It is being reported in numerous media outlets that Toronto-born Omar Khadr will be tried on terrorism charges by a U.S. military commission.
While it had been assumed that Khadr would be tried in the United States, “the U.S. Justice Department confirmed to CBC News that no decision has been made as to where the commission will take place.” Other media reports say the trial could take place at a naval prison in South Carolina.
Media reports also suggest that Khadr’s trial could still be months or even years away. He has already been held in custody for seven years.
After the announcement was made at a Justice Department news conference, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder declined to say whether a Supreme Court of Canada directive to the Canadian government to request Khadr’s transfer back to Canada would trump the military commission process.
Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre, parliamentary secretary to the prime minister, commented that “we believe the U.S legal process announced today should run its course.”
Legal process? Toronto Star columnist Thomas Walkom writes that:
1- “Omar Khadr, the Canadian child-soldier accused of killing an American sergeant during battle, will be tried before a kangaroo court. …As Lt.-Col. Darrel Vandeveld, a former military commission prosecutor, wrote last month in a letter to the Washington Post, these bodies were designed ‘to secure convictions where prisoner mistreatment …would otherwise preclude them.'”
2- “The American Civil Liberties Union has pointed out, the (military commissions) law still permits evidence obtained through both hearsay and coercion, as long as this coercion does not involve ‘cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment’.”
3- “In a real court of law, the case against (Khadr) would almost certainly fail. First there is his age. Fifteen at the time of his capture, he would be considered a child soldier under United Nations conventions (military commissions are specifically entitled to disregard this). Second, as my colleague Michelle Shephard writes in her book, Guantanamo’s Child, Khadr – seriously wounded in the Afghan firefight – was in such bad shape during questioning that even his U.S. interrogator feared he might die. In civilian court, statements obtained under such circumstances would be dismissed as coerced.”
The Council of Canadians has been calling on the Harper government to oppose the Military Commissions Act since October 2006. Our action alert on this can be read at http://canadians.org/action/2006/19-Oct-06.html.
Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has also voiced her opposition to these military commissions and called for the repatriation of Khadr in a June 2007 op-ed in the Ottawa Citizen. That can be read at http://www.canada.com/story_print.html?id=3274ce88-3079-4a21-9948-e3a909e6e476&sponsor=.
As such, we are profoundly disappointed that not only has the Harper government not opposed the military commissions, but is asking the Supreme Court to overturn a Federal Appeal Court decision to uphold a lower-court ruling that required it to try to repatriate Khadr, the last westerner remaining in the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay.
CBC adds, “Ottawa’s position is that Khadr should remain in U.S. custody so the U.S. can try him, and that the court order to attempt to bring him home is meddling in foreign policy.”
The CBC report is at http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2009/11/13/omar-khadr-supreme-court-hearing.html.
Thomas Walkom’s column is at http://www.thestar.com/mobile/NEWS/article/725779.