EDMONTON – Granting bail to former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Omar Khadr while he appeals his war crimes conviction in the United States will cause irreparable harm to Canadian interests, the federal government argues in new court filings.
The government also maintains Canadians have no constitutionally protected right to seek bail when they appeal a conviction.
The material filed Monday is part of Ottawa’s 11th-hour attempt to block Khadr’s release from prison – which could come as early as Tuesday evening.
The government also filed its formal notice of appeal of the April 24 decision by Justice June Ross of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench granting Khadr bail, and wants the stay pending disposition of the case.
The last-ditch application, slated to be heard by a single Court of Appeal justice on Tuesday morning, says a bail stay should be granted because the government “will suffer irreparable harm” if Khadr is released.
The government said it would rely on an affidavit from Lee Redpath, a senior Correctional Service of Canada manager in charge of international prisoner transfers, but did not immediately file her document.
In a statement, a Khadr support group denounced the government’s “unrelenting vilification” of Khadr and their “knee-jerk” appeal of every court decision favourable to him.
“The rights, freedom and liberties of all Canadians are diminished by the actions of this government,” Free Omar Khadr Now said.
Ottawa maintains that Ross had no jurisdiction to hear Khadr’s bail application under the provisions of the International Transfer of Offenders Act – the treaty that saw him returned to Canada from Guantanamo Bay in September 2012 to serve out his eight-year sentence for five war crimes.
It also says allowing him out now would harm Canada’s relations with the U.S., and could jeopardize the repatriation of other Canadian prisoners under the treaty.
Ross was wrong to find that the right to seek bail pending appeal is a “principle of fundamental justice” enshrined in the constitution, the government argues.
She also failed to “consider Canada’s international obligations to treaty partners to continue enforcement of foreign sentences” in deciding it was not in the public interest to keep Khadr, now 28, behind bars.
The justice also was wrong to accept Khadr’s submissions that his appeal in the U.S. against his war crimes conviction has real merit and a strong chance of success.
Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said Ottawa has been consistent in its approach to Khadr – which has been to brand him as an unrepentant terrorist.
“We feel that Mr. Khadr, until a final decision is rendered by the court, should stay behind bars,” Blaney said Monday in Ottawa.
In 2010, the Toronto-born Khadr pleaded guilty to five war crimes – including murder for the death of an American special forces soldier – before a widely discredited U.S. military commission. The alleged offences occurred in Afghanistan in July 2002 when he was 15 years old.
He later said he only pleaded guilty to get out of Guantanamo Bay because the Americans could have held him indefinitely even if he had been acquitted.