'Mean-spirited' government punishing Khadr
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Tuesday, August 25, 2009 7:11PM EDT
Omar Khadr's lawyer says his client is being unfairly punished by the Conservative government, which has steadfastly refused to request his repatriation from Guantanamo Bay despite court rulings ordering it to do so.
Earlier this month, the Federal Court of Appeal upheld a lower court ruling in Khadr's favour and ruled the government must move to bring Khadr home.
On Tuesday, Ottawa confirmed it will fight the decision and take the case all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Khadr's Canadian lawyer Denis Edney said he is mystified by the government's continued refusal to bring Khadr home.
"Every Western country that has had a detainee in Guantanamo Bay has simply requested that their detainees come home, and that has happened," Edney told CTV News Channel.
Khadr is accused of lobbing a grenade that killed a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan in 2002, when he was 15. In seven years in Guantanamo Bay, he has not gone through a trial.
Edney said his client should should be treated as a child soldier, noting that Canada donates millions to help rehabilitate child soldiers from countries like Sierra Leone, because it considers them to be victims.
"And yet Omar Khadr is not afforded any protection from Canada. It boggles my mind, I just see it as a mean-spirited government that selects what type of Canadian it wishes to assist," he said.
While other Western countries have successfully managed to have their nationals brought home from Guantanamo to serve sentences at home, the Conservative government has declined to intervene on the young man's behalf.
It reinforced that position on Tuesday, saying justice should take its course.
"The Government of Canada has consistently stated that Omar Khadr faces serious charges," said a statement from the federal government.
"After careful consideration of the legal merits of the ruling from the Canadian Federal Court of Appeal, the Government has decided to seek leave to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court."
The statement also said that although U.S. President Barack Obama has indicated his intention to close Guantanamo, halt judicial proceedings and evaluate individual cases, he has not shared with Canada any decisions regarding Khadr.
"It is in our interest to wait for the outcome of these decisions just put forward by President Obama. The Government of Canada has taken its responsibilities with regards to Mr. Khadr, and we will also take our responsibilities when the U.S. Government shares its decision on this case," the statement said.
Khadr, now 22, has virtually grown up in Guantanamo, transforming from a teenager to a bearded and stocky young man over the course of seven years.
He has complained about being tortured during his imprisonment.
Canada's Justice Department has requested a stay pending appeal -- basically meaning the government would not be forced to act on the earlier rulings until a decision is made on the appeal.
It will be up to the Supreme Court whether or not it reviews the case. Edney said he will be arguing that the case doesn't belong before the court, and the earlier decision should stand.
Khadr is being held on charges of murder, conspiracy and support of terrorism.
In its decision earlier this month, the court of appeal upheld the Federal Court's earlier ruling that ordered Ottawa to press for Khadr's return.
The court said Khadr's rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms had been violated because Canadian officials interviewed him at Gitmo, then shared the information with their U.S. counterparts.
The decision upholding the appeal was split 2-1 between the three judges. Earlier, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said that because the decision was split, the government would consider filing an appeal.
Liberal MP and consular affairs critic Dan McTeague said in a release Tuesday that the Tories are dragging their feet.
"Harper's content to damage Canada's once proud reputation by doing nothing to safeguard Mr. Khadr's human rights."
The NDP's justice critic Joe Comartin echoed those concerns, saying in a release that "this government seems to have a masochistic streak ... how many times do they have to be told that they must abide by the Charter and protect the rights of Canadian citizens?"