Should Omar Khadr be charged with High Treason?

According to the Criminal Code of Canada:

46.

(1) Every one commits high treason who, in Canada,
(c) assists an enemy at war with Canada, or any armed forces against whom Canadian Forces are engaged in hostilities, whether or not a state of war exists between Canada and the country whose forces they are.

(3) Notwithstanding subsection (1) or (2), a Canadian citizen or a person who owes allegiance to Her Majesty in right of Canada,
(a) commits high treason if, while in or out of Canada, he does anything mentioned in subsection (1);

47.

(1) Every one who commits high treason is guilty of an indictable offence and shall be sentenced to imprisonment for life.

Omar Khadr questions for Jack Layton, Stephen Harper and Michael Ignatieff

Mr. Layton, now that Omar Khadr is a convicted and sentenced murderer, do you believe that a future Canadian government will owe an official apology to him? And since you’re running to be Prime Minister, will you take the initiative to do so should you lead a future government?

Mr. Harper, your government acted in concert with opposition parties to expedite legislative reform on pardons earlier this year. Given Khadr’s sentence and reported plea deal, what is your government going to do on judicial reform to delay his repatriation? What was your government’s role (if any) in the plea negotiation? If the government had a role, what were its objectives and how probable was an alternative less desirable outcome?

Mr. Ignatieff, which is the travesty of justice in your view? The detention, trial, conviction and incarceration of Omar Khadr? Or that Omar Khadr will only serve what is projected by some to be two years of a 40 year sentence for murder that was handed down by a jury in a US military tribunal today?

UPDATE: The NDP’s justice critic Joe Comartin is on the record regarding his party’s position (pre-conviction and sentencing),

“The thing they should do is (give him) a whole chunk of money, much as they had to (with) Maher Arar, because there is nobody who believes Omar Khadr has any chance of being acquitted in a military tribunal and he will probably be sentenced to a lengthy period of time inprison in the U.S.,” he said. “They could compensate him for all those years that he is going to lose.”

The latest on Omar Khadr

If you’ve been following the Omar Khadr saga in Canada, you’ve undoubtedly heard about the Supreme Court’s decision to allow the Canadian government jurisdiction in foreign affairs with respect to the repatriation of Khadr. The Minister of Justice released the following statement yesterday,

“In its ruling, the Supreme Court recognized the constitutional responsibility of the executive to make decisions on matters of foreign affairs, given the complex and ever-changing circumstances of diplomacy, and the need to take into account Canada’s broader interests. The Supreme Court did not require the Government to ask for accused terrorist Omar Khadr’s return.

“In response to the Supreme Court’s ruling, the Government of Canada today delivered a diplomatic note to the Government of the United States formally seeking assurances that any evidence or statements shared with U.S. authorities as a result of the interviews of Mr. Khadr by Canadian agents and officials in 2003 and 2004 not be used against him by U.S. authorities in the context of proceedings before the Military Commission or elsewhere.

“Omar Khadr faces very serious charges, including murder, attempted murder, conspiracy, material support for terrorism, and spying. The Government of Canada continues to provide consular services to Mr. Khadr.”

The part about the formal request seeking assurances regarding evidence is interesting. The Supreme Court ruled that Khadr’s Charter rights were violated as Canadian officials were party to an illegal interrogation. A formal request from the government to for the US to reject evidence acquired in collaboration with Canadians, may cure the breach of rights that the Supreme Court references.

Earlier today, Khadr’s lawyers filed an injunction against the formal request complaining that they were not first consulted on the government’s plans. It seems that the ultimate goal for Team Khadr is repatriation of the accused murderer. The legal reality is that the Supreme Court did not compel the government to seek Khadr’s return and it is no secret that this government will never do so. However, a future government may follow this course of action. A request to expunge evidence only can help Khadr’s case. Since repatriation is out of the question for the Harper government, Khadr’s lawyers may have more hope waiting for an Ignatieff government than for their client to face justice in the United States.

Khadr’s supporters seek the 23 year old’s repatriation and reintegration into Canadian society. In Toronto, this weekend a conference titled “Media War on Islam ” was held at a Toronto-area Islamic Centre. Here’s an excerpt from the National Post,

Western media have a “spiteful policy” toward Iran of inventing “fraudulent” news to “increase false national expectation” and “encourage disturbance,” according to the cultural attache in the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Hamid Mohammadi said media deception has caused hatred and fear of Muslims by presenting the “false belief that religion is incapable of running a country” and that Iran is therefore illegitimate. He said the result has been political “position changing” by Western countries against Muslims.

