Dennis Edney, has suggested this on many occasions, and he is likely correct. One of the traditional bastions of support for the Harper Conservatives is the “tough on crime” vote—chiefly, Canadians who believe our criminal justice system is not sufficiently penal. In addition, prominent Conservatives, and Harper in particular, are fond of the intellectually vacuous notion that the people of the free world are at war with nihilistic “terrorists” committed to the destruction of freedom. In many ways, Khadr epitomizes both nostrums simultaneously—thus, from a political standpoint, the Conservatives feel compelled to show him as little clemency as they feasibly can.
  • The Pavlovian effect of the word “terrorist”: Khadr is no ordinary criminal—he is a “terrorist.” When state officials invoke the words “terrorist” or “terrorism,” a marked emotional escalation in the response of the mainstream media and the political establishment usually follows. The word “terrorism” has the effect of instilling fear and suppressing critical thinking, and more importantly, inducing citizens to place an inordinate, almost childlike faith in government, until the “terrorist” threat is defused. Little wonder, then, that so many elected officials employ “terrorism” as a rhetorical tool for manufacturing consent. Any display of leniency toward Khadr would be inconsistent with this paradigm.

Unfortunately, Khadr has become a poster child for the erosion of civil rights—for Muslims in particular—that characterizes the 21st-century War on Terror. We can only hope that a media interview with him (if the Harper government ever allows it) would shed some much-needed light on the subject.

Originally posted on Here's the thing...:

The Harper government unleashed another spiel of melodrama over Omar Khadr last week, when Corrections Canada officials asserted that no media interview of Khadr could take place without extraordinary security measures, including a prison lockdown. (Several media organizations are suing Ottawa for the privilege of interviewing Khadr in the first place.)

For years, our federal administration has treated Khadr as though he were a uniquely pernicious supervillain—repeatedly delaying his repatriation to Canada before relegating him to a maximum-security prison. His security level was finally downgraded last year, from maximum to medium, after a ruling by the Alberta Court of Appeal clarified his status as a young offender.

The government’s histrionics seem particularly misplaced, since, if justice were served, Khadr would be a free man by now.

Let’s revisit the facts.

In 2002, when Khadr was 15, a group of U.S. soldiers found him crouched near a pile of…

View original 1,122 more words

CBC Coverage of Omar Khadr has Misrepresented the Truth

By Kathleen Copps, Free Omar Khadr Now Committee | October 03, 2014


To Esther Enkin, CBC Ombudsperson

Re: CBC Ombudsperson’s Response to Kathleen Ruff

 

Dear Ms. Enkin:

From its very title, “The Contentious Case of Omar Khadr”, your dismissal of Kathleen Ruff’s complaint reflects an erroneous assumption that details of the case are open to legitimate debate. This opinion is further revealed in your statement: “It is unrealistic, and not required by policy, to provide all sides of an issue in one short radio news script.” A request for factual reporting cannot be dismissed as one side of an issue.

Kathleen Ruff (former  B.C. Human Rights Commissioner) rightly claimed that by referring to Omar Khadr as “a Canadian who pleaded guilty in a U.S. military court to war-crimes charges”, the CBC ignored crucial facts and thereby contributed to misleading and biased reporting. The terms “pleaded guilty”, U.S. military ‘court’ (in fact, there was no court; only an extra-judicial military ‘commission’) and “war crimes” all imply a lawful legal process-which Omar Khadr was denied. A news item which refers to a guilty ‘plea’ without mention of its inadmissibility in a Canadian court, is grossly misleading and disreputable reporting. You quote Jack Nagler (Director of Journalistic Public Accountability and Engagement) that: “Breaking news is not the place for context or nuance”. We agree. It is therefore particularly critical that ‘breaking news’ be scrupulously accurate and not carelessly convey information in direct contrast to the truth. In any case, Omar Khadr’s legal status cannot be considered a part of breaking news. As you pointed out, you have had 12 years to familiarize yourself with the illegalities surrounding the case.

