Saskatchewan lawyers say Tory treatment of Omar Khadr denies basic rights – By Bob Weber
By Bob Weber
THE CANADIAN PRESS
SASKATOON – The federal government is being accused of violating Omar Khadr’s basic rights every day it refuses to try to bring him back from a U.S. military prison.
Eighteen members of the University of Saskatchewan’s law faculty and 61 of the province’s trial lawyers say in an open letter that the governing Conservatives should abide by a recent Federal Court ruling that Canada’s failure to seek Khadr’s repatriation goes against principles of fundamental justice.
“This is something that comes from the heart and the feeling that the rule of law is under challenge here,” law professor Glen Luther, speaking from the trial lawyers’ annual conference, said Thursday.
“This is fundamentally abhorrent to what Canada stands for. The prime minister and his government is bound by the rule of law.”
The court ruled on April 23 that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s refusal to get involved in Khadr’s case violated Canada’s Charter of Rights. The court also said the refusal effectively implicated Canada in Khadr’s treatment at the Guantanamo Bay prison, where sleep deprivation is used.
The government said it would consider appealing the decision to the Supreme Court.
The letter recognizes the government’s right to appeal and clarify whether the court had the right to make its ruling. But Luther said the technical grounds for appeal shouldn’t be a way to avoid bringing Khadr home.
“Appeal if you think that’s important,” Luther said. “That doesn’t change the fact that Mr. Khadr’s rights are being breached every day. You can clarify the principle but still bring him home.”
He points out that the Australian government did something similar when it appealed a court ruling ordering a citizen be brought home from Guantanamo, but did so after repatriation.
“Why can’t Canada do something similar?” Luther asked.
Khadr, now 22, is accused of throwing a hand grenade that killed an American special forces soldier following a four-hour firefight in Afghanistan in July 2002. The Toronto-born Khadr was 15 at the time.
Luther said the letter takes no position on Khadr’s guilt or innocence. It simply states that he is Canada’s problem and should be dealt with by Canadians.
Nathan Whitling, one of Khadr’s Canadian lawyers, said the support from the Saskatchewan bar echoes positions taken by bodies from Amnesty International to the Canadian Bar Association.
“This is a case of profound importance to Canada’s reputation and standing in the international community,” he said in Edmonton.
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