19 July 2008

This makes me feel ill

Granted, I've been feeling queasy for the last 36 hours or so, but this certainly doesn't help.

Some background:
  • Omar Khadr is a Canadian citizen. Every other Western nation has repatirated all of its citizens who were sent to the US military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
  • At 15, Omar Khadr was a child when he was arrested and sent to detention. In 2000, the US (and Afghanistan, and Canada) signed the "Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict". It was ratified by the US government in 2002.
  • Omar Khadr is at Guantanamo Bay with some older people, and even though he's 21 now, since he was 15 he's been in prison with adults and they're putting him through this pseudo-judiciary process which has no differentiation for young offenders. According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (Articles 37 & 40), children are to be incarcerated separately from adults and they require a judicial process that takes into account their age.
I just can't figure out why the Canadian government won't repatriate him. If the evidence is there, he can be tried in a Canadian court using a system that takes into account his special status.

He may be 21 now, but any alleged crimes happened when he was younger, and at no point has that been taken into account with his treatment so far.

I hope the Canadian government is shamed into taking action. I'm embarrassed.


Tricky said...

I've been following Khadr's case for a while now, and i have much the same sentiment. I was hoping that Romeo Dalliare's impassioned plea on Khadr's behalf would have had more clout than it did. It's horrifying.

Did you watch the interview with the US soldier that Khadr allegedly wounded? He really wants to keep the kid in Gitmo.

Anonymous said...

While the Bush-Cheney regime may appreciate the current Canadian government and the Harper-Hillier militaristic nationalism fueling the Afghanistan mission, they have not forgotten Canada's reluctance to join their farcical Coalition of the Willing in its Iraqi (mis)adventure. Accordingly, Harper does have some, not that awful much, but some goodwill, political capital and maneuverability available to him but he seems unwilling or uninterested in spending it on Khadr. Why is Khadr a poor candidate?

Khadr's father was an alleged Al Qaeda financier and, at the very least, his family holds strong opinions that are anti-Western and has made public comments to that effect. Domestically, Khadr is a divisive issue as there seems to be as many supporters as detractors dispelling the need for urgency and decisiveness on the issue. In a nutshell, Khadr was in the wrong place, Afghanistan, at the wrong time, US invasion after 9/11, and in the company of the wrong people, alleged Taliban militants, thus making him virtually politically untouchable.

For Harper, returning Khadr to Canada to face Canadian justice would also be problematic as the rules and procedures regarding evidence offer the very real possibility for Khadr to be found not guilty. The Canadian governments of Chretien-Martin-Harper (Khadr's arrest and detention covers all three) would then be open to litigation regarding Canadian complicity in Khadr’s "treatment" over the past six years and so the best case scenario for Harper is to leave Khadr to the mercies of the rigged judicial system invented for the inmates at Guantanamo. Khadr is virtually certain to be found guilty of any and all crimes, real or imagined, and given a life sentence. For a government that operates on the principle of politics as war, tactics replacing strategic vision, and with a focus on permanent campaigning, it is politically expedient for Harper to simply jettison Khadr to his fate even while waiting for the issue to inevitably pass into the next news cycle in our attention impaired, sound-bite oriented modern world. Morality be damned for "Every revolution begins with the power of an idea and ends when clinging to power is the only idea left."

The lesson in this is that if you are Canadian then you must simply accept that if you happen to find yourself in difficulty abroad then you are on your own as the Canadian government is functionally inept at best and indifferent or incompetent at worst. There are far too many cases to cite but William Sampson, Mahar Arar and Brenda Martin immediately come to mind and that is only the most public of incidences in past few years. Unfortunately, it is probably only too easy to make sense of Harper's (in)actions but it does not make it any easier to stomach tho ...

O Canada eh?