5.24.2008

khadr ruling is mostly symbolic

When it comes to Omar Khadr, any positive news is very welcome. But I think our jubilation over yesterday's Supreme Court ruling was out of proportion to its reality.
Omar Khadr won a limited victory in the Supreme Court of Canada Friday, but his lawyer had hoped for more.

In a 9-0 ruling, the SCC said that Khadr has a constitutional right to material related to interviews conducted by Canadian officials in 2003 at Guantanamo Bay.

But the ruling allows the government to object to releasing some documents for national security reasons. The SCC ruling also said that Khadr does not have the right to access some of the documents that Ottawa holds regarding the case.

Khadr's Canadian lawyer, Nathan Whitling, told Canada AM that the ruling contained both "good and bad news."

Whitling said that he won't get many of the documents he wanted.

A Federal Court judge will review the materials and decide which ones to disclose.

An analysis in the Globe and Mail notes:
Yesterday's Supreme Court decision came as no surprise, and likely does little to help Mr. Khadr's legal case in Guantanamo Bay; defence lawyers had already seen much of the information deemed releasable.

Instead, the ruling's importance lies in the fact that it represents another setback for the Canadian government, which has so far strongly resisted acting on Mr. Khadr's behalf. Indeed, for a defence team that readily admits that Mr. Khadr's only hope is for the Canadian government to act, a Supreme Court ruling that says Guantanamo Bay was essentially an illegal operation is a significant coup.

Defence lawyers were quick to note the symbolic significance of the ruling yesterday, rather than its practical effect.

"I think the most important aspect of it is that the Supreme Court has said that Guantanamo Bay is illegal," said Lieutenant-Commander Bill Kuebler, Mr. Khadr's U.S. military lawyer. "And yet the Canadian government continues to do nothing to intervene on behalf of Omar Khadr."

. . .

With only a small practical victory to draw from the Supreme Court ruling, Mr. Khadr's defence team must now wait to see if this latest development further tips public perception in favour of their client.

Myriad human-rights and legal groups, as well as all three federal opposition parties, have already called for Mr. Khadr's repatriation. Weighing against that, however, is Mr. Khadr's hugely unpopular family.

It remains to be seen whether yesterday's Supreme Court ruling is enough to persuade the Conservative government that the pros of not acting to bring Mr. Khadr home are now outweighed by the cons.

This is sickening.

Omar Khadr was 15 years old when his alleged crimes may or may not have taken place. He is a Canadian citizen. He has been abused, imprisoned illegally, and denied due process. For seven years!

And he is the only westerner still imprisoned in Guantanamo, because the governments of every other developed country moved to bring their citizens home.

Can you imagine if any other country except the United States was holding Omar Khadr?? The outcry that would ensue? The horror and condemnation, the demands for his release?

The Harper government's inaction on this is shameful and inexcusable.

4 comments:

Gazetteer said...

It is sickening.

And there are, apparently, some questions about conflicts of interest re: the judge who will make the final ruling on what is (and isn't) released.

.

L-girl said...

Thanks for the link, Gazetteer.

kim_in_to said...

But the ruling allows the government to object to releasing some documents for national security reasons.

Just so that the significance of this is clear...

In 2004, filmmaker Anise Wong did a documentary called "Whose Rights Anyway? Justice for Mohamed", about Mohamed Harkat, one of the five Muslim men accused of terrorism in Canada and imprisoned without charges or trial under a Security Certificate. In the film, Anise shows Mohamed's lawyer going over some documents obtained from CSIS which have questions and answers pertaining to Mohamed. Some of the answers are suppressed on the basis of National Security. One of those pieces of information was whether Mohamed speaks French.

L-girl said...

Thanks Kim.