Welcome back Khadr

Image of Omar Khadr Omar Khadr is a Canadian who was captured by American soldiers following a 2002 firefight in Afghanistan. Born in Toronto in September 1986, Khadr is the only minor to have been convicted of purported war crimes since the Second World War and served almost 13 years in prison for the crimes of which he was accused.

Following the firefight, Khadr was taken into custody and first brought to the Bagram U.S. military base in Afghanistan. He was transferred to the U.S. naval base prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba where a military commission ultimately brought war crime charges against him. In 2010, Khadr pleaded not guilty to five separate war crimes including murder. Later that year, he changed his plea to guilty, and he was sentenced to eight years in prison plus time served.

Khadr was repatriated to Canada in 2012 to serve out the remainder of his sentence. He was released in May 2015 pending an appeal of the war crime convictions in which he argued that his admission of guilt had been made under duress. The Supreme Court of Canada determined that Canadian intelligence officials had relied upon sleep deprivation techniques between interrogations to extract evidence at Guantanamo Bay in 2003 and, subsequently, had shared that information with U.S. officials. The court characterized the evidence as having been gathered under "oppressive circumstances" and ruled that "the principles of fundamental justice" and "the most basic Canadian standards about the treatment of youth suspects" had been violated by his detainment. With respect to his repatriation, another court found that the Canadian government failed to meet its obligations under Canadian law as it pertained to Khadr's human rights. And in a third court case, the Canadian government also failed in its attempt to have Khadr treated as an adult rather than a juvenile offender in the Canadian legal system.

It would seem that Canada's courts, perhaps rightly so, did not consider Khadr's involvement in criminal acts in Afghanistan. Rather, the courts focus was on Khadr's detainment without charge as a youth and the methods used by Canada's intelligence officials insofar as his individual rights may have been impinged. Khadr's guilt, or innocence for that matter, is a different matter.

Jenni Byrne, political strategist and former Conservative Party advisor, in a Huffington Post article entitled Make No Mistake, Canada Doesn't Owe Omar Khadr An Apology, offers a far harsher criticism on the matter. "Omar Khadr is a convicted terrorist and war criminal" Byrne opined, characterizing Khadr as "an active and willing member of the Taliban". Though some critics believe Khadr was an innocent child victim, radicalized by the skewed views of an authoritarian father, Byrne does not share those sentiments. "The details of the firefight that injured Omar Khadr prove he was an active terrorist fighter and not the innocent child portrayed by some" Byrne asserts. "The firefight lasted over four hours, within which time there were multiple opportunities for Taliban members to surrender. Omar Khadr fought on. Even after Mr. Khadr was wounded and pulled out of the fight, he cursed the American personnel working to save his life, and told them he wanted to die as a martyr."

The dust has settled and the government of Canada have not only issued a formal apology to Omar Khadr, but they have also cut him a cheque for $10.5 million for their part in the violation of his fundamental rights. This, I believe, was the proper course of action and one not only supported by our Charter of Rights but also by the rule of law. And while I may acknowledge that the Canadian government may have been complicit in Khadr's treatment, I also believe that his role in Afghanistan was far more deliberate and engaged than that of a misguided youth.

Academics, legislators and pundits will, undoubtedly, continue to hold diverse views on how youths, particularly when viewed as child soldiers, should be treated by the judicial system both domestically and internationally. I cannot help but feel that, on a balance of probabilities, Khadr was an active combatant and, in all likelihood, tossed a grenade at American soldiers. Whether or not it was the same grenade which killed Spear I cannot say with certainty. But Khadr did spend almost 13 years in prison. And that is longer than the 12 year minimum sentence an adult might serve in Canada with extenuating circumstances. (Khadr was only 15 at the time.) Criminal law does not, however, rely on a balance of probabilities.

My gut tells me that, misguided as he may have been, Khadr is a useless twat. My brain, however, tells me that the time he served, given his age, the underlying circumstances and Canada's position with respect to youth crime was, and is, sufficient. Moreover, given his rights were violated the apology, and settlement, seem fitting. I have two choices: love it or hate it. I love it so much I could sing.....

Welcome Back Khadr

Welcome back, from your Guantonimo Bay vacation,
Welcome back, to a lucrative repatriation.
The grenade that was thrown killed Sergeant Spear,
And his wife Tabatha is still in tears.
Surprised that they'd mistreat you,
Oh yeah and even beat you.
So we paid you a lot, but I wish you'd been shot,
Welcome back.
Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back.
Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back.

Submitted by "Big Banana" Bob Loblaw, 31 July 2018