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Omar Khadr: Waiting for answers

The BCCLA National Security team has covered Omar Khadr’s continuing ordeal extensively over the past year, from Canadian courts to Guantanamo Bay. After weeks of rumours and speculation, the Guantanamo show trial will finally wrap up. Omar Khadr has pled guilty.

The fix had been in for years. No matter what, Khadr was likely going to be found guilty. He would be guilty of crimes that probably are not crimes outside of Guantanamo on the basis of evidence that would not be allowed as evidence outside of Guantanamo.

Khadr was 15 when he was first detained. He is now 24, and has been held in Guantanamo for over one third of his young life. With the guilty plea, he chose to get out of Guantanamo, maybe even return to Canada, before he turns 40. He may get to have an adult life. Without the guilty plea, he would have been kept in Guantanamo for a lot longer, at least until he was an old man, and perhaps until he died.

The military tribunal is not concluded, but has instead moved to a sentencing phase. The jury will come to a sentence to compare against the one in the plea agreement, and Mr. Khadr will serve the lower of the two.

So far, that sentencing phase has been an ugly spectacle. Perhaps the lowest moment came when an anti-Muslim psychologist gave evidence that, even if Mr. Khadr was not a threat when he was first brought into Guantanamo, he had spent years “marinating in a radical jihadist community” in the prison and had become too dangerous to be released.

While the tribunal may be winding down, this is not the end of the Khadr story. We are still not sure exactly what he has pleaded guilty to. We are not sure where he will serve his sentence, or how long that sentence will be. We are not sure what actions the Government of Canada will take to remedy his Charter rights, as required by the Supreme Court of Canada. So far Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon has continued to do what he has done all along—nothing at all.

What we are sure of is that almost everyone—the Government of Canada, the United States, his own parents—have failed Mr. Khadr terribly. History will not judge us kindly.