Omar: An Abuse of Human Rights and International Law

Last Friday, Omar Khadr, a former child soldier, was denied a request to be moved to a provincial prison to serve out the remainder of his highly questionable sentence. “It is sadly evident that even after more than a year of his being back in Canada, programming has not been put in place that recognizes his right to treatment and support for all he suffered as a child soldier,” said Elizabeth May, MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands and Green Party of Canada Leader.

Omar Khadr will now remain in a maximum federal prison and will not likely be able to meet parole requirements. In spite of his desire to learn, he may also be denied the opportunity of education.

Amnesty International Canada has questioned how a 15-year-old Canadian who had been arrested by US forces on the battlefield in Afghanistan in the summer of 2002 could go to the infamous Guantánamo Bay and now to a maximum security prison on the outskirts of Edmonton in spite of a decade of activism, media interviews, and legal work. The Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Rhadhika Coomaraswamy, had called for the repatriation of Omar Khadr to Canada with the intention of rehabilitation because of his status as a child soldier at the time of the events leading to the military tribunal proceedings.

The Canadian courts have, over the years, been reliable in ruling in Omar’s favour in various challenges highlighting human rights concerns in his case, including two Supreme Court judgments. Canada’s Federal Court found on 23 April 2009 that “Mr. Khadr’s detention in Guantanamo Bay was illegal under both U.S. and international law.”

On 14 August 2009, the Federal Court of Appeal found his treatment to be: “…a breach of international human rights law respecting the treatment of detainees under the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment.” The denial of a fair trial violates the Geneva Conventions, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Canada’s Geneva Convention Act, and Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes Act.

“In view of the many questions and uncertainties surrounding the case of Mr. Khadr, the Prime Minister’s negative statement on the day of Omar’s hearing by the is astounding,” said Joe Foster, Green Human Rights Critic. Foster expressed his dismay that the Prime Minister seems determined to deny Khadr restoration. Foster stated, “Canadians have always cherished a high standard for Human Rights. Even if Omar did commit a crime, which seems increasingly doubtful based on the evidence of the past decade, has he not more than paid for this supposed crime through his imprisonment as a child and the continued torture he has been subjected to over the past 11 years?”

“The Canadian government presumes the Military Commission process was a legitimate process. This view stands in stark contrast to international opinion by jurists,” said Foster.

See also: Backgrounder – Omar Khadr