Turning a page; moving on
No one accused of a crime should be subjected to torture or have natural rights violated
The Government of Canada’s officially announced its decision to settle its legal battle with Omar Khadr, the Canadian citizen notorious for his involvement in a 2002 incident in Afghanistan that led to the death of an American soldier.
The settlement, which includes a purported $10.5-million payment to Mr. Khadr in addition to an apology, has polarized Canadians for different reasons but should not be considered a surprising or shocking outcome.
Canada’s lack of leadership in addressing Mr. Khadr’s detention as minor in the infamous Guantanamo Bay detention camp and the related legal proceedings constituted a clear and irrevocable stain on our country’s human rights record.
It does not matter whether you believe that Mr. Khadr was guilty of the crimes of which he was accused: under no circumstances should anyone accused of a crime be subjected to torture or a legal process that violates the principles of natural justice.
To better understand the settlement, consider Mr. Khadr’s experience in detention: he was reported to have been sleep-deprived, held in solitary confinement, forced to urinate on himself and dragged through his urine, held in stress positions, threatened with rape, spit on and had his hair torn out by interrogators, and was called a liar by the Canadian authorities when he claimed he had been tortured into giving false confessions to the U.S. government (curiously enough, one of his first interrogators, Sgt. Joshua Claus, pleaded guilty to the maltreatment of a prisoner after an innocent taxi driver died from intense torture in detention).
This is not a comprehensive list of the punishments to which Mr. Khadr was reportedly subjected during his detention.
If you want to be upset over the settlement, ask yourself why it was necessary in the first place. Ask yourself why the federal government did not show more resolve in ensuring that the human rights of a Canadian citizen were not violated. After all, these very violations of Mr. Khadr’s human rights were what had formed the impetus for a lawsuit.
This settlement should not be viewed negatively. The federal government made the right decision in closing this case with a settlement but not solely because of the much-touted rationale that it would reduce the cost to Canadian taxpayers.
Most importantly, the federal government acknowledged the importance of human rights by stating there is a heavy price to pay when the government violates its citizens’ rights. This acknowledgement is not just a defence of Mr. Khadr’s rights, but a strong reaffirmation of the significance of the rights shared by all Canadians.
Speaking with the Canadian Press about the settlement, Mr. Khadr said: “I’m trying to turn a page. Not to forget that page, but just trying to turn a page and move along.”
That’s sound advice for our country, too. Nathan Hood of Charlottetown is student assistant, risk management office at UPEI; and past president of the UPEI student union