He quoted an “American thinker,” whose name did not come clearly through his strong accent, to the effect that “future wars are in the hands of the media, and their words are more effective than bullets.”

Somehow, his brief scripted remarks were among the least controversial at a conference about the “Media War on Islam” on Sunday night at a Toronto-area Islamic centre, in which the Christmas Day underwear bomber was described as the tool of an Israeli plot; Barack Obama was referred to as “Mr. Black Man”; al-Qaeda was called “the figment of the imagination of the West”; and a video was shown that mocked 9/11 by putting the Muppet Show logo over slow-motion footage of the second plane’s impact, with screams of terror for audio.

According to the Post, the main organizer of the event was a man named Zafar Bangash. Bangash is the director of the Islamic Society of York region. Here are a few quotes from Zafar Bangash,

“Obama could never have been elected president if he were not a slave of the American establishment.”

“Under Obama, there is a greater chance that the US would now launch wars in Africa. A black man in the white house would be better able to pacify African-American sentiment than a white man.”

“Immediately after winning the Democratic Party nomination for president, he went to prostrate before America’s real masters: the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee.”

“The first appointment Obama made after winning the election was that of Rahm Israel Emmanuel as his White House chief of staff.”

“Obama’s presidency will not usher change; it will mean more of the same: American and Zionist crimes under a different face with a smooth tongue.”

and other troubling quotes from Bangash,

The West is “murderous, racist and virulent”

Canada is a “fully paid-up member of the Anglo-Saxon mafia, which is responsible for most of the recorded genocides in the world”

“Muslims must strive to overthrow the oppressive systems in their societies through Islamic revolutions, and not by participating in fraudulent elections organized by the elites operating through various political parties that actually divide the people.”

“Muslims have to get their own act together and unite their efforts under a single leadership — that of the leading edge of the Islamic movement, Islamic Iran — to work toward the common goals of the Ummah [Muslim World].”

you can read more here, here and here.

So, what does this have to do with Omar Khadr? Here’s Zafar Bangash with Khadr’s lawyer Dennis Edney,
]

CTV reported that Bangash made the following statement regarding Omar Khadr,

We have put in place arrangements whereby [Omar Khadr] will be accommodated with another family and he will be under close supervision as you can see this plan has the support of members of different faith communities and we of course are one of them, the Muslim community in Canada. He would be provided spiritual counselling as well as assessed periodically to see what kind of progress he is making.

That’s quite a support group. Here’s the CBC’s report,

Later Wednesday, Khadr’s lawyers and Muslim leaders unveiled details of a plan they say will help Khadr gradually integrate back into Canadian society during a news conference in Toronto.

The group, which included lawyer Dennis Edney, Islamic Society of York Region president Zafar Bangash and Canadian Arab Federation head Mohamed Boudjenane, urged Harper to meet with them before Obama’s visit so he can pass along a formal request.

“Call us. Meet with us. Whatever it takes. But your obligation, Mr. Harper, is to bring Omar home and allow him to heal,” said Edney.

The group has signed and delivered a three-page letter to Harper outlining details of the plan.

“We urge you to act expeditiously and request the repatriation of Omar Khadr to Canada, without further delay,” says the letter.

“Our plan is designed to allow eminent organizations, representing a broad cross-section of Canadian institutions and agencies, to take legal responsibility for designing, implementing and supervising all aspects of Omar’s life in Canada, until such time as he is able to become a fully functioning member of the Canadian mosaic.”

Khadr will live with host families and receive spiritual counselling from leading Muslim clerics, it says. Much of his living costs will be paid for by dozens of Canadian Muslim organizations.

Ironic press release of the day

The Liberal Party put out this release today:

OTTAWA –The Harper government must stop their ongoing complicity in human rights abuses against Omar Khadr by bringing him back to Canada, Liberal MPs said today.

