Omar Khadr should face justice in the U.S.

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The Article

It doesn’t look like Omar Khadr will be packing his suitcase and heading to Canada any time soon. Last Friday, U.S. Attorney-General Eric Holder announced that the Canadian citizen and alleged terrorist will face prosecution for war crimes before a U.S. military tribunal.

The decision has raised the ire of Canadian activists who seem more concerned that the 15-year-old Khadr was deprived of sleep by his captors (isn’t that the homeostatic condition of all teenagers?) than the fact he was shooting bullets and slinging grenades at the U.S. military. Since the U.S. is Canada’s chief ally in the war against terror in Afghanistan, little Omar was, technically, waging war against Canada—the very country he now expects to rescue him.

Khadr is now 23 and has spent almost eight years at Guantanamo Bay as a guest of the U.S. military. He hasn’t had a trial, although two trial dates have been cancelled and Khadr seems to have a hard time keeping his lawyers.

Consequently, no one can agree on what to do with Khadr. Some believe Canada should abandon him to face his much-deserved fate.

But others claim violations of his rights as a child should prompt the Canadian government to intervene and bring him home or, at worst, bring him home to face “due process under Canadian law.” CSIS documents suggest that, while imprisoned, Khadr was threatened with rape, kept alone and frequently moved as a form of sleep deprivation. If true, the first act is appalling, but I have no problem with the latter two and would hardly consider them significant forms of torture.

Records also indicate Khadr almost died from the wounds he suffered during the firefight, but he still had sufficient strength to throw a grenade at an army medic who approached him when the battle was over. The medic was killed, but American doctors at Bagram Air Base still worked to save Khadr’s life through the compassionate use of their limited military resources.

Two lower courts have ruled Ottawa has a duty to seek his repatriation because the principles of international law obligate Canada to protect children, child soldiers and repudiate torture. The Supreme Court of Canada heard the government’s appeal last week, and the resulting discussion suggests the court may be reluctant to uphold the previous court decisions.

Khadr’s family has already used its Canadian-Citizen-Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card—and it proved to be an embarrassment and danger to Canada. In 1995, his father Ahmed was arrested for his alleged involvement in terrorist attacks on the Egyptian Embassy in Pakistan. Prime Minister Jean Chretien took action to secure his release—only to later find out he was a member of al-Qaeda and a close associate of Osama bin Laden.

Omar’s three brothers also have connections to al-Qaeda. Abdullah and Abdurahman are alleged trained al-Qaeda terrorists, and Omar’s younger brother Karim was seriously injured in a firefight with Pakistani soldiers. That battle resulted in Ahmed’s death and prompted Mommy Dearest, who publicly stated she would be proud for her children to be martyred fighting the west and to also demand her family be allowed to return to Canada to enjoy all the rights and privileges (like free health care for Karim) of Canadian citizens.

So the Khadrs have a habit of living in Pakistan or Afghanistan and plotting against Western civilization, then claiming Canadian citizenship for protection from the consequences. If Omar and his fellow Khadrs walk like terrorists and talk like terrorists, then they are probably terrorists. It’s time for Canada to say enough and let them pay the price for their convictions.

Much has been made of the fact that Omar committed his crimes at a time when he was too young to be charged. But the Youth Criminal Justice Act in Canada holds a youth responsible for their crimes at the age of 12. A 15-year-old who commits murder or treason—no matter what the circumstances—might find even less favour in the Canadian courts.

Others are concerned that a military tribunal doesn’t afford defendants the same constitutional rights that U.S. citizens have when they go before the courts. But Omar is not an American citizen and, frankly, in my view he gave up his rights as a Canadian citizen when he went to war against Canada and its allies. Do you think we would have the same amount of hand-wringing over young Omar if he had killed a Canadian soldier or fought against Canadian troops?

Terrorism is no longer limited to acts in faraway countries and terrorists no longer live only in faraway countries. Terrorism is now here in North America, and common sense dictates that there must be another set of rules and justice during extraordinary circumstances such as war and terrorism. The only way to win this war is for Canadians and Americans to finally accept these realities.

Susan Martinuk
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