By leaving out essential details (for example: the illegitimacy of the military commission, use of torture to obtain information and extract confessions, violations of Canadian and International guarantees for due process etc) the CBC presented another  misrepresentation of the facts. How can a news article which highlights Omar’s “guilty plea” not point out that the procedure was a judicial sham, a U.S. military kangaroo court deemed illegal by both the U.S. Supreme Court and the Geneva Conventions,  that he had been tortured, that he was 15 when he was taken captive, that the Canadian Supreme Court has found our government to have been complicit in the violation of his fundamental rights and that the UN Committee against Torture has ruled that Canada redress the violation of those rights?

You rejected Ruff’s complaint because: “Practically speaking, it’s impossible to include all or even a good part of that disputed and often contradictory information in one brief radio news report.” Ms. Ruff did not request that contradictory information be included in your report: ironically, it was her request for the facts that you dismissed.

The stronger one’s convictions about an issue, the stronger the conviction that one’s views should be emphatically reflected.” How disturbing that the CBC, our national public broadcaster, can reduce Ruff’s insistence that the international right to a fair trial and freedom from torture, are merely her personal and subjective “views”. How can we then differentiate your news organization – with its mandate to inform and enlighten Canadians – from other media outlets with much less lofty goals? Why should we care about the future of the CBC if it is not committed to reasonable and accurate reporting in a case that according to Constance Blackstone (Distinguished Professor of Law, University of Ottawa) enshrines the defining moment of our time.

Your rejection of Kathleen Ruff’s complaint is highly troubling because it attests to the fact that the CBC does not appreciate either the unique nature of this case or its relevance for the future of human rights in Canada. A young Canadian, the only Westerner to be released from Guantanamo and imprisoned in his native country, is, two years later, still behind bars and subjected to overt government intervention to keep him there. The fact that you see the case as “contentious” is because CBC has abrogated its responsibility to “inform and enlighten” citizens regarding our government’s complicity in the detainment and torture of a juvenile, their defiance of a unanimous vote of parliament, their refusal to abide by a Supreme Court ruling, their violation of the fundamental rights of a citizen, their maintenance of an illegal incarceration and their unrelenting efforts to demonize Omar Khadr and promote irrational fears and racial bigotry

Please review your dismissal of Kathleen Ruff’s criticisms and offer some reassurance that the CBC is committed to factual reporting and not manufacturing a mythical debate which promotes a continued travesty of injustice for Omar Khadr.

Kathleen Copps,
Free Omar Khadr Now Committee


 

FREE Omar Khadr Now Campaign 

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“Some cases enshrine the defining moments of their time. Omar Khadr’s is one. Future generations will rightly judge our shocking dereliction of responsibility in this matter [and] our collective Canadian failure to extend justice and humanity.” – Constance Backhouse, Distinguished University Professor of Law, University of Ottawa.    

 


 

 

Gail Davidson of Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada Slams The Star’s Coverage of Omar Khadr

By Gail Davidson, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada

Attention: Letter to the Editor, The Star;

Re: “Khadr interview would require prison lockdown, Corrections Canada says. By Michelle Shephard | Oct 02, 2014

Omar Khadr did not “plead guilty”, was not charged with crimes or “war crimes” and was not sentenced. The terms, plead guilty, crimes and sentenced are all words understood to refer to known concepts within our criminal law system. Crimes are violations of statutory penal law; war crimes are serious violations of international humanitarian law; a guilty plea is the accused’s freely and voluntarily given confession in open court to the crime(s) with which he has been charged; statements not made voluntarily are inadmissible; sentencing is the judgement made by a court after an accused is convicted according to law. Imposition of sentence, as done by the Guantanamo Bay military tribunal, “without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized people” is a gave breach (i.e. a crime) of the Geneva Conventions and a crime in Canada. In the Omar Khadr case there were no war crimes and no guilty plea and the imposition of sentence was itself a crime.

By using these terms the Star invites readers to accept falsehoods which in turn legitimize atrocious violations of Omar Khadr’s rights, prevent the remediation recommended by the United Nations Committee against Torture and shield state authorities from accountability.

