After a week of sentencing hearings, the Military Commission in Guantanamo imposed a 40-year sentence on Omar Khadr, 15 years more than the 25-year term requested by the prosecutors.
The military “jury” deliberating Mr. Khadr’s sentence had not been informed that he had already entered into a plea agreement for an 8-year sentence earlier last week. It reportedly wanted to “send a message” with the 40-year sentence, which Alex Neve has called “stunningly punitive”. (We here at the BCCLA National Security Blog must confess that we’re having a hard time discerning what message is exactly being sent, of course, but we digress.) The military panel’s sentencing decision was probably prompted in no small part by some of the inflammatory testimony heard over the past week.
By the rules of the Military Commission and the plea agreement, Mr. Khadr will serve the lesser sentence (8 years) — one year in the highest-security section of the detention facility at Guantanamo, and (if Canada honours its diplomatic commitment to the United States) the remainder in Canada, subject to Canadian law.
So now we wait to see if Canada will bring him home in a year’s time, and what Canada will do with an individual who’s pled guilty to conduct that arguably doesn’t constitute crimes in violation of the laws of war in any jurisdiction other than Guantanamo’s. And we’ll wait to see if the Canadian government will fulfill its obligations under our own constitution, and provide the long-awaited remedy for Mr. Khadr’s section 7 violations as ordered by the Supreme Court of Canada. We suspect that we’re going to have to be patient.