Outraged over incompetence
The Editor, I too feel outrage with the matter raised by reader Robin Poston in the July 26 issue of The News. But mine stems from a different perspective. Consider the following: Omar Khadr was born in Toronto September 18, 1986. As such he is a Canadian citizen, by birth.
On July 27, 2002, he was at a Taliban compound near Khost where a firefight occurred between US forces and Al Quaeda mujahideens. Shortly after, the compound was bombed to rubble by US war planes. Khadr survived but was shot twice in the closing sweep by US forces. He was shipped to Bagram for treatment and detention then to Guantanamo as a regular War on Terror “enemy combattant.” At this time, Omar Kahdr was aged 16, which by United Nations definition, made him a child soldier. He was never treated as such by US military authorities.
He spent 10 years as a prisoner in Guantanamo where he was repeatedly subjected to physical and psychological torture. In the course of these interrogations, he admitted to throwing the grenade that killed a US serviceman.
When informed of his detention, the Canadian government of the day showed limited interest in Khadr's situation; then it de- ferred to the US which indicated that they would deal with the matter as they pleased. The subsequent Harper government actively endorsed the Americans’ dealings and even participated in Khadr's interrogation in Guantanamo on six occasions.
In detention, Khadr was repeatedly brought before (US) military commissions, tribunals established to deal with captured enemy combatants.
“Enemy combatants” was a category created by the US to avoid the use of “prisoner of war,” which conveys certain rights to the latter under the Geneva Convention. Conveniently, enemy combatants have no rights.
The judicial procedures of these courts were at odds with standard legal practices that allow an accused a fair opportunity to defend himself. None of these trials was completed.
In 2012, Omar Khadr, still in detention, was presented with a choice: plead guilty to murder in the violation in the laws of war and be sentenced to eight years detention, of which the first will be served in Guantanamo, and then be sent to Canada to serve the remaining seven years; his other choice was to plead not guilty and be sentenced to spend the next 30 years in US military prisons after the Commission found him guilty. And they would. Not surprisingly, Khadr chose the former.
It is worth noting that the charge murder in the violation of the laws of war was created under the US Military Commission Act of 2006. That crime did not exist in 2002 when when the events at Khost occurred.
After his transfer to Canada, Omar Khadr spent time in detention and was eventually granted parole. He stated that the confession on which the American charges against him were based was obtained under torture and that he cannot recall whether he did throw the grenade in question in 2002.
In 2010, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Government of Canada had done nothing to ensure “the most basic standards of treatment of youth suspects” with respect to Omar Khadr.
In April, 2013, he launched a civil suit against that same government arguing that it had conspired with the American government to deprive him of his rights. The claim was reportedly for $20 million. In July, the parties settled for a $10.5 million compensation.
Why such a public outcry over this payment? To some, a terrorist is a terrorist. Kahdr is a terrorist, he killed an American serviceman, he was caught, tried and should spend the rest of his days in jail. Inconveniences like our Charter of Rights, international obligations, UN conventions and due process of law should not
interfere with a just punishment. The old adage, “My mind’s made up, don’t confuse the issue with facts,” applies here. But in a court of law, far from emotional outbursts of the outraged, it is exactly the disregard of these “inconveniences” that led the current Canadian government to conclude that defending this inherited mess presented an untenable situation; the most practical and economical solution was to settle the matter promptly. As they did.
My outrage? That the governments of the day failed to protect a Canadian citizen’s basic rights, regardless of whether he committed the deeds for which he was charged. Instead, they succumbed to the excited delirium brought on by Bush’s War on Terror. Sadly, we are left today to pay for the price of that incompetence.
Pierre Lacroix, Apple Hill