Gail Davidson
Lawyer’s Rights Watch Canada – LRWC
3220 West 13th Avenue
Vancouver, BC CANADA, V6K 2V5
Tel: +1-604 736-1175
Fax: +1-604 736-1170
Skype: gail.davidson.lrwc
Email: lrwc@portal.ca
Website: http://www.lrwc.org

Lawyers Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) is a committee of lawyers who promote human rights and the rule of law internationally by protecting advocacy rights. LRWC campaigns for advocates in danger because of their human rights advocacy, engages in research and education and works in cooperation with other human rights organizations. LRWC has Special Consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

Gail Davidson of Lawyers’ Rights Watch Slams CBC Coverage of Omar Khadr

By Gail Davidson, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada

Attention CBC Ombudsperson;

Re: CBC’s Reply to Kathleen Ruff’s complaint on the Omar Khadr case reporting by CBC

Omar Khadr did not ‘plead guilty’, was not charged with ‘crimes’ and has never been ‘sentenced.’

The terms, ‘plead guilty’, ‘crimes’ and ‘sentenced’ are all words understood by Canadians to refer to widely known concepts that are the underpinnings of our criminal law system. Crimes are violations of statutory penal law; a guilty plea is the accused’s freely and voluntarily given confession in open court, to the crime(s) with which he has been charged; sentencing is the judgment made by a court after an accused is convicted in accordance with law. The term ‘court’ refers to a competent, impartial and independent tribunal mandated to conduct a fair hearing, according to law, and in open court. In the Omar Khadr case there were no charges no court, no guilty plea.

Imposition of sentence, as done by the Guantanamo Bay military tribunal, “without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized people” is a grave breach (i.e. a crime) of the Geneva Conventions and a crime in Canada.

By using these terms the CBC invited listeners to accept a description of what has transpired in the Omar Khadr case that is not only misleading but wholly false. This in turn promotes acceptance of what the law forbids absolutely, violations of rights by state authorities coupled with denial of remedies. CBC has a duty in all its reporting, to accurately convey and honour the meaning of these important words and the principles of fundamental justice they represent in our legal system: principles upon which we all depend.

I would be pleased to provide correct legal information to CBC and to contribute to fair, accurate and balanced reporting by the CBC on the Omar Khadr case.

Gail Davidson
Lawyer’s Rights Watch Canada – LRWC
3220 West 13th Avenue
Vancouver, BC CANADA, V6K 2V5
Tel: +1-604 736-1175
Fax: +1-604 736-1170
Skype: gail.davidson.lrwc
Email: lrwc@portal.ca
Website: http://www.lrwc.org

Lawyers Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) is a committee of lawyers who promote human rights and the rule of law internationally by protecting advocacy rights. LRWC campaigns for advocates in danger because of their human rights advocacy, engages in research and education and works in cooperation with other human rights organizations. LRWC has Special Consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

Fund to Help Free Omar Khadr

PLEASE HELP DENNIS EDNEY, OMAR’S PRO BONO LAYWER FOR 10 YEARS, TO FREE OMAR.

To make a donation you have the following options:

  • 2) By Cheque, you can send to: Free Omar Khadr Now Committee P.O. Box 57112 RPO East Hastings Street Vancouver, V5K 1Z0 B.C. Canada (Please enclose your email address)
  • 3) By Bank Deposit/Interac e-transfer: Free Omar Khadr Now Committee VanCity Credit Union, Branch 13 Account number: 531590 freeomarkhadrnow@gmail.com

 

“I went into Guantanamo Bay as a lawyer and I came out as a broken father.” – Dennis Edney


To hear Dennis Edney speak about Omar, you can watch:


 

 

Omar Khadr and the Validity of Guantanamo Military Commissions

By Aisha Maniar | August 31, 2014

Omar Khadr’s appeal case against his conviction by a Guantánamo Bay military commission has been the subject of court action in the U.S., both directly and indirectly, in recent weeks.

In the first instance, a redacted memo by the U.S. Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), released in June under a Freedom of Information order and dated shortly before Omar Khadr’s 2010 military commission hearing, shows that the U.S. deliberately designated Khadr an “unprivileged belligerent”. This enabled the U.S. to charge him with offences it knew did not exist under domestic or international law and to deny him protection under the Geneva Conventions.
(Gail Davidson of Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada reported on the bogus nature of the charges against Omar Khadr in detail here.)

