When a 15 year old Canadian child named Omar Khadr was dug out of the rubble on July 27, 2002 he was so badly wounded he was not expected to survive.
At the age of ten he was uprooted from his life in Canada by his father and taken away to Afghanistan.
The UN Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict establishes that children younger than 18 who are involved in armed conflicts are Child Soldiers. This protocol was written in 2000, but it came into force on into force on 12 February 2002. This is an “optional” protocol, meaning there is no obligation for any nation to sign it. But Canada is a signatory to this. By signing and ratifying this protocol, the Canadian Government voluntarily chose to place Canada under its terms, so it it is no longer “optional.”
This protocol recognizes the fact that child soldiers are children, and children are not entirely responsible for themselves or their decisions. This is hardly a stretch: Canadian Law recognizes this too. We have a special set of criminal laws for children. Children are not allowed to sign legal contracts or legally able to consent for themselves; a parent or guardian is required to decide whether or not to consent on their behalf.
Omar Khadr was only 15 years old when the compound he was in in Afghanistan was attacked by the American military. Under Canadian Law he was a Child Soldier.
Omar Khadr was born Canadian. He has always been a Canadian citizen.
Canadians are guaranteed protections under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“Canada actively participated in a process contrary to Canada’s International human rights obligations and contributed to Mr. Khadr’s ongoing detention so as to deprive him of his right to Liberty and Security of the Person guaranteed by Section 7 of the Charter, contrary to the principles of fundamental justice.”
— Supreme Court of Canada, 2010
“The core issue repeatedly identified by the Supreme Court of Canada: in the pursuit of Justice and National Security, Governments must respect Charter Rights and Human Rights, and the Rule of Law.”
—Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale
Guilt or innocence makes no difference: all citizens, guilty or innocent are supposed to be protected by the Charter.
Guilt or Innocence?
What really happened is the subject of much hot debate.
CBC made this awesome documentary in
The US vs Omar Khadr Pt. 1 | CBC
What is very clear is that the only “evidence” supporting Omar Khadr’s charge and plea bargained conviction for killing anyone, was Omar’s confession. The problem is that Omar’s confession was made under duress when his American captors tortured him.
What is wrong with people that they have trouble understanding that torture is not only wrong, but not a reliable way to get at the truth? This cannot be stressed enough: TORTURE DOES NOT WORK. CIA documents freely admit, as has been known around the world for decades, that torture does not produce reliable or useful information. When someone is being tortured, they will tell their torturers anything they imagine the torturers might want to hear in their desperation to make it stop, and this information is almost invariably unreliable at best. Torture does not provide good, reliable, or useful information. Period. So torture justifiers are not only telling us “I don’t care if we behave as morally as Nazis, and I don’t care if we tortured bad guys or completely innocent people that had done nothing wrong” but also “I don’t even care whether it works or not, whether we got good or useful information of any kind at all.” It’s in black and white right there in the recently released documents: the torture program did not produce useful or reliable or true information, it only produced misery.
The CIA report on their own torture program clearly states that torture was ineffective and did NOT produce useful intelligence. That’s been reported in a dozen places, like here:
The people performing torture frankly admit that it doesn’t work
and there’s more here. Torture “is a poor technique that yields unreliable results, may damage subsequent collection efforts, and can induce the source to say what he thinks the interrogator wants to hear.” Not only is torture ineffective at gathering reliable information, but it also increases the difficulty of gathering information from a source in the future.
and indeed, torture has a very long and incredibly well documented history of being virtually useless for acquiring useful information
Omar Khadr, after being captured as a child and tortured for years, was told by his torturers that his only hope of ever ending the torture was to plead guilty. “His lawyers were told, You have two choices: You can plead guilty and you get another eight years in Guantanamo. Or you can plead innocent, in which case, you’re here forever. So those are the choices his lawyers were given, practically in those words.”
Condemning Khadr based on a confession acquired through torture is not justice. In this divisive and mean spirited age, let’s at the very least agree that we disapprove of torture. How can the bar possibly be set that low?
“Our rights are not subject to the whims of the government of the day.”
—Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould
Civil rights exist to protect citizens, they aren’t optional.
This is not a partisan issue— unless, of course, you consider the danger inherent in electing politicians who think its okay to torture citizens. Currently this is against the law in Canada. It doesn’t matter whether you are innocent or guilty, Canadian citizens have rights. Our governments are unaccountable enough now; the Supreme Court of Canada is holding it to account.