“An independent report has just found that Canada’s spy agency failed to take human rights concerns into account when interrogating Mr. Khadr,” said Liberal Consular Affairs Critic Dan McTeague. “This finding strengthens the case for bringing Mr. Khadr home and calls for stronger government oversight on how CSIS conducts its business.”

SIRC, which is the oversight body that monitors the work of CSIS on behalf of Parliament, reported this week that CSIS ignored human rights concerns when interrogating Omar Khadr at Guantanamo Bay prison.

Ah yes, who was the minister responsible for CSIS at the time of Omar Khadr’s interrogation? Khadr was interrogated and filmed by CSIS during February 2003. Wayne Easter was solicitor general of the Liberal government at the time.

Here’s CP:

OTTAWA — Canada’s spy watchdog says the Canadian Security Intelligence Service may need major changes after finding it ignored concerns about human rights and Omar Khadr’s young age in deciding to interview the Toronto-born teen at a U.S. military prison.

By Liberal logic, if the “Harper government” is complicit to human rights abuses by not bringing Khadr home, the Liberals are most complicit for having ministerial oversight over CSIS when the alleged abuse took place.

And then, the Liberals go on to lecture the Conservatives (their leader is a human rights expert, so I’m told):

Liberal Foreign Affairs Critic Bob Rae said the Harper government’s record on standing up for Canadian citizens abroad shows that they either don’t care about the expectations of a “contemporary democratic society,” or they don’t understand them.

“Whatever the case, it is unacceptable, and their complicity in human rights violations around the world must stop,” said Mr. Rae, adding that Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan’s response to the report was highly inadequate. “Our laws make it very clear how Mr. Khadr should have been treated. Clearly, there needs to be better oversight on how CSIS conducts its business overseas. And clearly he must be brought home.”

Michael Ignatieff’s uncertain position on the civil liberties of terror suspects

“We have to chart a path somehow in which we make some hard choices, some lesser evils, that is to say I’m not sure we can keep to a pure civil libertarian position all the way, for example we might have to engage in the preventive detention of suspects on lower standards that we would use in a criminal case, we might even have to engage in certain forms of targeted assassination of terrorist enemies. These are evils in the sense that people get killed, people get hurt, we don’t keep to the fullest standards of due process, but they avoid greater evils which is that our society lays itself open to constant terrorist attack and in response we still do worse things to our constitutional fabric.” — Michael Ignatieff

“I think you can draw a relatively clear line between interrogations that subject a terror suspect to a certain kind of stress, a certain kind of sleep deprevation, a certain disorientation and you can keep that clear of torture.” — Michael Ignatieff

And in a letter he co-signed with Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe and NDP leader Jack Layton, (a lot of tri-partite letters have been signed lately) Ignatieff argues,

“It is also clear that Mr. Khadr has been subjected to conditions of confinement and interrogation that Canadian courts have found violate international prohibitions against torture and other forms of cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment.” — Michael Ignatieff

I find Ignatieff’s ambiguity on this topic to be notable.

Also, Ignatieff is calling for the repartiation of Omar Khadr whereas Khadr should instead be granted full due process and face his accusers in the United States. Let’s clear up that matter before we embrace him with open arms and “call upon Prime Minister Harper to cooperate in these efforts [to repatriate Khadr] and ensure that appropriate arrangements are made through the provincial government of Ontario and appropriate members of civil society to provide for Mr. Khadr’s supervision and reintegration into the community upon his return to Canada.”

Omar Khadr: try him but not here

The status of Omar Khadr has been an issue that has been hotly debated in Canada and one that has recently seen media attention around the world with the airing of over seven hours of CSIS interrogation video of the boy at Guantanamo Bay.

It has also been one of intellectual conflict for conservative thinkers and hawkish Canadians. As a conservative, I have for the most part found intellectual solace in logic on issue tracks where my bleeding-heart friends usually hug the emotional left rail. The broad-arching free markets help rise more people out of poverty than knee-jerk social and emotional reaction to give hand-outs to sustain a substandard of living is but one example where cold right-wing logic is a better and more constructive end that short-sighted albeit well-meaning emotionalism. I have always believed that right-wingers act upon what they know to be true, whereas left-wingers act upon what they feel to be true.

And on the issue of Omar Khadr, I see a departure of my usually logic-minded friends on the right to irrational emotionalism usually reserved for the left.

