My own views on Omar Khadr have been evolving over time.
I think that they've now crystallized: Omar Khadr should be returned to face justice in Canada - or face justice before a proper court in the US (their federal courts system).
Having watched an episode of CTVs "Verdict" with Paula Todd (November 2007) - Dennis Edney (my old mentor from Edmonton) made an especially eloquent statement - that the military tribunal commission set up in Guantanamo is not good enough for adjudicating an American, or British (or Australian) individuals charged with being 'unlawful enemy combatants' - and so, why should it be sufficient for a Canadian?
The Canadian Bar Association has joined the voices of Amnesty International et al. in calling for the repatriation of Omar Khadr to Canada from Guantanamo Bay. PDF of the CBA's letter to Prime Minister Harper here.
While my personal opinion is that Omar Khadr has no one to blame for his particular situation but himself (and probably his terrorist inclined family), I have to admit (with some difficulty) that the matter involves fundamental justice, notwithstanding the (strange) indifference I may feel to the individual involved.
it is a deep concern that Khadr has been held without trial for 5 years (my guess is that a young offender convicted of murder in Canada would probably be out within 5 years). There does not appear to be an explanation of the delay - there should be little problems in the way of arranging a trial - given the apparent evidence against him.
If the Bush-Military tribunal system is not up to the task, then the US should (following the suggestion of Colin Powell) try Khadr within it's federal courts system - or send him here.
The CBA (and Amnesty) have also pointed out that Omar Khadr was a minor at the time of the commission of the offence(s).
I'll say this - the Khadr family has not helped themselves in this regard.They have probably abdicated any rights they may have had to call upon the sympathies of Canadians (given the provocative actions and statements by family members). Maha Khadr has appealed to the Canadian public in her interview with CTV's The Verdict (CTV article here.) to little avail.
The Globe and Mail reports that CBS News has now broadcast "shocking new footage" of Omar Khadr when he was 15:
CBS News has broadcast shocking new footage of a Canadian terrorism suspect allegedly building bomb timers and planting land mines while he was a 15-year-old militant hoping to take on American soldiers in Afghanistan.
The footage, some of it shot on a night-vision camera by alleged al-Qaeda fighters before it was seized by U.S. forces after a deadly raid, leaves a more sinister impression of Omar Khadr than the widely circulated photo of him as a boy benignly smiling at the camera.
Nonetheless, we are now faced with a situation where someone - a Canadian citizen - has been denied due process. If the US cannot provide Khadr with proper due process (under the military tribunal system or its federal courts system), Canada is obligated to offer repatriation and try Khadr here.
Kudos to Dennis for his continued efforts.
** Here's an email exchange between the National Post Editorial Board and some interesting comments by readers (14 March 2008):
The more I learn about Omar Khadr, the more I am uncomfortable with the way he is being treated by the United States. As despicable as his cause was, he was essentially a brainwashed adolescent with a psycho jihadi father — a child soldier worthy of as much pity as contempt.
There are several problem’s with Khadr’s case:
3) All other Western governments have successfully repatriated their Guantanamo-held nationals. Why is a Canadian the last Western citizen in Guantanamo? Brenda Martin has been in a Mexican jail for two years, and her incarceration has prompted an intervention by a former Canadian prime minister. Omar Khadr has been in an American prison for three times as long. It’s long past time for Canada to demand Khadr’s repatriation, or at the very least, apply serious diplomatic pressure to ensure that his trial is as fair and open as possible.
Khadr deserves a fair trial, not a free-pass release. And I think the Guantanamo prisoners are getting that now. It is, after all, a U.S. Navy lawyer who is raising the concerns about Khadr’s initial guilt and his treatment since his arrest, not some Amnesty or Red Cross-paid human rights lawyer out to make a name for himself.
An article by Clive Baldwin titled: A Child on Trial at Guantanamo is clearly sympathetic to Khadr and makes special note of his status as a minor:
But during the course of the morning, the defense also raised another vital issue: the fact that Khadr was 15 at the time of his alleged offense, and therefore, to all intents and purposes, was a child soldier. The discussion reverts to international law, and in particular the Optional Protocol to the Child Rights Convention, an international human rights treaty to which the United States is a party, which prohibits the use of child soldiers. The treaty also requires states to rehabilitate child soldiers who come into their custody. The defense says this means that the United States should treat Khadr (who, according to the evidence published by the government, was forced by his family into Al Qaeda at the age of 10), as a victim, not seek to punish him. They also say that in setting up the military commission, Congress could not have intended it to be used against persons who were children at the time of their offense.
But there is another country I would expect to be at the heart of the discussion about Khadr, given the importance of his case for the way that child soldiers will be treated. That country is probably the leading country in the world in taking up the issue of the protection of child soldiers, and was the first to ratify the Optional Protocol. That country is Canada, which also happens to be the country of Khadr's citizenship. But whilst every other Western country has now requested the return of their citizens from Guantanamo, Canada has not. While Canada remains silent, Omar Khadr, a Canadian, faces trial in Guantanamo Bay as a child soldier.
More new information has come to light. An article in the National Post indicates that the 'Court' has heard evidence that Khadr was about to be executed on the battlefield - and that another insurgent was still alive (casting doubt on the official version of Khadr's guilt) before he was killed (contrary to the perhaps oxymoronic Laws of War) by a US Private:
To the defence team, the officer describes in his diary how he saw R not only kill, but possibly execute, the second al-Qaeda suspect. The officer also admits to being on the verge of ordering "R," who is identified as being an army private, to effectively execute Khadr.
Since such acts would contravene the laws of war, the defence suggests the officer and the private had reason to later tell -- or surrender to a request to tell -- a different story about what happened during the firefight.
The altered battle report coincidentally reflects two versions of what may have happened. It was written by the then on-scene commander, who has been identified before the war crimes commission that will eventually try Khadr only as Lt.-Col. W.
"The officer's candid admissions in his diary about the circumstances under which the first combatant was killed and under which Mr. Khadr was captured -- rather than executed -- suggest that participants in the firefight may have possessed motive to fabricate parts of their account," the defence team writes.
Lt.-Cmdr. Kuebler has suggested W's altered battle report may be part of a government bid to "manufacture" a story pointing to Khadr's guilt, and wants to ask him why he made changes to it in a way that makes the second version appear it was written as an original.
The early version of the battle report shows W wrote that a U.S operative had killed the person who threw the hand grenade. That suggests Khadr was not the attacker.
But in the altered version, W wrote the U.S. operative merely "engaged" the thrower, suggesting Khadr may have been culpable.