Canada Agrees to Pay $10m Compensation to Brutalized Former Child Prisoner Omar Khadr, Held at Guantánamo for Ten Years
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Good news from Canada, as the Canadian government has agreed to pay $10.5m (about $9m in US currency) to former Guantánamo prisoner — and former child prisoner — Omar Khadr, who launched his suit against the Canadian government in 2014, after his return to Canada (in September 2012, after ten years in Guantánamo), but before he was freed on bail — in May 2015.
Disgracefully, the news has been greeted with a tirade of abuse — a deplorable state of affairs that I first noticed ten years ago, when I first starting publishing articles about Khadr (nearly 100 published to date), and that particularly came to my notice in the summer of 2008, after videotapes were released of Khadr, then 16, breaking down when interrogated by Canadian agents who visited him at Guantánamo, and who, he mistakenly thought, would help him. Check out some of the comments under my article if you want to see the kind of disgraceful comments that were being made at the time, and that continue to this day.
And yet the critics have absolutely no basis for their complaints, as Khadr was not only shamefully abused by the US authorities; he also had his rights violated by his own government, as Canada’s Supreme Court established in 2010.
As I explained in Canada’s Shameful and Unending Disdain for Omar Khadr, an article in January 2013, when Khadr was still imprisoned by the Canadian government, there months after his return from Guantánamo:
“Technically, the Canadian government is entitled to imprison him for another five years and ten months, according to a plea deal Khadr agreed to in October 2010. Under the terms of that deal, he received an eight-year sentence for his role in a firefight in Afghanistan that led to his capture in July 2002, with one year to be served in Guantánamo and seven more in Canada.
“Notoriously, however, the Canadian government dragged its heels securing his return, which only happened at the end of September last year, instead of in November 2011. This was typical, given that, throughout Khadr’s detention, his government ignored its obligations to demand his rehabilitation under the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, to which both the US and Canada are signatories, as did his US captors.
“So grave was the Canadian government’s violation of Khadr’s rights as a citizen that, in 2010, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that his rights had been violated when Canadian agents interrogated him at Guantánamo in 2003, when he was just 16. The Court stated, “Interrogation of a youth, to elicit statements about the most serious criminal charges while detained in these conditions and without access to counsel, and while knowing that the fruits of the interrogations would be shared with the US prosecutors, offends the most basic Canadian standards about the treatment of detained youth suspects.”
Further confirmation that critics should be silent came from Aaron Wherry of CBC News, who began his article, Why will Omar Khadr receive $10.5M? Because the Supreme Court ruled his rights were violated, by posting a tweet from Jason Kenney, the former defence minister, claiming,
“This confessed terrorist should be in prison paying for his crimes, not profiting from them at the expense of Canadian taxpayers.”
As Wherry explained,
“That much is consistent with a Conservative government that resisted repatriating Khadr, opposed his release on bail and might still be fighting Khadr’s lawsuit if it were still in office.”
He added that although the Conservatives are “now in high dudgeon,” they “should be familiar with both the 2010 ruling and a related judgment by the Supreme Court in 2008 that dealt with Khadr’s access to documents.”
He also stated, with particular relevance:
“Conservatives should also be aware of their own precedent for such compensation: it was Stephen Harper’s government that agreed to pay $10 million to Maher Arar in 2007, acknowledging the Canadian government’s actions may have led to his torture by Syrian officials in 2002.
“Three months ago, the Liberal government agreed to compensate Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Abou-Elmaati and Muayyed Nureddin after an inquiry found the actions of Canadian law enforcement officials had indirectly led to their torture in Syria and Egypt between 2001 and 2004.”
He also pointed out that there is “no argument now that any of those men are guilty of anything,” whereas Khadr pleased guilty at Guantánamo, although there is no reason to think that his guilty plea was actually a sign of guilt. As Wherry pointed out, Khadr “has argued that his guilty plea was the compelled result of a ‘hopeless choice,’” which he saw as “his only chance to one day return to Canada.”
I’d like to leave you, if I may, with a Facebook post by a friend, Elizabeth Pickett, which I think sums up the situation very well:
“Well once again for Omar Khadr, in the face of all the hate. He was a child. At the very very least he was a child soldier but he might not even have been that. There is no reliable proof that he hurt anyone and very reliable truth that he was captured, deliberately injured and not given adequate medical care, illegally detained, illegally tried and tortured.
Canada did absolutely [nothing] to stop any of this, to intervene on his behalf or to help him. We did much less than other countries did to intervene on behalf of their detainees illegally detained by the criminal state of the USA. Omar Khadr deserves every penny of the compensation he has been awarded and much much more. And no apology is adequate. I have no words for the contempt in which I hold people who are using this opportunity to express further racist Islamophobic moronic hatred. May Stephen Harper rot.”
Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp.
He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and the Countdown to Close Guantánamo initiative, launched in January 2016), the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, which called for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (finally freed on October 30, 2015), and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).
To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and The Complete Guantánamo Files, an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.
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