There are a few indisputable facts about Omar Khadr that we should realize and consider through a logical lens in order to proceed both in manner true to our cold sense of objectivity and in harmony with our values as but one element of modern Western civilization.

  • Omar Khadr is alleged to have thrown a grenade that killed an American medic in 2002.
  • Omar Khadr is a Canadian citizen. This is true as a fact and our emotional reaction to his family’s own irrationalism and Khadr’s own alleged actions does not change the truth of this fact. While Khadr spent most of his life in Afghanistan or Pakistan, he remains a legal Canadian citizen. Our government has the responsibility to enunciate our values on Khadr.
  • Every single person held in custody ought to be afforded the due process of law. There are exceptions that have been made when national security has been at stake yet Khadr has been held since 2003 and cannot be reasonably considered as a valued source of intelligence at this time. To deny Khadr due process is more fundamentally an affront to the basis of our values as modern civilized states in that we value the rule of law as constituent of the foundation that undergirds our society.

While Omar Khadr should not be left to rot at Guantanamo Bay, does this mean that Omar Khadr should be returned to Canada to face Canadian justice?

No.

Omar Khadr ought to face justice against his American accusers and stand trial before an American court. Guantanamo Bay cannot provide the justice that Americans deserve as Gitmo itself robs that society of two of its fundamental values: due process and the rule of law.

This conclusion of course will lead to some uncharacteristic emotional outcry from conservatives and most reaction will not be based upon the cold logical reason that is usually the hallmark of our ideology.

But, let’s go to first principles. Omar Khadr doesn’t himself deserve to be released from jihadi limbo at Gitmo and tried before an American court. However, as individuals who are defending a society based upon key values such as due process, presumption of innocence, and the rule of law, we deserve it. Khadr’s present threat does not manifest itself in his illiberal hatred of our culture, it rests instead in the extent to which we are to make our own values malleable in order rationalize our understandable but illogical emotion.

There is inconsistency on the Liberal side too, of course. Khadr was captured, interrogated and held under approval from the previous Liberal administrations. For them to demand his return, shows intellectual dishonesty and absurd emotionalism.

Khadr should not be returned to Canada, as we do not simply return Canadian citizens to Canada when they run afoul of the law in the United States. However, to complete this logical loop, Khadr must face the law in an American court. With both US Presidential candidates calling for the closure of Guantanamo, Prime Minister Harper would be wise to call for Khadr to face American due process.

Omar Khadr interrogation – supporting documents

Tomorrow, video of the Canadian/American interrogation of Omar Khadr at Guantanamo Bay will be released to the public. DVDs containing the video are said to run 7.5 hours long and Khadr’s defence team will be releasing a “highlight” video for the media.

Here are the documents describing Khadr’s interrogation

Read this document on Scribd: omar-khadr-interrogation

My question for John McCain

Senator McCain initially jokes that he’s non-committal on making Canada his first foreign visit, however, he followed this up with the following,

“Certainly, I think that that [first POTUS foreign trip to Canada] is a precedent that there’s every argument to follow that”

“I think it was very appropriate that both President Reagan and President Clinton took a trip to Canada before they took any foreign travel.”

— Senator John McCain

Senator McCain’s visit to Canada as a presumptive nominee for President is unprecedented in history. Before yesterday, no other such candidate for President, Democrat or Republican, has come to Canada during an election cycle.

I wanted to ask a question that was simple, and had the potential for headlines. I believe that McCain’s answer to my question indicates that he sees no reason not to follow the precedents set by Presidents Clinton and Reagan to make Canada his first foreign visit.

Three reporters focused on NAFTA-related stories even after McCain mentioned that he would not address the red meat of the NAFTA-leak story that many Canadian national reporters were after. I felt that these questions were guaranteed to provide non-answers.

Another question regarding Omar Khadr was important and elicited a somewhat uncomfortable shift of burden upon the Canadian government; McCain had mentioned his policy to shut down Guantanamo Bay as a detention facility but may have put Foreign Affairs on guard when he mentioned that Canada has not actually sought to intervene for Khadr.

I felt that Global reporter Ben O’hara-byrne’s question elicited one of the more interesting exchanges as Senator McCain formulated his own on-the-spot policy regarding the exportation of Canadian water and water-security. McCain indicated that it was not a strategy that he would likely be supporting.