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Americans seeking enforcement of U.S. judgement against Omar Khadr in Alberta

Former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Omar Khadr, 30, is seen in Mississauga, Ont., on Thursday, July 6, 2017.
Former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Omar Khadr, 30, is seen in Mississauga, Ont., on Thursday, July 6, 2017. Colin Perkel/CP

Canadian lawyers acting for the widow of an American special forces soldier have filed an application in Alberta – essentially duplicating one filed earlier in Ontario – seeking enforcement of a massive U.S. damages award against former Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr.

The claim calls on the Court of Queen’s Bench to recognize the judgment from Utah, and to issue a “corresponding” judgment in the amount of $173.88 million – the Canadian value of the US$132.1-million American award made in June 2015.

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“Given that Canada has substantially similar legislation in relation to civil actions for victims of terrorism, it is entirely consistent with the fundamental public policy of Canada to enforce the U.S. judgment,” the notice states. “There are no defences to enforcement and recognition that operate in favour of the defendant in this case.”

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According to the notice, bringing the Alberta action in parallel with the Ontario case is proper “given the territorial limitations of the respective judgment-enforcement regimes.” Calgary-based lawyer Dan Gilborn refused to discuss the proceedings on Thursday, saying his office was not authorized to comment.

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While the Alberta action was filed in early July amid word that the federal government was paying Khadr $10.5 million to settle a civil lawsuit, the lawyers acting for the Americans said they were having trouble serving notice on him.

“We have thus far been unable to locate Mr. Khadr for personal service, although we are aware that he has been residing in Edmonton, Alta., for much of the past two years,” Gilborn wrote Aug. 14 in a letter to Khadr’s lawyers, a copy of which was obtained by The Canadian Press.

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One of Khadr’s Edmonton-based lawyers, Nate Whitling, said on Thursday that it would be a waste of time and money to try two identical actions at once.

“It’s two duplicative actions and there’s no point in proceeding with both of them,” Whitling said from Edmonton. He also said the Alberta action had been filed too late.

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Both actions – the Ontario one was filed June 8 – are on behalf of relatives of U.S. special forces Sgt. Chris Speer, who was killed in Afghanistan in July 2002.

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Speer had been part of a massive American assault on an insurgent compound, where Khadr, then 15 years old, was captured badly wounded. Retired U.S. sergeant Layne Morris, who was blinded in one eye during the same operation, is a co-applicant.

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The applications – like the uncontested civil suit in Utah – lean heavily on Khadr’s guilty plea before a widely discredited military commission in Guantanamo Bay in 2010 to having thrown the grenades that killed Speer and blinded Morris. Khadr later said his confession to five purported war crimes was his only way out of the infamous prison and to return to Canada.

Khadr, 30, who recently got married, has been on bail in Edmonton for the past two years pending his appeal in the U.S. of his commission convictions.

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The Americans failed last month to get an injunction freezing Khadr’s assets – including the $10.5-million sources said the federal government paid him – pending outcome of the Ontario enforcement action.

However, in previous Ontario filings, Whitling argued against enforcement of the Utah judgment given its reliance on the military commission. Canadian courts are statute barred from enforcing foreign judgments that offend Canada’s public policy, he noted, and the Supreme Court has found the Guantanamo system contrary to Canadians’ concept of justice.

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“Officials at the highest levels of the Canadian government have already stated…that (Khadr’s) detention and prosecution in GTMO offended our most basic values and principles,” Whitling said in court filings.

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