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"Five Years of Kafkaesque Legal Shenanigans," One More Chance to Do Right by Omar Khadr

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August 24, 2010

On Saturday, Alex Neve, Secretary General for Amnesty International Canada, wrote an op-ed in the Ottawa Citizen about the military commissions trial of Canadian citizen Omar Khadr. As we blogged earlier, Khadr’s defense attorney, Lt. Col. Jon Jackson, collapsed in court, and the trial was stayed for at least a month. (We later learned Lt. Col. Jackson’s illness was due to complications following gall bladder surgery last month.)

Neve sees this one-month stay as Canada’s last chance to end the “five years of Kafkaesque legal shenanigans” and bring Khadr home:

It is a delay that offers the Canadian government one last chance to do right by Omar Khadr. It also offers a chance to demonstrate to the world that we do in fact stand by the important international legal standards dealing with child soldiers that Canada was instrumental in developing.

To date we have heard nothing but silence and excuses from the government. The Federal Court and Federal Court of Appeal have both ordered the government to seek his repatriation. The Supreme Court has found that the Canadian government continues to violate his rights and that those violations must be remedied (by repatriation or some other means). UN human rights experts and agencies such as UNICEF have called on the U.S. government to abandon this trial and for Canada to seek his return.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has defiantly refused to do so. It is a position that has become a source of both international puzzlement and national embarrassment. I was even asked by various soldiers stationed at Guantanamo why Canada seemed so indifferent to Omar’s fate.

It is an untenable position not worthy of our nation. But it is not too late to change it.

From the other side of the border, we’ve watched in horror as the U.S. government has charged towards the first prosecution of an alleged child soldier since World War II. The military judge has been holding scheduling conferences to determine when Khadr’s trial can resume. It’s full steam ahead once Lt. Col. Jackson is well enough to return to Gitmo.

So while it’s Canada’s last chance, it’s also a last chance for our country to do the right thing, too. Send Khadr back home to Canada.

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