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Supreme Court rules Canada violated Omar Khadr’s charter rights

The Globe and Mail reports that, “Omar Khadr is not coming home yet – but the Supreme Court of Canada has moved his repatriation considerably closer.”

“In an 9-0 ruling this morning, the Court said that Canada violated Mr. Khadr’s Charter rights by participating in illegal interrogation methods which included sleep deprivation. It stressed that the constitutional breach is ongoing and ‘continues to this day’.”

“The judges could scarcely have been tougher in their finding that Mr. Khadr was mistreated during interrogations in 2003 and 2004. ‘Interrogation of a youth to elicit statements about the most serious criminal charges – while detained in these conditions and without access to counsel and while knowing the fruits of the interrogations would be shared with the U.S. prosecutors – offends the most basic Canadian standards about the treatment of detained youth suspects’.”

“The Court upheld an earlier Federal Court decision that Mr. Khadr’s right to life, liberty and security had been violated, but it refused to go as far as the lower court had gone in ordering Mr. Khadr to be brought home.”

“The court said that before stepping in to dictate a Canadian response on a sensitive question of foreign policy, the federal government must be given a chance to rectify Mr. Khadr’s plight.”

“But if the government refuses to take adequate action to rectify the abuse of Mr. Khadr’s rights, the Court warned, ‘courts are empowered to make orders ensuring that the government’s foreign affairs prerogative is exercised in accordance with the constitution’.”

“Advocates for Mr. Khadr showed disappointment that the Court did not directly order Mr. Khadr’s repatriation, but focused on its clear finding of a continuing rights violation. ‘The government can continue to sit on its hands – and therefore look like it is being completely unresponsive to a unanimous decision from the highest court in the land,’ said Alex Neve, a spokesman for Amnesty International. ‘We are not at all naïve here,’ he said. ‘Clearly the government has dug in its heels for several years now. We are not naïve enough to think (repatriation) will happen without pressure’.”

In November 2009, it was announced that Mr. Khadr would be tried on terrorism charges by a US military commission.

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 have been profoundly disappointed that not only has the Harper government not opposed the military commissions, but asked the Supreme Court to overturn a Federal Appeal Court decision to uphold a lower-court ruling that required it to try to repatriate Khadr. Today’s ruling, while not ordering Khadr’s immediate repatriation, does appear to be an important step in demanding that the federal government uphold his Charter rights and take the appropriate actions to “rectify the abuse”.