By Oscar Wailoo
Omar Khadr is finally out of jail, no thanks to the Stephen Harper government.
He and his government were told at least three times by the Canadian courts in unambiguous language that the ongoing effort to punish the Canada-born child soldier offends our Constitution in every way.
Khadr was 15 when he was captured in 2002 by invading American forces in Afghanistan and jailed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for 10 years for “murdering” an American soldier on the battlefield.
Linda McQuaig’s 2007 book Holding the Bully’s Coat: Canada and the U.S. Empire reminds us that the Afghanistan invasion was illegal.
After the September 11 attack, the U.S. insisted that Osama bin Laden was the mastermind and they wanted him handed over to face “justice” mere days after Mullah Omar, the Afghan leader, agreed this would happen if the U.S. could provide the evidence. Under international law, he was entitled to do so since it was not the Afghanistan government that did the deed.
According to McQuaig, “International law, as set out in the UN Charter, is very specific in defining scenarios under which war can be legally waged
“First, if a country is directly attacked, and there is no non-violent remedy, it can respond with military force in self-defence. The only other scenario – when the collective interest of international peace and security is at stake – requires the authorization of the UN Security Council.”
Quoting Michael Mandel, a law professor at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, she argues that: “… self-defence does not apply in the case of the U.S. attack on Afghanistan, since the U.S. launched wars against both Iraq and Afghanistan, even though it was not attacked by either country. In the case of Afghanistan, Washington never even tried for Security Council authorization.”
The UN Charter specifies “the parties to any dispute shall, first of all, seek solution by … peaceful means such as “negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement.”
Almost on the eve of the invasion, the Afghanis were still seeking a negotiated settlement but then-president George Bush demanded all al-Qeida members be handed over. Bush stated, “These demands are not open to negotiation or discussion.”
No negotiations occurred and Canada gave moral support for the invasion of Afghanistan without UN authorization. The invasion of Afghanistan was illegal.
During Khadr’s Guantanamo ordeal, he was questioned by Canadian security personnel (CSIS), who then provided the information to aid in his conviction in a U.S. military court. The Canadian court ruled it was illegal to share intelligence information with his U.S. jailers, and that Khadr’s constitutional rights were violated because the Canadians knew he was tortured. Recently, the courts took a few minutes to toss out another Harper challenge to Khadr being released on bail.
But our “national security” prime minister rages on against a child soldier who killed a soldier who had illegally invaded Afghanistan. Our local paladin, who after last year’s shooting at Parliament Hill, emerged from a broom closet raging against “terrorists” real or imagined, gives his blessing to Israel’s murderous assault on Gaza and praises the late Saudi King Abdullah as a strong proponent of peace in the Middle East even as Abdullah and his kin sponsored and armed the worst type of terrorist ever spawned in the Middle East.
International principles, conventions, protocols, humanitarian law and the Canadian Constitution insist we are legally and morally bound to acknowledge child soldiers like Khadr and “to support their social reintegration and to ensure that they are afforded the greatest protection possible.” But Harper and his cabinet rage on; humanitarian law and the Constitution be damned.
According to polls, about 30% of Canadians support Harper no matter what. The media euphemistically describe him as “a polarizing figure.”
Dennis Edney, Khadr’s lawyer calls Harper a bigot who doesn’t like Muslims. Green Party Leader Elizabeth May quipped, “Maybe he doesn’t like to be with humans” then added “Omar Khadr, you’ve got more class than the whole f—ing cabinet.”