Following this revelation, on 30 June 2014, Khadr’s legal counsel in the U.S. filed a motion with the U.S. Court of Military Commission Review (CMCR) to have the stay on Khadr’s case lifted and his conviction quashed on the basis that “the disclosure of a previously secret memorandum […] which provided authoritative legal guidance to the Department of Defense several months prior to Mr. Khadr’s guilty plea, invalidates the theory of criminality underlying this prosecution and therefore defeats the premise of the Court’s order.” The motion sets out that the memo made it clear to the U.S. authorities that there was no legal basis for the case against Omar Khadr and that the U.S. was fully aware of this.

On 7 July, counsel for the U.S. government filed a motion asking the court to deny the motion filed by Khadr’s lawyers “because there has been no change in the underlying basis” of the court’s original stay of the case in March 2014 and because the memo is “irrelevant” to Khadr’s case. However, the CMCR denied Khadr’s motion before his lawyers had an opportunity to respond. Khadr’s U.S. lawyer Sam Morison called this response predictable. As a result, according to Morison, “the issue is not going away any time soon”. Indeed.

Four months earlier, in March 2014, Khadr’s case (and that of Australian former prisoner David Hicks) was stayed by the CMCR pending a judgment in an appeal by another Guantánamo prisoner, Ali Hamza Al-Bahlul from Yemen. Bahlul had been given a life sentence in 2008 for conspiracy, providing material support for terrorism, and soliciting others to commit war crimes. Following the successful appeal by fellow Yemeni Salim Hamdan in 2012, in which Hamdan’s conviction was quashed on the basis that his offence, providing material support for terrorism, “did not constitute a war crime,” Bahlul saw his three convictions quashed in January 2013, but the U.S. government was granted a retrial en banc (whereby all the judges in the appeal court make a ruling). The judgment in this long-awaited appeal was handed down on 14 July 2014. It essentially ruled to “reject Bahlul’s ex post facto challenge to his conspiracy conviction and remand that conviction to the original panel of this Court for it to dispose of several remaining issues. In addition, we vacate his material support and solicitation convictions.”

Bahlul’s case has a knock-on effect on pending and future military commissions as well as on other appeals, such as those of Khadr and Hicks. The en banc rehearing was largely admitted on the basis that, while the U.S. government conceded that the quashed convictions of Hamdan (this ruling was also reconsidered by the seven-judge panel) and Bahlul were not recognized under the international laws of war prior to 2006, when the Military Commissions Act 2006 came into force, they were recognized under the “U.S. common law of war.” On this basis, the court quashed two of Bahlul’s convictions (material support and solicitation of others to commit war crimes), finding that the government did not provide historical evidence so that such charges could be upheld in a U.S. domestic context. But, the court decided that there was sufficient precedent in the case of conspiracy and, hence, this conviction was upheld.

Nonetheless, that does not settle this key issue or the other key point of the rehearing – whether the U.S. common law of war can provide a basis for these alleged war crimes – as the court then sent the conspiracy issue back to the three-judge panel, who heard the original appeal, to consider arguments. This granted them the possibility of overturning this ruling before the entire case is returned to the CMCR to assess the effect of the judgment on Bahlul’s life sentence. Essentially, in a confusing 150-page sentence, the court failed to settle the key questions put to it, and its judgment paves the way to further arguments and appeals.

The 4–3 decision by the seven-judge panel overhauled a major aspect of the Hamdan ruling by deeming that the Military Commissions Act 2006 can have retroactive effect. Thus it can be used to charge and try crimes committed prior to it – as it claims that the Act is unambiguously intended to try any offence punishable by it committed “before, on, or after September 11, 2001” and to prosecute individuals allegedly involved in the 9/11 attacks that took place in 2001. In spite of this, the court dismissed Bahlul’s claim on his ex post facto conspiracy conviction, finding that engaging in a conspiracy to kill a national of the United States is already criminalized under the U.S. Constitution and that a precedent for this already exists in U.S. case law.

