ANALYSIS – Six years on, Khadr’s fate more uncertain than ever
Omar Khadr’s military lawyer was fired last Friday. Five days later, he was re-instated by a Guantanamo judge.
Navy Lt.-Cmdr. William Kuebler had appealed his dismissal, arguing that his superior didn’t have the power to fire him. Military judge Col. Patrick Parrish agreed, ruling that only he had jurisdiction to dismiss a Pentagon-appointed lawyer.
Now Kuebler’s commander is saying the military judge misinterpreted the law and there’s an appeal.
Does any of this matter?
And the question that no one seems to be asking is what about the accused? Doesn’t Khadr, the client, have the power to say who defends him?
For six years, the Khadr case has twisted and jerked its way through the courts, the media, the halls of Ottawa and Washington and has been debated endlessly in the blogisphere.
Much of the recent attention is due to Kuebler’s advocacy and politicking. He has not made secret the fact that he believed his job was to fight for Khadr both inside and outside the court. He was right in the sense that the Gitmo trials were often more about the politics and perception than the law.
His firing prompted some outrage, notably from Ottawa Centre MP Paul Dewar who told a Parliament Hill rally Saturday that, “Today, Omar Khadr does not have legal representation.”
Not true. Kuebler led Khadr’s third U.S. military defence team since the Pentagon charged the Toronto-born teenager in 2005. Lt.-Cmdr. Walter Ruiz, a reservist and assistant federal public defender in Florida, joined the case in September and would have taken the helm after Kuebler’s dismissal. There’s another Pentagon lawyer, Michel Paradis, who has travelled to Canada and worked behind the scenes to draft a legal and social framework for Khadr’s release. Khadr has also benefited in Canada from the pro-bono representation of two Edmonton lawyers, Nathan Whitling and Dennis Edney since 2003.
Khadr remains in Guantanamo where he has spent more than one-third of his life after being shot and captured at the age of 15. His trial for five military charges, including murder for allegedly throwing a grenade in Afghanistan that fatally wounded U.S. Delta Force soldier Christopher Speer, has been suspended until May 20.
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