Canadian Officials Knew US Abused Teen Prisoner at Gitmo
TheCameraObscura | August 14, 2009 at 06:37 pmby
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A federal appeals court in Canada ruled Friday that because officials knew about the abuse of a young Canadian detained at Guantanamo Bay, they must ask the United States to repatriate him.
In the ruling, Canadian judges Karen Sharlow and John Evans wrote, “The knowing involvement of Canadian officials in the mistreatment of Mr. [Omar] Khadr in breach of international human rights law, in particular by interviewing him knowing that he had been deprived of sleep in order to induce him to talk, ‘opens up a different dimension’ of a constitutional and justiciable nature.”
Khadr was arrested in Afghanistan in July 2002 when he was 15 years old for allegedly throwing a grenade that killed a US soldier, a charge he has denied.
The Canadian has been held at the US “war on terror” prison camp since October 2002, awaiting trial on charges of murder, conspiracy and support of terrorism.
According to unsealed secret Canadian government documents, Khadr, as a 17-year-old, was placed in a special program at Guantanamo that intentionally deprived him of sleep and moved him every three hours for twenty-one days in order to ready him to speak to government officials.
In April, Canada’s federal court agreed with Khadr’s lawyers that the government’s steadfast refusal to request his repatriation infringed on Khadr’s constitutional rights.
But the Canadian government appealed the decision and has consistently rejected pressure from opposition MPs, rights groups and others to bring Khadr home, saying it would wait for US proceedings to play out.
A spokesperson for Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon told Agence France-Presse on Friday, “The government of Canada is reviewing the [appeal court] decision.”
The Canadian government may still bring its case to the country’s Supreme Court.
Judges Sharlow and Evans were opposed on Friday by Judge Marc Nadon in a 2-1 decision.
“It is up to Canada, in the exercise of its powers over foreign policy, to determine the most appropriate course of action in dealing with the US with regard to Mr. Khadr’s situation,” Nadon wrote, according to The Globe and Mail.
In the April ruling, Federal Court Judge James O’Reilly noted that Khadr was not granted special status as a minor by US authorities and cited international treaties such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
He also took into consideration reports that Khadr was kept in isolation at the prison and subjected to sleep deprivation.
The government argued before the appeal court that it should have “unfettered discretion to decide whether and when to request the return of a Canadian citizen detained in a foreign country.”
It is “a matter within its exclusive authority to conduct foreign affairs,” said government lawyers, according to court documents.
But the appeal court ruled “there is no factual basis” to conclude the order presents “a serious intrusion into the Crown’s responsibility for the conduct of Canada’s foreign affairs.”
In today’s decision, dissenting judge Nadon wrote, “The Crown adduced no evidence that requiring it to request Mr. Khadr’s return would damage Canada’s relations with the United States.”
Courts in Britain, Australia, South Africa and elsewhere have previously found no clear duty to protect citizens in foreign countries.
But allegations that Canadian officials were complicit in mistreatment of Khadr triggered his constitutional rights, according to the original federal court ruling.
That ruling noted that Canadian officials had interrogated Khadr at the prison and shared information gleaned from him with US authorities.
Canada regularly checked on Khadr’s well-being and, in a diplomatic dispatch, “made it clear that it believed that Guantanamo Bay was not an appropriate place for a child to be kept in custody.”
But subsequently, Canadian intelligence agents became “knowingly implicated in the imposition of sleep deprivation techniques on Mr. Khadr as a means of making him more willing to provide intelligence,” the federal court said.
“In Mr. Khadr’s case, while Canada did make representations regarding his possible mistreatment, it also participated directly in conduct that failed to respect Mr. Khadr’s rights, and failed to take steps to remove him from an extended period of unlawful detention among adult prisoners, without contact with his family,” the ruling said.
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