Canada: Open Letter to Ministers Peter MacKay and Steven Blaney on the Omar Khadr case
The Honourable Peter MacKay
Minister of Justice and Attorney General
284 Wellington Street
The Honourable Steven Blaney
Minister of Public Safety
269 Laurier Avenue West
February 11, 2014
We are writing to express Amnesty International’s ongoing concern that numerous, serious human rights matters remain unresolved in Omar Khadr’s case, in both Canada and the United States. A substantial amount of time has passed in his case. It has been more than eleven years since Mr. Khadr was taken into US custody in July 2002. It has been over four years since the second of two important Supreme Court of Canada rulings in his favour. And it has been almost eighteen months since Mr. Khadr was transferred to Canada to serve the balance of his sentence. It is time to resolve the outstanding human rights concerns.
As such, we urge the Canadian government to take steps to ensure full and proper review and resolution of the outstanding human rights concerns and related legal matters in Mr. Khadr’s case. Specifically, we call on the government to appoint a sitting or retired judge and provide him or her with a mandate to examine the range of outstanding human rights and other legal concerns in Omar Khadr’s case and make recommendations to the government as to how those concerns should be resolved.
By way of example, at this time there is no clear resolution to such matters as:
- Omar Khadr’s status as a child soldier at the time he was apprehended by US forces in Afghanistan and the implications of that status at all stages of his detention, including the present time.
- Whether Omar Khadr was subjected to torture or ill-treatment while in US custody in Afghanistan and at Guantánamo Bay.
- The failure of US authorities to launch an independent investigation of Omar Khadr’s allegations of torture and ill-treatment.
- The fairness of the Military Commission proceedings that led to Omar Khadr’s conviction and sentence.
- The lawfulness of Omar Khadr’s conviction being based on charges of murder and a war crime.
- The fact that there has not been any remedy for the violation of Omar Khadr’s rights under section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, violations for which the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled the Canadian government was responsible.
- Whether Omar Khadr should be categorized as a juvenile offender and detained accordingly.
- What Omar Khadr’s security classification and consequent location of detention should be.
Some of these matters have been the subject of legal proceedings in the past; others are at the heart of legal challenges or appeals underway at this time. With respect to the Supreme Court of Canada decision, it is the need to provide a remedy for rights violations that is outstanding. These various issues have implications for each other. And they have significant consequences for such fundamental questions as the lawfulness, length and conditions of his continuing detention; and justice, accountability and redress for any human rights violations he has experienced and continues to experience.
The issues are complex. The human rights consequences are grave. Requiring Omar Khadr to seek resolution through various and disconnected legal avenues in Canada and the United States is lengthy and cumbersome. The Canadian government has a responsibility to ensure that there is an effective remedy for any human rights violations that Omar Khadr may have experienced and may still be experiencing. That obligation is enshrined in international human rights treaties, binding on Canada, including article 2(3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The fact that some of these matters are the subject of ongoing legal proceedings is no bar to initiating a review of the sort we are recommending. If necessary and if agreeable to all parties, some legal proceedings could be suspended, in part or entirely, while the review is underway. It is possible, in fact likely, that the outcome of the review could help to streamline and expedite any legal proceedings that still proceed.
To reiterate, Ministers, Amnesty International calls on the Canadian government to appoint a respected former or current judge who is acceptable both to the government and to Omar Khadr to examine the range of outstanding human rights and other legal concerns in Omar Khadr’s case and make recommendations to the government as to how those concerns should be resolved. The government should make a prior commitment that it will comply with and implement all resulting recommendations that fall within its jurisdiction.
We would welcome an opportunity to meet with you or your officials to discuss this further.
Alex Neve Béatrice Vaugrante
Secretary General Directrice Générale
Amnesty International Canada Amnistie internationale Canada francophone
For further information contact John Tackaberry, Media Relations (613)744-7667 #236 firstname.lastname@example.org