185 Organizations and Individuals Write PM to Repatriate Omar Khadr
(Ottawa, Canada – February 3, 2009) – The Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN) and 185 organizations and individuals today wrote to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, calling on him to repatriate Omar Khadr. The list of signatories includes organizations like Amnesty International Canada, the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Arab Federation, and others. The list also includes Alexa McDonough, Alexandre Trudeau, Flora McDonald, Maher Arar, Monia Mazigh, Naomi Klein, Stephen Lewis and several other prominent Canadians.
The letter comes two weeks after U.S. President Barack Obama announced the closing of Guantánamo Bay, and amid the Conservative government's continuing silence on the status of the only Western national being held in the military facility.
The signatories note that the government's "inaction with regards to this important case, compared to your active involvement in other cases (such as the repatriation of Brenda Martin from Mexico), has been, rightly or wrongly, interpreted by the Muslim community as indicative that your government considers Canadian Muslims to be second-class citizens."
The signatories also write, "We do hope that your government will reverse its position immediately and ask for Omar Khadr's repatriation to Canada without any further delay. He deserves rehabilitation and justice and he can only receive them in his country of citizenship, Canada."
Dear Prime Minister Harper,
It was with grave concern and disappointment that we citizens of conscience, scholars, Imams, community leaders, lawyers, academics, activists and human rights and civil liberties organizations, received the news regarding your continuing refusal to intervene on behalf of Omar Khadr, the last western citizen still imprisoned in Guantánamo Bay. We are writing to urge you to reconsider that position and immediately take action to request that Omar Khadr be repatriated to Canada. The significant changes in US policy with respect to Guantánamo Bay, announced last week by President Obama, offer the Canadian government a remarkable opportunity to take action to defend Omar Khadr's rights. Silence is no longer an option.
We believe that your inaction with regards to this important case, compared to your active involvement in other cases (such as the repatriation of Brenda Martin from Mexico), has been, rightly or wrongly, interpreted by the Muslim community as indicative that your government considers Canadian Muslims to be second-class citizens. While we most certainly hope and expect that this does not in any way reflect reality, it is nonetheless crucial that you understand that this is a growing perception within the Muslim community. We believe that your government can help change this perception by immediately asking for Omar Khadr’s return to Canada, his country of birth, where he can be rehabilitated and eventually reintegrated into society.
Canada has played a key role in pressing for the rehabilitation of child soldiers such as those abused and exploited in Sierra Leone, Colombia, Sri Lanka and many other countries. That principled leadership cannot waver now, when it is a Canadian who is the child soldier. It has never been clear whether your government considers the definition of a child soldier to apply to Omar Khadr. In our view, there is no doubt, he most certainly was a child soldier at the time he was captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan.
In your public comments about Omar Khadr's case you have often stressed that your government considers the allegations against him to be very serious. However, revelations about the evidence against him cast more and more doubt as to the veracity of those allegations. Additionally, it is now clear that Omar Khadr has been tortured and abused, in Afghanistan and at Guantánamo Bay, by his American captors for over six years.
With the welcome news that the Guantánamo Bay detention camp is slated to be shut down by President Obama, the inescapable reality now is that your government must find a viable and fair solution for Omar Khadr’s case. Notably, several European countries have now indicated that they are prepared to resettle from Guantánamo Bay individuals who are not even citizens of their countries, out of concern that those individuals would be further mistreated if sent back to their countries of origin. Your government's refusal to intervene on Mr. Khadr's behalf stands in stark contrast to that spirit of generosity.
We do hope that your government will reverse its position immediately and ask for Omar Khadr’s repatriation to Canada without any further delay. He deserves rehabilitation and justice and he can only receive them in his country of citizenship, Canada.
Full list of signatories is here.