Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Two Letters About Omar Khadr

Yesterday I wrote a post on the contempt for the rule of law evident in the Harper regime's refusal to thus far repatriate Omar Khadr from Guantanimo.

Following are two thoughtful letters on the topic from today's Star I am taking the liberty of reproducing:

I am disgusted at the vitriol spewed by some people over the fate of Omar Khadr. Apparently the rule of law is a mask to be discarded at will.

Canada signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child, including the protocol on child soldiers. If Khadr was a combatant, he would be covered by that protocol, which states he is to be returned to his home nation for rehabilitation. If Khadr was not a combatant then there is no reason to hold him.

Moreover, in the sham of justice that was the Guantanamo military tribunal, Khadr struck a deal with the prosecution to plead guilty in return for him being returned to Canada. In short, under anything even remotely passing for law, Canada has no choice but to accept his return.

In fact, Khadr is the only foreign national still held in Guantanamo. Citizens of other nations have all been repatriated even though they were sometimes adult combatants.

Of course, Canada should do far more than simply take him back. The evidence that has come out over the last decade shows that Canada was complicit in the torture Khadr was subjected to. This violates other international agreements that Canada has signed and is also a violation of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Canada has a moral and probably a legal obligation to make amends. Had Khadr been a 15-year-old gang member convicted of killing someone in Toronto, as a young offender he would be be free by now. Instead, as a boy dragged into a war zone by his father and caught up in a firefight where he was severely wounded, he has become, to some people anyway, a symbol of terrorism for whom no punishment will suffice.

Their thirst for vengeance at the expense of justice does not represent the Canada that I grew up in. We need to return to the rule of law. We need to rebuild our reputation as a lawful, just and compassionate nation.

Gary Dale, West Hill

With respect to Omar Khadr’s return to Canada from Guantanamo Bay at the request of the American government, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews says, “A decision will be made in due course.”

The decision was made 20 months ago when then Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon provided a diplomatic note promising favourable consideration for Khadr’s return last November.

To argue otherwise is to admit that the government made a written promise to both Omar Khadr and the American government without any thought to its eventual execution. That would clearly be irresponsible and incompetent.

No, the only decision that the Harper government has to make at this time is whether or not they keep their promises.

Robert Betty, Edmonton

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