While the court clearly established that material support and solicitation are not war crimes under international or domestic law, the decision on conspiracy is couched in such vague terms that it is not clear how it will apply to other prisoners, including Omar Khadr, who was also convicted of this charge under his secret plea bargain. Al-Bahlul’s lawyers now have the option of appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court or waiting to see what the original panel has to say on the outstanding matters. In either case, nothing will be settled before next year.

The decision was always going to be complicated and highly politicized, with the largest ramifications for Al-Bahlul himself, who even if cleared, may remain held in limbo at Guantánamo. The impact on other cases is also unclear. In Hicks’s case, the judgment should mean that his sole conviction of material support for terrorism is now quashed; his Australian lawyer has stated that overturning the conviction should now be “a purely administrative matter.” The U.S. Centre for Constitutional Rights announced that it will assist David Hicks in filing of the motion to get his Guantanamo conviction overruled.

For Omar Khadr, the implications are vaguer and indirect. While his conspiracy conviction is affected, the U.S. government has nonetheless conceded, “Khadr did not violate either a pre-existing statute or the international law of war.” Both Khadr and Hicks may have to await the final outcome in Al-Bahlul’s case, which could take years, in order for the CMCR to progress with their own appeals. The waiting game continues.

The only two things that can be concluded are that the web of deceit spun by the use of military commissions and their extralegal devices can only become further tangled, and that the procedure itself is designed only to waste the time of prisoners who the U.S. knows in many cases to be innocent of the charges against them. Responding to the judgment, the Center for Constitutional Rights, stated: “The court merely deferred the inevitable by failing to recognize that conspiracy is no more appropriately tried in a military commission than material support. We urge the Supreme Court to review today’s ruling regarding conspiracy and dispense with all fabricated war crimes charges once and for all.”

 


Aisha Maniar is a human rights activist who works with the London Guantánamo Campaign.

The London Guantánamo Campaign has been campaigning since 2006 for the release of all prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay, the closure of Guantánamo and other similar prisons and an end to the practice of extraordinary rendition.


 

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Omar Khadr tortured Canadian Child

The Trials of Omar Khadr

By Aisha Maniar, Truthout | July 26, 2014

On July 27, 2002, 15-year old Canadian Omar Khadr was captured by the United States following a battle between American soldiers and local militias in Afghanistan. He was shot in the back by the soldier who found him unconscious, unarmed and face down near the compound where he was staying.

Khadr survived and was taken to the Bagram Airbase where he was held for three months, during which he was threatened with rape and other forms of physical and psychological abuse, including waterboarding. Torture evidence obtained from a child and a doctored field report would later be used to implicate Khadr in the death of a US Special Forces soldier in that battle.

He was taken to Guantánamo Bay in October 2002, where his torture continued. First charged with war crimes in 2005, Khadr’s 2010 military tribunal was unique for two reasons: It was the first one under Obama and his revised Military Commissions Act, and, more importantly, he is the only person to have been tried by military tribunal since World War II for war crimes allegedly committed as a minor.

Up against a kangaroo court and the prospect of at least a life sentence, Khadr later admitted that he agreed to plead guilty to all the charges against him in a secret plea bargain in October 2010 as it was his only way out of Guantánamo. Under the deal, Khadr was to serve one more year at Guantánamo and the remainder of his sentence – seven years – in Canada. Throughout his US incarceration, he was never once treated as a minor or a child soldier, but as an “enemy combatant.”

The Canadian government, having been found in 2010 by the Canadian Supreme Court to have acted in breach of its own human rights obligations in its treatment of Khadr, put up stiff resistance to his release, which took place almost a year later than anticipated in September 2012. A minimum security-risk prisoner at Guantánamo, he was promptly imprisoned at a maximum security facility. This risk was only downgraded by the prison board in December 2013, and he was moved to a medium-security prison in February 2014. During that period, and since his conviction, he spent almost all of his time in solitary confinement. Over the past few months, for the first time, Khadr has had access to rehabilitation and counseling.

