(le français suit)
The BC Civil Liberties Association reacted to the reports of the settlement of Omar Khadr’s lawsuit against the federal government this morning, and to the commentary surrounding the supposed settlement. Josh Paterson, Executive Director of the BC Civil Liberties Association, stated:
“This is very simple. It’s been proven in court that the federal government broke the law in its treatment of Omar Khadr. The rule of law demands that there be a remedy – no government can act as if it is above the law. The reported settlement and apology recognizes this principle that is critical to the protection of everybody’s rights. Omar Khadr’s rights were violated by the government of Canada. The highest court in the land ruled that Canada actively violated its international human rights obligations towards Omar Khadr. Canada participated in the unlawful and lengthy detention of a child under terrible conditions in Guantánamo Bay, violating his rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Given the length of his detention and his proven and serious mistreatment by the Canadian government, he was likely to succeed in his lawsuit against Canada and would likely have won a significant award of damages.”
Over the years, the BCCLA has been among the many organizations calling for justice for Omar Khadr. Canada’s treatment of Omar Khadr was nothing short of shameful. Omar was 15 when he was captured and accused of killing a US serviceman. Under any version of events of what happened during that firefight, it cannot be disputed that Omar was a minor, which means that even if he was directly involved in the fighting, he is still a child soldier. And it is uncontroversial that, as a matter of international law and practice, child soldiers are to be considered as themselves victims of war, and must be treated accordingly.
As a child and a Canadian citizen, Canada should’ve been protecting Omar. The Canadian government should have immediately sought his repatriation, so he could have been removed from the lawlessness of the Guantánamo regime and rehabilitated here in Canada. It should have advocated for his rights as a minor and as a Canadian citizen. But the Canadian government did none of that.
Instead, it sent its agents to assist the Americans with their interrogations, notwithstanding the fact that Omar had told them that he had been tortured. Eventually, the Canadian courts found that this conduct constituted complicity in the violation of Omar’s fundamental human rights, and established that Canada had violated Omar’s rights under our own Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Importantly, the Supreme Court of Canada also found that so long as Omar remained in detention in Guantánamo, the Canadian government would be in continuous violation of his Charter rights.
After a series of interrogations by Canadian agents (which only ended after a Canadian court ordered that they be stopped), the Canadian government simply abandoned him. One after another, countries like the United Kingdom and Australia demanded the return of their citizens from Guantánamo. Soon, Omar was the only citizen from the West that remained. Canada left him to face trial via military commission – a process that has been criticized by the BCCLA and around the world for its serious procedural deficiencies. It watched him enter a guilty plea, after a confession extracted under torture, in exchange for a reduced sentence and a promise that he would be repatriated to Canada after a year. He was eligible for return at the end of last October 2011. Canada then continued to refuse to approve his transfer, coming up with one excuse after another until almost a year had passed, and he was finally repatriated to a Canadian prison in September 2013. One and a half years later, he was released from prison on bail.
He filed a lawsuit in 2014 based on Canada’s complicity in his treatment, including torture, by the Americans. The federal government tried to stop him from making the legal claim, but the Federal Court ruled that he had the right to file the claim in 2014. That $20-million dollar lawsuit is what the federal government has reportedly settled, for $10-million and an apology.
Omar Khadr’s treatment by Canada was reprehensible. Our government cannot be permitted to commit such serious violations of an individual’s human rights – a child’s human rights – with impunity. If the reports of the settlement are true, such a settlement is clearly justified. Canada cannot undo the treatment to which Omar Khadr was subjected with its collaboration – but it can offer some measure of compensation in recognition of the violation of his rights, and his suffering.
(with contribution from Carmen Cheung, former staff lawyer for the BCCLA)
L’Association des libertés civiles de la Colombie-Britannique a réagi aux rapports du règlement du procès d’Omar Khadr contre le gouvernement fédéral ce matin et au commentaire entourant le règlement supposé. Josh Paterson, directeur exécutif de la BC Civil Liberties Association, a déclaré:
« C’est très simple. Il a été prouvé devant les tribunaux que le gouvernement fédéral a enfreint la loi dans son traitement d’Omar Khadr. La primauté de droit exige qu’il y ait un remède – aucun gouvernement ne peut s’échapper à la loi. Le règlement et les apologies reconnaissent ce principe qui est essentiel à la protection des droits de tous. Les droits d’Omar Khadr ont été violés par le gouvernement du Canada. Le plus haut tribunal du pays a statué que le Canada avait violé activement ses obligations internationales en matière de droits de la personne envers Omar Khadr. Le Canada a participé à la détention illégale et prolongée d’un enfant dans des conditions terribles à la baie de Guantánamo, en violation de ses droits sous la Charte des droits et libertés. Compte tenu de la durée de sa détention et de son traitement honteux par le gouvernement canadien, il était susceptible de réussir dans son procès contre le Canada et aurait probablement gagné une indemnité importante. »