Out­raged over in­com­pe­tence

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page -

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

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