The Conservatives are still dragging their feet on the extradition of Omar Khadr, the child soldier the Conservatives just love to ignore. Today, in yet another reminder of Khadr’s perpetual limbo, Khadr’s legal team will hold a news conference to address the Canadian government’s delaying of his extradition.
The plea bargain reached at Khadr’s (somewhat dubious) military trial stipulated that he be extradited to Canada after one final year in Guantanamo, to spend the remaining seven years of his sentence in a Canadian prison. That final year in Guantanamo was up last October. October came and went. As did autumn, as did winter. Apparently in April the US made an official request to Canada that we (ahem) get a move on already, uphold our end of the bargain, and start the extradition process. That obviously hasn’t happened.
Yesterday, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews was quoted as saying, “I’ve made no decision in that. I’ll make a decision in due course, in accordance with the law.”
To be honest, I can’t quite figure out why the Conservatives are so adverse to bringing Khadr back to Canada. Is it a persistent support for George W. Bush’s “War on Terror”—something I may have mistakenly assumed we were all slightly ashamed of these days? He is a Canadian citizen who was taken to a military prison as a minor and held there illegally for eight years—would they be dismissive about any other Canadian minor held and tortured in any other military prison in any other part of the world? I am trying not to conclude that our government is, quite simply, racist, but I have to say they’re making this difficult to do.
Here’s an Omar Khadr recap:
Khadr is the first minor—and the first child soldier—to be charged for war crimes since WWII. There is no international law against prosecuting child soldiers, but expert opinion is overwhelming against doing so, and, until Khadr’s case, so was legal precedent.
Khadr was captured in Afghanistan in 2002 when he was 15 years old. He was taken to the American military detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he was charged for the murder of an American soldier and held, illegally, for the next eight years. He was finally tried in a military court in October 2010, using evidence obtained, illegally, through torture.
He pleaded guilty to all five charges against him, doing so as part of a plea bargain that would see him extradited to Canada after spending one more year at Guantanamo. He was symbolically charged with 40 years in prison, but only given eight.
The Conservatives, who claimed not to have been involved in the plea bargain deal, were not amused by its conditions. They had long refused calls to have him extradited to Canada, despite Khadr becoming the only Western citizen at Guantanamo leading up to his trial. In 2009 the Federal Court of Canada ruled that the Canadian Charter obliged the government to demand his extradition. The government appealed, and lost. Then they went to the Supreme Court, which ruled that Khadr’s constitutional rights had been violated, but, somewhat confusingly, didn’t order his extradition.