On Friday, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC), in a 9-0 decision, ruled that Canadian officials violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms — analogous to the American Bill of Rights — by turning over their interrogation records of Canadian citizen Omar Khadr to the United States. Khadr, the Guantánamo detainee who was 15 when he was shot and captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan in July 2002, is currently being prosecuted in the Guantánamo military commissions. His case is still in pre-trial hearings, which started this spring.The SCC ordered the Canadian federal government to provide Khadr’s defense counsel the information Canadian agents got out of a 2003 interrogation session at Guantánamo so the information can be used in his defense.The SCC added:
“the conditions under which Mr. Khadr was held and was liable for prosecution were illegal under both U.S. and international law at the time Canadian officials interviewed Mr. Khadr and gave information to U.S. authorities”
ACLU Staff Attorney Hina Shamsi was in Guantánamo this earlier this year to observe one of Khadr’s pre-trial hearings. She says:
“The decision is the latest event to call into question how the government has handled and represented Khadr’s detention and prosecution. At a hearing I attended earlier this year, a secret government document, disclosed by mistake, made clear that Khadr wasn’t the only person who could have thrown a grenade that killed a U.S. soldier, which is the public account the government has long given. Instead, according to the document, another person was alive in the compound in which Khadr was captured, and Khadr himself was wounded even before a U.S. service member or official found him and shot him in the back, twice.
More recently, we found out that in January 2003, shortly after Khadr was captured, military officials wrote a document that recommended children under 18 not be held in Guantánamo and that recognized child detainees are entitled to special treatment. Given these revelations, it’s all the more important that Khadr’s lawyers have access to interview notes and other information Canadian officials have, which they shared with the U.S. government, but wanted to keep from the defendant.”Khadr’s attorneys have been working to try to persuade the Canadian government to act on its countryman’s behalf.
“I think the most important aspect of it is that the Supreme Court has said that Guantánamo Bay is illegal,” said Lieutenant-Commander Bill Kuebler, Mr. Khadr’s U.S. military lawyer. “And yet the Canadian government continues to do nothing to intervene on behalf of Omar Khadr.”
The military commission system continues to stumble along, even as top cabinet officials recognize its flaws and admit the damage it is doing to the United States’ reputation around the world. Canada has recognized that the system is unlawful, and based its decision on U.S. Supreme Court precedent. It’s time to close Guantánamo.