Undeterred, Omar Khadr has been making up for lost time since his return to Canada, and then some. At Guantánamo Bay, many basic things were out of his reach, including justice. Khadr has brought court cases pending against both the United States and Canada. Over the past year, since reappointing Dennis Edney, who represented him at Guantánamo, Khadr’s quest for justice has rapidly accelerated.

Canada, on the other hand, given its abuses of him, has opted for trial by media, with Canadian politicians and journalists, none of whom have ever met Khadr, demonizing him in the public imagination. Since his return to Canada, he has more or less been completely forgotten elsewhere.

Nearly 11 years in the making, on September 23, 2013, Omar Khadr had his first real day in court when he appeared before an Edmonton court for consideration about whether he should be moved to a provincial prison to serve his sentence as a youth offender. Khadr lost that particular case. Nonetheless, it was a first public appearance and the first time he saw his supporters, who packed out the courtroom. For them, Khadr was nothing like the image portrayed by journalists who had never met him.

On appeal, appeal, on July 8, 2014, the decision was reversed in a clear judgment that stated under Canadian law the sentence could only have been a youth sentence, given his age at the time. Nonetheless, he remains where he is for now, having agreed to a stay of the decision pending an appeal by the Canadian government to the Canadian Supreme Court.

This judgment came just days after the first of two important pieces of recent news concerning Khadr’s appeal against his military commission conviction in the United States. On June 30, 2014, following the release of a secret memo that shows that the United States deliberately designated Khadr an “unprivileged belligerent” to charge him with offenses it knew did not exist under domestic or international law, Khadr’s lawyers filed a motion to have the conviction vacated. Following a counter-motion by the US government, this was dismissed.

Khadr’s appeal, filed in 2013, was stayed in March 2014 pending a decision in the retrial of an appeal by another Guantánamo prisoner, Yemeni Ali Hamza Al-Bahlul. Convicted on some similar charges to Khadr, a confusing judgment was handed down on July 14, 2014. The impact this will have on Khadr’s own appeal remains unclear, but it is likely that Khadr will have to continue to wait.

Meanwhile, in Canada, in December 2013, Khadr’s lawyers brought a second case before the courts, suing the Canadian government for damages for violations of his human rights at Bagram and Guantánamo, as well as conspiring with the United States in the violation of Canadian and international laws. This case is expected to be heard at some point in 2014.

Having abused his legal rights for over a decade, justice is not tipped in the balance of either the US or Canada. Consequently, the only case that received worldwide media attention was an application filed by the wife of the man Khadr is alleged to have killed and the soldier he is alleged to have injured suing him for damages of over $45 million in a Utah court. The case has yet to even be admitted.

Now aged 27, Omar Khadr has spent almost half his life behind bars for a crime no concrete evidence has substantiated. Unlike government lawyers, he is constantly looking forward rather than back, and it is not just in the courts Khadr has something to look forward to. For those who believe media claims that Guantánamo has superb medical facilities, it was only in March this year that Khadr received surgery to his shoulder, injured when he was shot in that fateful battle 12 years ago. Blinded in one eye that day, he has yet to receive treatment to the other eye, in which shrapnel remains lodged.

Khadr’s main concern right now is a basic right most Americans and Canadians take for granted; having been held as an adult, Khadr was never given an opportunity to study. He is currently working hard to get his high school diploma. His lawyer told me: “Omar has no bitterness; he has nothing but forgiveness.”

This view was seconded by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who called Khadr during a visit to Canada earlier this year. Regarding their conversation, he said he was “pleasantly surprised at how calm and un-bitter” Khadr sounded. “We just exchanged pleasantries. But he really impressed me in that short conversation as a gentle and sensitive person.”

It is unclear how long the United States and Canada intend to keep selling the myth of Omar Khadr as an unrepentant war criminal without any substantive evidence, but they must realize that the end game has begun and is picking up pace. Omar Khadr will never get back what he has lost, but the opportunity to tell his side of the story, denied to him for so long, is a huge step in the right direction.
Copyright, Truthout.

Link to Truthout article: http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/25161-the-trials-of-alleged-tween-terrorist-omar-khadr-of-canada