Saturday, August 15, 2009
The Face of Prejudice
The Federal Appeals Court of Canada yesterday in a 2-1 verdict upheld their decision that Prime Minister Stephen Harper must seek repatriation of Guantanamo-held detainee Omar Khadr.
Khadr, who was brought to Gitmo as a 15-year old, has been the subject of intense debate over the jurisdiction of Canadian courts in foreign affairs. Justice Marc Nadon was the dissenting vote in the three judge appeal panel, and said that "whether Canada should seek Mr. Khadr's repatriation at the present is a matter best left to the executive."
Justice Nadon's dissent raises a whole basket of questions about the legal proceedings surrounding Khadr's case. Khadr is a Canadian citizen, therefore are we not legally required to repatriate him? Harper seems to consider Canadian citizenship as a ranked system, one in which he should be allowed to administer the benefits and Charter rights as he sees fit.
The government's failure to repatriate Khadr is an embarrassment on an international level. Canada is the only Western country who has not repatriated their citizens from Gitmo.
Lt. Cmdr William Kuebler is one of Khadr's lawyers, and has predicted that US President Barack Obama would not resist the request, if Harper were to make it.
"It’s a tremendous embarrassment, what we’ve done to this young man in terms of detention and interrogation, in terms of fabricating evidence and false allegations against him, and I can’t imagine that the Obama administration would do anything other than jump at the chance to send this young man home if the Canadian government followed this decision and asked for his return," he said.
The real question at hand should be one of justice. Khadr was 15-years old when he threw a grenade that killed an American soldier during a 2002 gunfight in Afghanistan. Does this crime in and of itself deserve a life-sentence in Gitmo? No, it does not. If a 15-year old child soldier from the Congo shot and killed an Canadian soldier, would we lock them up? No, the child would be brought to a place where they can be rehabilitated and de-programmed. Since 2004, more than 2 300 children worldwide have been received by UNICEF-founded rehabilitation and reintegration centers around the world.
Did Khadr kill the American soldier? Indisputably. Did he believe that he was doing a good deed? Probably. Did he hate American soldiers? Likely. Did he come to this conclusion of his own accord? No. Everything that caused him to kill the American soldier was a result of his father's brainwashing, and regardless of Khadr's age right now, he deserves the same chance at rehabilitation as any other child soldier.