COMMENTARY: Omar Khadr should be charged with treason, not given $10.5 million
Every terrorist in the country will soon be lining up at the trough for a $10.5 million cheque.
Such is apparently the fate awaiting enemies of Canada according to the country’s own government, as seen in the settlement of a lawsuit by Omar Khadr, the man who confessed that at age 15 he threw the grenade that killed American army medic Christopher Speer in Afghanistan.
READ MORE: Canada has paid Khadr $10.5M: Source
Khadr’s actions in the 2002 firefight that killed Speer have not been tested in court in Canada, and his American appeal is not yet complete. He has not been exonerated — he’s simply out on bail.
Despite his Canadian citizenship, we must not forget that Khadr was an enemy combatant. Despite recanting his confession of killing Speer (he now says he doesn’t know whether he did it), Khadr was undeniably on the battlefield, and is also on video constructing improvised explosive devices (IEDs) — technology responsible for the deaths of 97 Canadians.
Whether Khadr’s devices killed any of them we’ll never know, but he was making deadly weapons. Surely he didn’t think it was simply an al-Qaida arts and crafts project.
For the last 15 years, Khadr has tried to hide behind protections of his Canadian identity despite fighting for the enemy in the most literal sense. If Canadians won’t accept the legitimacy of the American military tribunal, let’s litigate this on our own soil.
He should be treated as a defector and charged with treason — an offense without a statute of limitations, I’d remind Canada’s attorney general.
Canada’s criminal code says anyone who “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” is guilty of high treason, which carries a life sentence.
Canada’s mission in Afghanistan began in October of 2001, making the United States’ enemies our own as well.
Yet Khadr received a red carpet welcome when he was released from custody in 2015.
WATCH: Gov’t sympathizes with Omar Khadr victim’s family
He’s not a hero, nor is he a victim. But the misinformation about this case doesn’t stop there.
Contrary to claims circulating this week, the multimillion-dollar deal was not ordered by the Supreme Court or any other level. It was brokered behind closed doors by Khadr’s lawyers and government officials.
The Supreme Court did rule in 2010 that Khadr’s rights as a Canadian were violated at Guantanamo Bay, highlighting visits from Canadian representatives in 2003 and 2004, during the Chretien-Martin years.
“The deprivation of (Khadr’s) right to liberty and security of the person is not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice,” the court ruled in its unanimous decision. The court also affirmed the government should “decide how best to respond to this judgment.”
I don’t question the legitimacy of the Supreme Court, but it’s important to note that its justices were not interpreting international law, which forms the nuances of the Khadr case.
Anyone touting the government’s $10-million payout to Maher Arar as precedent is wrong. The RCMP was directly involved in the circumstances leading to Arar’s detainment and torture in Syria. And unlike Khadr, Arar was cleared of wrongdoing.
Khadr’s supporters see him as a “child soldier” and liken the military tribunal that convicted him to a kangaroo court.
According to testimony from lawyer Howard Anglin, speaking before the House of Commons’ international human rights subcommittee in 2008, Khadr was not a child soldier under international law, and his military tribunal was conducted in accordance with Geneva Convention standards.
Anglin cited a claim from Khadr’s own former military lawyer, Lt.-Cmdr. William Kuebler, that no law or treaty prevents prosecution of minors for war crimes.
Former United Nations human rights prosecutor David Crane agreed, saying it was a matter of prosecutorial discretion.
However, these legal arguments appear to take backseat to the emotional ones driving the narrative that Khadr is a victim of tragedy, rather than a perpetrator of it.
“No one reading this can say, with certainty, that his or her life would have turned out different from Omar Khadr’s if he or she was raised as he was,” said Jonathan Kay in a CBC column.
I agree that upbringing shapes much of one’s existence, but we must still be accountable for our own actions. We didn’t afford the benefit of the doubt to Nazi war criminals whose conduct could be linked to indoctrination, nor should we have.
Khadr’s father, Ahmed, was in Osama bin Laden’s inner circle. His older sister, Zaynab, has publicly praised bin Laden. His mother said in a CBC interview some years back that Canadians should wish their sons were as “brave” as hers.
If Khadr isn’t his father’s son, why has he not distanced himself from the family that set him up for failure?
Khadr was mature enough to know the consequences of his actions. I just wish the same could be said of the federal government.
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