Baird supports Libya's trial bid for Gadhafi son
Published Thursday, November 24, 2011 7:54PM EST
Ottawa is standing behind Libya's stated goal of conducting the war crimes trial of Moammar Gadhafi's son, even though the Canadian government questioned the nation's justice system a mere three months ago.
On Thursday, a spokesperson from Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird's office told The Canadian Press that Libya should have the final say on where the trial of Seif al-Islam Gadhafi takes place.
"In regards to this decision, this will be for Libyans to decide what's in their best interest, while respecting international laws," said Joseph Lavoie. "We expect any trial to respect the rule of law."
However, human rights groups have said that Libya's nascent justice system isn't set up to handle such a large case, and many advocates say that the younger Gadhafi should face trial at the international court in The Hague.
Complicating the issue, International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has affirmed Libya's push for a trial on home soil. Moreno-Ocampo added that Libya's provisional leadership has offered assurances of a fair trial.
Still, Canada's ambassador to Libya Sandra McCardell recently told a Commons committee that Libya's justice system just isn't equipped to deal with the trial.
"I have to say that I couldn't in good conscience defend the functioning of the current judicial system in Libya. I think there is not much doubt that the system that exists in Libya now does not meet most international standards for justice and rule of law," McCardell told the committee on Aug. 8.
The latest developments in the thorny international justice issue came on the same day that Canada honoured the military's role in liberating Libya from the decades-long clutch of Gadhafi.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife, Laureen Harper, attended the tribute on Parliament Hill under grey skies, while Gov. Gen. David Johnston inspected the guard of honour.
Canada flew about 1,000 missions, while warships patrolled off-shore and took a lead role in the effort to bring down Gadhafi's regime, with Lieut. Gen. Charles Bouchard commanding the entire NATO and coalition mission.
Bouchard was honoured by Johnston with the Meritorious Service Cross in recognition to his contribution to the mission.
"I am most humble about this decoration bestowed on me today," Bouchard said in a speech in the Senate. "I had the privilege of leading an exceptional international team.
"While I appreciate the honour bestowed on me today, in front of you ladies and gentlemen are the true Canadian heroes," he said referring to the Canadian Forces members sitting in the Senate chamber.
The citation for the medal said the lieutenant-general brought great credit to Canada "with his demonstration of exceptional operational and strategic acumen."
Harper commended all three branches of the Canadian military, which were all represented in dress uniforms inside the ornate red Senate chamber.
"When in comes to the Canadian armed forces, every day is a day of honour . . . but even by that measure today is special because we are celebrating a great military success," Harper said in the Senate.
Harper also made note of the 900 Canadian Forces members still serving in Afghanistan.
Johnston said Canada's ability to defend its democratic principles is one of its greatest strengths.
"Today the people of Libya face a new challenge in rebuilding their country," Johnston said.
Libya is a country "shattered but free to build a better future," he added.
Defence Minister Peter MacKay also spoke, saying it was Ottawa's responsibility to provide the equipment necessary for the military to do its job.
The ceremony included a low fly-past by military aircraft over Ottawa including: a CC-17 Globemaster, a CC-140 Aurora, a CC-130J Hercules, a CC-130 Hercules tanker, a CC-150 Polaris, seven CF-18 fighter jets and a CH-124 Sea King helicopter. Those types of aircraft were used in the Libya mission.
Johnston also undertook a formal inspection of members of the HMCS Charlottetown, along with air force personnel, special forces troopers and soldiers who participated in the mission.
Thousands of troops took part
Roughly 2,000 Canadian troops deployed to the region in March after the United Nations issued a resolution to protect civilians from troops loyal to Moammar Gadhafi.
That mission was declared complete on Oct. 28, eight months after it began and eight days after Gadhafi was killed.
MacKay said Thursday's ceremony was about saying thanks to the Canadians who did the work that helped keep Libya's people safe.
"This commemoration today is about Charles Bouchard, about the Canadians who took part in a very successful mission and helped protect people in Libya," MacKay told CTV News Channel.
Canada is keeping troops in the region with the HMCS Vancouver remaining as part of NATO's standing force in the Mediterranean called Active Endeavour.
Retired Maj. Gen. Lewis MacKenzie said he hopes the ceremony on Thursday is an idea that takes hold in Ottawa.
"This I hope is setting a precedent," MacKenzie told CTV News Channel from Ottawa, saying that other missions should receive the same honours in future.
There had been grumblings about the lack of a ceremony for the Afghanistan mission, as some critics said the government wanted to distance itself from an unpopular conflict in which 158 Canadians have died.