The betrayal and abuse of Omar Khadr has gone on for far too long: don’t be a party to it, take action and add your voice to international calls for his immediate repatriation to Canada
Omar Khadr, 25, is a Canadian prisoner who will have been held by American forces for 10 years on 27 July 2012; on this date in 2002, aged just 15, he was captured in Afghanistan. Shot, blinded, threatened with rape and other forms of physical and psychological abuse at Bagram and Guantánamo Bay, Omar Khadr is the only child soldier to have been tried as an adult before a military tribunal for war crimes allegedly committed as a minor since World War II. In October 2010, in a secret plea bargain and subject to the use of torture evidence approved by the military tribunal, Omar Khadr pleaded guilty to throwing a grenade that killed one American soldier and wounded another. As part of the plea deal, Omar Khadr was to have his sentence slashed to just eight years, of which he could serve the final 7 years in his native Canada. He has been due for release since October 2011. Although extradition proceedings have been commenced by the US and Canada in his case, Canada has not formally sought his return from the US; the US, on the other hand, is keen to return him, as it fears that the delay in honouring its side of the deal could deter other prisoners from entering similar plea bargains, on the basis that they may not be released eventually. Indeed, given Canada’s foot-dragging, last week the US released another convicted prisoner to Sudan.
Canada has been constantly criticised for its failure to act in Omar Khadr’s case. In 2010, the Canadian Supreme Court stated that the Canadian government had violated Omar Khadr’s constitutional rights. Canadian Senator Roméo Dallaire, the retired army general who led UN forces in Rwanda during the genocide in the mid-1990s and an outspoken advocate for child soldiers, described his country’s treatment of Omar Khadr as reflecting “Canada’s moral drift” in 2010. The UN Committee Against Torture condemned Canada’s stance in June 2012 and demanded the country seek the immediate repatriation of Omar Khadr.
The LGC has taken action for Omar Khadr with a letter writing campaign, along with an Amnesty International group, during the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010 http://www.muslimdirectory.co.uk/viewarticle.php?id=484 and a demonstration and petition to coincide with his trial: http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2010/08/456827.html and http://londonguantanamocampaign.blogspot.co.uk/2010/07/dangerous-international-precedent.html The LGC also spoke at an Amnesty International UK screening last week of the documentary “Four Days in Guantánamo” (the trailer can be viewed at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZrERVO19Dg).
At the very latest, Omar Khadr should have been returned to Canada at the end of May this year. Omar Khadr’s lawyers are now taking his case to court to force the Canadian government to take back ONE Canadian citizen, who has spent almost half his life in illegal detention. WE CALL ON YOU TO TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION AND ADD YOUR VOICE TO THE INTERNATIONAL PRESSURE ON THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT TO HONOUR ITS OBLIGATIONS AND DUTIES TO ITS CITIZENS AND UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW.
1. Add your name to the petitions (and then get your friends, family and colleagues to do likewise):
Senator Roméo Dallaire has put together the following petition to Public Safety Minister, Vic Toews, who has to sign the letter for Omar Khadr’s release: http://www.change.org/omarkhadr
The following petition has also been put to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper: http://www.change.org/petitions/prime-minister-stephen-harper-repatriate-toronto-born-omar-khadr-to-canada-and-rehabilitate-him
2. Send letters to Minister Vic Toews and the Canadian High Commissioner in London:
Amnesty International UK has put together the following letter. Please add your name to it and send or amend/personalise it and send it off. Please let us know if you get a response:
I urge you to take swift action to approve Omar Khadr’s pending request to be transferred out of Guantánamo Bay and back to Canada.
July 27th 2012 marks the 10th anniversary of Omar Khadr being taken into custody by US soldiers in Afghanistan, where he was held for three months before being transferred to Guantánamo Bay, where he has remained ever since. He has endured a decade of human rights violations, without relief or remedy. Amnesty International has repeatedly expressed concern that Canada has failed to intervene to ensure that Omar Khadr’s rights were properly safeguarded. As a result, numerous serious concerns, including his rights as a child soldier, detention without charge or trial, credible allegations of torture and ill-treatment, access to legal counsel and family visits, and fair trial provisions, have been disregarded by US officials.
The plea deal agreed to by Mr. Khadr in October 2010 was based on the understanding that, as of October 31, 2011 he would be eligible for transfer back to Canada. The Government of Canada acknowledged and accepted that transfer was integral to the plea deal by means of a diplomatic note provided to the US government at the time. In November 2010 former Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon stated that “we will implement the agreement that was reached between Mr. Khadr and the government of the United States.” US officials have indicated they would support the transfer and are in fact eager to see it go through to encourage other detainees at Guantánamo to enter into similar deals. His transfer application has been with your office for well over a year; and all necessary approvals for his transfer have been finalized by US officials. Your prompt approval of this transfer application will demonstrate that the Canadian government is now taking a strong stand for full and proper protection of Mr. Khadr’s rights.
Please send copies to:
The Honourable Vic Toews, (address: Dear Minister:)
Minister of Public Safety,
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A6
Mr. Gordon Campbell, High Commissioner for Canada
High Commission of Canada to the United Kingdom in London
1 Grosvenor Square
London, W1K 4AB
Fax: 0207 258 6333
Other useful information: