Omar Khadr settlement a victory for the rule of law

Child soldier demo UK

On behalf of the Government of Canada, we wish to apologize to Mr. Khadr. – Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale

I hope Canadians take away two things today…. First, our rights are not subject to the whims of the government of the day. And second, there are serious costs when the government violates the rights of its citizens. – Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould

The terms of the settlement provide Omar Khadr with compensation for the many ways that Canadian action and inaction contributed to the serious human rights violations he experienced beginning in 2002, continuing through three months in US detention at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, 10 years of imprisonment at Guantánamo Bay, and two and a half years of further detention in Canadian jails in Ontario and Alberta before he was finally released on bail in May, 2015.  For more details click here.

Omar Khadr was a child soldier illegally interrogated by Canadian agents while detained and tortured by a foreign power. He was convicted by a kangaroo court.

The ONLY way that anyone can disagree with this assessment is to ignore international law, the Supreme Court of Canada, and a decade of rigorous reporting by professional journalists such as Michelle Shephard at the Toronto Star and Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald. – Michael Byers, Facebook post of 7 July 2017.

The settlement has proven to be extremely controversial with a CBC poll finding that a majority of Canadians oppose it.

One of the most contentious issues, completely unrelated to the reasons why compensation was paid to Omar Khadr, concerns his confession and subsequent guilty plea to a charge of murder for allegedly throwing a grenade and killing an American soldier, Sgt. Christopher Speer. It is undisputed that Khadr was told he would never get out of Guantanamo Bay if he did not plead guilty. Click here for a review of the alleged evidence against Khadr – which casts grave doubt on the prosecution’s version of the case.

Without Khadr’s confession, obtained essentially by force, there is no compelling evidence that he threw any grenade at all. No one saw him do it, and from all appearances he’d been under that rubble the entire time. – Sandy Garossino

But the lack of evidence is not the only glaring problem with the American government’s case for murder against Omar Khadr. Here is what Audrey Macklindirector of the Centre for Criminology and Sociolegal Studies at the University of Toronto, has to say about the charge of murder:

Mr. Khadr was treated neither as a combatant nor as an accused criminal. Instead, the United States invented a new war crime called “murder by an unlawful alien enemy combatant.” The new offence made it lawful for U.S. soldiers to kill Mr. Khadr, but made it a war crime if he killed a U.S. soldier. This ersatz war crime was invented by the United States after his capture and then applied to his actions retroactively. No system governed by the rule of law does this.

A terrible legacy of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s gross mishandling of this case is the distortion of facts for political gain, whatever the human cost. Click here for Michael Coren’s examination of this ugly phenomenon – the antithesis of political leadership – which is now on full display once again.

We must not let this ugliness blind us to the significance of this settlement as a triumph of Canadian justice and the rule of law:

Redress for Omar Khadr …. plays a critical role in countering the immunity for national security-related human rights violations that is by far the norm in similar cases. – Alex Neve, Amnesty International-Canada

An apology is not only for the benefit of the aggrieved, but for the integrity of the apologizer. Canada and Canadians deserves the atonement, the reaffirmation and restoration of our values, that is made possible by the settlement. (Law Professor Craig Martin)

At the same time the government must also go further and make systemic changes in order to avoid such horrendous abuses of civil liberties and human rights in the future. – ICLMG and Rideau Institute Statement on Omar Khadr’s settlement

One issue not addressed in this blog post is the civil judgement against Omar Khadr awarded to the widow of Sgt. Speer by a Utah court. Legal experts believe Canadian courts would be reluctant to enforce this judgement given its dubious legal standing.

Photo credit: Huffington Post UK

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15 Responses to “Omar Khadr settlement a victory for the rule of law”

  1. juliaJuly 15, 2017 at 3:09 pm #

    Is Minister Goodale’s little spit the official apology? Really? What a limp, vague, bit of nothing, admitting nothing. For shame.

  2. Marie LloydJuly 15, 2017 at 2:08 pm #

    Thanks for this article. It was great news. I wish the present Canadian government had framed its apology in a fashion other than…”we wish to apologize…” This is a tepid and ginger phrasing, no match for the enormous betrayal of Omar Khadr and in fact of all Canadians who trust the standards of international law, The Supreme Court of Canada, and reporting of the highest calibre-with special recognition to Sandy Garossino, whose article I read recently in the National Observer.

  3. John FosterJuly 15, 2017 at 8:38 am #

    The Tory (and U.S.) led vendetta against Omar must end. The defense of humanity must be stronger and more vivid.

