Khadr set­tle­ment far from un­prece­dented

But Canada’s apol­ogy is break­ing new ground

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - COLIN PERKEL TORONTO —

The Cana­dian gov­ern­ment’s breach-of-rights set­tle­ment with Omar Khadr is far from un­prece­dented, but its public apol­ogy to the for­mer Guan­tanamo Bay pris­oner sets Canada apart from other coun­tries whose cit­i­zens were held at the in­fa­mous U.S. prison, an in­ter­na­tional hu­man rights group said Mon­day.

The set­tle­ment — sources say Khadr was paid $10.5 mil­lion — echoes deals reached years ago by the gov­ern­ments of the United King­dom and Aus­tralia, who also spent mil­lions set­tling law­suits.

How­ever, Laura Pit­ter with Hu­man Rights Watch said Canada had gone fur­ther than other coun­tries by pub­licly ac­knowl­edg­ing wrong­do­ing.

“It’s re­ally im­por­tant that Canada took the ad­di­tional step of pub­licly apol­o­giz­ing to him,” Pit­ter said Mon­day from New York. “Canada’s ac­tion here re­ally sets an ex­am­ple.”

Bri­tain re­port­edly paid mil­lions to sev­eral of its cit­i­zens de­tained at Guan­tanamo Bay but of­fered no apolo­gies. One of the high­est pro­file was Moaz­zam Begg, who along with seven oth­ers, had ac­cused the U.K. and its in­tel­li­gence agen­cies of com­plic­ity in their ab­duc­tion, mis­treat­ment and in­ter­ro­ga­tion.

In Novem­ber 2010, the U.K. gov­ern­ment an­nounced a set­tle­ment with Begg and 15 oth­ers, de­spite in­sist­ing Bri­tish agents had not par­tic­i­pated di­rectly in any pris­oner abuse. Of­fi­cially, the set­tle­ment was made to avoid publi­ca­tion of sen­si­tive doc­u­ments re­lated to Bri­tain’s co-op­er­a­tion with the U.S. on the trans­fer of ter­ror sus­pects to var­i­ous se­cret lo­ca­tions and to Guan­tanamo.

The Bri­tish deal was re­ported to be worth 20 mil­lion pounds — about $30 mil­lion at the time. Then-jus­tice sec­re­tary Ken­neth Clarke noted it could have cost tax­pay­ers more than dou­ble had it gone to court.

An­nounc­ing the Khadr deal on Fri­day, Jus­tice Min­is­ter Jody Wil­son-Ray­bould made a sim­i­lar ob­ser­va­tion in light of the gov­ern­ment hav­ing al­ready spent $5 mil­lion de­fend­ing the lit­i­ga­tion.

“I hope Cana­di­ans take away two things today: First, our rights are not sub­ject to the whims of the gov­ern­ment of the day,” Wil­son-Ray­bould said. “Sec­ond, there are se­ri­ous costs when the gov­ern­ment vi­o­lates the rights of its cit­i­zens.”

In a sim­i­lar case, sus­pected ter­ror­ist Mam­douh Habib reached a con­fi­den­tial set­tle­ment with the Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment in 2010.

Ar­rested in Pak­istan af­ter the Sept. 11 ter­ror­ist at­tacks on the United States and taken to Egypt, where he was tor­tured for seven months, Habib was trans­ferred to Guan­tanamo Bay in May 2002. The Amer­i­cans re­leased him with­out charge in Jan­uary 2005.

Habib sued the Can­berra gov­ern­ment for al­leged com­plic­ity with the CIA in his trans­fer and tor­ture. De­spite deny­ing the al­le­ga­tions, the gov­ern­ment set­tled. Ac­cord­ing to the Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald, the “hushedup” set­tle­ment fol­lowed ev­i­dence an Aus­tralian of­fi­cial had watched Habib’s tor­ture at Gitmo. Pit­ter noted that the United States has never paid com­pen­sa­tion to any of its for­mer captives.

“The U.S., who is most re­spon­si­ble for the mis­treat­ment of Khadr, has not done any­thing to pro­vide him redress or redress to any of the scores of men who were un­law­fully de­tained and tor­tured at Guan­tanamo and else­where since 9/11,” Pit­ter said.

An in­quiry in the U.K. found the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment and its in­tel­li­gence ser­vices had in­deed been in­volved in the il­le­gal trans­fers of de­tainees, de­lib­er­ately turned a blind eye to abuses, and had in­ter­viewed sus­pects they knew were be­ing mis­treated.

COLIN PERKEL, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment has paid Khadr $10.5M and apol­o­gized to him for vi­o­lat­ing his rights.

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