Turn­ing a page; mov­ing on

No one ac­cused of a crime should be sub­jected to tor­ture or have nat­u­ral rights vi­o­lated

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - OPINION - BY NATHAN HOOD

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

CP PHOTO

Omar Khadr

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