  4. Howard DoughtyJuly 15, 2017 at 8:14 am #

    Conservatives from Stockwell Day to Peter Kent to the party’s current leader claim that the overwhelming majority of Canadians share their anger and disgust that a “deal” has been made with Omar Khadr and that he’s being “rewarded” with over $10 million for his “acts of terror.” I would like to think that isn’t true; but, if it is, then it’s no more than further evidence that the majority opinion is not necessarily right. By no legitimate standard of law or justice can Omar Khadr’s treatment at the hands of the authorities – both American and Canadian – be judged anything other than ethically deplorable, in violation of international law, in active defiance of the “rule of law,” and a repudiation of the minimal norms of what the legal community calls “due process and natural justice.”

    Conservatives do have a valid point, however, in saying that Stephen Harper didn’t create the problem. Liberal Prime Ministers Chretien and Martin are also culpable in this failure of Canadian diplomacy … and worse. This, however, does not excuse Prime Minister Harper who not only did nothing useful to resolve the situation, but exploited it and made it far, far worse than it needed to be. (Even the United States was embarrassed by Harper’s insistence that Mr. Kadhr remain in the illegal American prison and torture site in Cuba.) It also does not excuse US President Barack Obama, whose Nobel “Peace” Prize is second only to Henry Kissinger’s in demonstrating the dark sense of humour sometimes displayed by one or another of the Nobel committees. One of Mr. Obama’s first promises upon becoming President in 2009 was that he would close Guantanamo, a running sore on the American body politic. Upon leaving office, Guantanamo remains open. Cynics might say that it is a fitting symbol of Obama’s disappointing stay in the White House; at least, however, let that be remembered as an important part of his “legacy.”

    Finally, I am not impressed with Prime Minister Trudeau’s squeamish comments to the effect that he understood (read “empathized”) with the so-called “majority” opinion, but that the decision to settle was pragmatic in light of the fact that to pursue the matter in the courts would have escalated the financial cost of $10.5 million to $20 or $30 million. In effect, he was saying that it was the wrong thing to do, but it could have been worse since the Government of Canada had no reasonable chance of prevailing in the courts.

    He should and should have said that it was the right thing to do (and, if necessary, added, “and, by the way, we got off cheap”).

    • Marie LloydJuly 15, 2017 at 2:13 pm #

      Trudeau’s appeal to low minded pragmatism blunted Goodale’s already ginger apology. A very
      shabby official conclusion to a very twisted and shocking situation that went on forever.

      • Jim cowanJuly 16, 2017 at 11:18 am #

        I had the same impression. Disappointed to say the least at the loss of an opportunity to take the high ground and point out that there are penalties for breaking our rules of law and the nation pays when such as Harper chooses to break them. Ten million dollars is a lot of cash….for a reason. I applaud the humanity and fortitude of Khadr’s lawyer .

  5. Barbara BambigerJuly 15, 2017 at 12:39 am #

    Thanks for this article. The hostility, fear, bigotry & misinformation in the opinions about Omar Khadr are alarming. This puts us to the test. Will we speak about human rights in general & Omar Khadr specifically with families & friends, even when we know we’ll meet strenuous opposition, even hostility? Or will we take the easier, more comfortable position of avoidance? Writing to politicians & signing petitions is all well & good, but the real test of our commitment & courage comes in our willingness to speak up in our day-to-day contacts.

    • Marie LloydJuly 15, 2017 at 2:14 pm #

      Well put.

  6. J.WJuly 14, 2017 at 9:48 pm #

    This whole thing did not begin with Mr. Harper but rather Mr. Chretien,

  7. Marguerite WarnerJuly 14, 2017 at 8:27 pm #

    Thanks for taking the time to write this thoughtful, well-grounded statement. I am astonished by the viciousness of the push-back on the Khadr settlement and saddened by what it implies about Canadian attitudes. Michael Coren’s observation of “the toxins of southern politics” leaking into Canadian politics and our media rings true. What we need is a national epidemic of grass-roots festivities, large and small, to celebrate justice for Omar Khadr and the rule of law.

    • Marie LloydJuly 15, 2017 at 2:19 pm #

      I revised my sentiments about our open spirited Canadian people when I saw them elect Steven Harper, the man with nothing behind his eyes, and not just once. There may be countries which would respond much better- think Scandinavians- but we share a porous border with Trumpville.
      Harper’s response to the Omar Khadr settlement was typically without feeling and without regard for the institutions, rights and laws we need to hold dear.

  8. George WilkesJuly 14, 2017 at 7:55 pm #

    As shown above

  9. George WilkesJuly 14, 2017 at 7:51 pm #

    As one who has read “Guantanamo Diary” by Mohamedou Oude Slahi and is a co-founder of the Canadian Tribute to Human Rights aka The Human Rights Monument, an integral part, today, of Nelson Mandela Square in Ottawa, I sent an invitation to Mr. Khadr to be present at the lighting ceremony of the monument. I knew that at that time he would not be able to attend; yet he had to be aware that there are people who are deeply concerned that matters involving a person’s human rights cannot be ignored and if those matters are violating our Carter of Rights and Freedoms, they are to be condemned and efforts to secure a just remedy must be supported.


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