By Michael Petrou - Monday, January 14, 2013 - 0 Comments
But the quasi-judicial process has no legal standing
Nina Toobaei last saw her younger brother, Siamak, in an Iranian prison in 1987. She kissed her hand and placed it against the glass dividing them. He did the same. Then she left Iran for a new life as a refugee in Canada.
Two years later, Siamak was given a day pass to visit family. On a trip to the market, he slipped away. Toobaei and her mother and father allowed themselves to believe he had escaped for good, and that one day they would hear his voice on the phone, or he would show up in person.
“Our eyes were on the door for 18 years,” she says. Her brother never came.
It wasn’t until one of Siamak’s friends and fellow prisoners wrote a memoir in exile that his family learned he had been recaptured and executed—one of perhaps 20,000 political prisoners killed by the Islamic Republic during the 1980s. Many, such as Toobaei’s uncle Bahman Nayeri, were leftists; others, including Siamak and another uncle, Bijan Nayeri, belonged to the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran, whose members actively fought the Iranian regime, including with bombings and assassinations. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, October 1, 2012 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Omar was incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay as its youngest inmate, subjected to torture, mind games and denied counsel for his first two years of detention. Ten years later, he is back in Canada after the grudging acceptance of a plea deal by our government. Omar is also the last Western detainee to be repatriated (all of whom have a 0 per cent recidivism rate). By all accounts, Omar fits the description of a child soldier, as defined by the Optional Protocol. Why have Canada and the U.S. ignored their treaty obligations?
Once a terrorist, always a terrorist, some believe. In their minds, Omar is a traitor who cannot change. They are willfully blind to successful rehabilitation programs of child soldiers.
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, September 30, 2012 at 1:12 PM - 0 Comments
Tuesday will mark ten years since this question was asked, seemingly the first time Omar Khadr was reference in the House of Commons.
Svend Robinson. Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Last July, Omar Khadr, a 15-year-old Canadian citizen, was arrested by the U.S. army in Afghanistan. To date, the U.S. has allowed the Red Cross access but has refused all Canadian consular access, in blatant violation of international law. I want to ask the minister this. What action is the government taking to ensure that this teenager will not be held at Guantanamo Bay indefinitely, tried before a secret military tribunal and possibly sentenced to death? What is Canada doing to defend the rights of this young Canadian citizen from this abuse of U.S. power?
Bill Graham. Mr. Speaker, my colleague opposite, who is very familiar with international law, will know that he is wrong in qualifying the right to consular access in these cases. This young man in an unfortunate situation was arrested in the course of having been accused of killing an American serviceman in the course of a conflict. There is no consular access in the course of conflicts or we would have had consular access to all of our prisoners during the second world war. We have access. We have requested to the United States to have access and it has assured us that we will have access. The Red Cross has assured us that the young man’s health is in good condition. We continue to press the United States to ensure that his rights will be protected, but I want to assure the House–
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, September 29, 2012 at 2:58 PM - 0 Comments
Omar Khadr’s lawyer talks to the Canadian Press.
Meanwhile, Khadr’s lawyers told the Canadian Press that they are surprised by Toews’ statements regarding continuing concerns over the case. ”We’re at a loss to understand why the government continues to demonize Omar and to stoke public opinion against him,” said lawyer John Norris. “We know him to be a kind, intelligent thoughtful young man who has tremendous potential and we know that he will live up to that.”
Norris said that the 26-year-old is happy to finally be back on Canadian soil. ”He’s finding it hard to believe that this has finally happened,” Norris said after speaking to his client by phone. ”His spirits are good. He is very, very happy to be home.”
Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae has released a statement.
“Omar Khadr’s return to Canada is long overdue. Mr. Khadr, a Canadian citizen, was a child soldier. It is extremely unfortunate that it took the Conservative government this long to fulfil its responsibility to bring him back to Canada.
Now Mr. Khadr will serve the remainder of his sentence under the supervision of the Canadian correctional system, and we can ensure that he receives proper treatment and rehabilitation.”
And a statement from the NDP’s Paul Dewar and Wayne Marston.
Today, the Conservatives ended nearly a decade of unnecessary delays and allowed Omar Khadr to serve out the remainder of his sentence in Canada. Canada is the last Western country to repatriate their citizens from the discredited Guantanamo prison system.
Mr. Khadr’s return to Canada was inevitable, yet the Conservatives chose to drag this process out for years at great cost to taxpayers. Their mishandling has hurt our relationship with the United States, our closest ally, and tarnished Canada’s reputation on the international stage.
Both the Supreme Court of Canada and the U.S. Supreme Court, based on the full facts of this case, have found that the military commission proceedings in Guantanamo violated both U.S. domestic law and Canada’s international human rights obligations.
Conservatives have previously faced court judgments against them for their mishandling of the case and failure to respect human rights.
The government should now allow Mr. Khadr to be handled by Canadian authorities in accordance with Canadian law, free from interference.
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, September 29, 2012 at 10:09 AM - 0 Comments
Omar Khadr arrived in Canada this morning at 7:40am and has been transferred to Millhaven maximum security prison in Bath, Ontario.
Here is the official explanation from Public Safety Minister Vic Toews.
And here is the statement Mr. Toews delivered to reporters this morning.
Good morning. I will be making a short statement.
Early this morning, convicted terrorist Omar Khadr was transferred to Canadian authorities at CFB Trenton.
This was done pursuant to a decision I made earlier this week.
He arrived at 07:40 ET aboard a U.S. Government aircraft travelling from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
He has been transferred from CFB Trenton to Millhaven maximum security prison at Bath, Ontario.
Omar Khadr is a known supporter of the Al-Qaeda terrorist network and a convicted terrorist.
He pleaded guilty to the murder of Sergeant First Class Christopher Speer, an American Army medic, who was mortally wounded in a firefight in Afghanistan on July 27, 2002 and died on August 6, 2002.
Omar Khadr also pleaded guilty to:
• Providing material support for terrorism;
• Attempted murder in violation of the law of war;
• Conspiracy and spying
Omar Khadr was born in Canada and is a Canadian citizen. As a Canadian citizen, he has a right to enter Canada after the completion of his sentence.
This transfer occurs following a process initiated by the United States Government and determined in accordance with Canadian law.
The remainder of his prison sentence will be administered by the Correctional Service of Canada.
I am satisfied the Correctional Service of Canada can administer Omar Khadr’s sentence in a manner which recognizes the serious nature of the crimes that he has committed and ensure the safety of Canadians is protected during incarceration.
Any decisions related to his future will be determined by the independent Parole Board of Canada in accordance with Canadian law.
The official announcement from the U.S. Defence Department is here.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, September 28, 2012 at 3:50 PM - 0 Comments
Is he lying, manipulating? Is he sincere? Search me. If it’s a calculated routine, it’s a complicated one. The fact is, we simply don’t know what’s going on in Omar Khadr’s head, his political thoughts, his potential for violence, his chances for successful integration in Canadian society. Anyone who tells you otherwise — certain he’s a bomb waiting to explode, certain he’s a gentle lamb — is simply grasping at his preferred straws.
Never mind humanitarianism for now. The smart public safety play, from the day of his capture under a Liberal government, was to take an active interest in precisely these questions, in hopes of him coming home, as he must, as well-adjusted and pacified as possible. At every turn, Ottawa has rejected that approach, and no doubt there are more stall tactics to come. Personally, my hunch is that he is not particularly dangerous. But I’d rather wager as little of my safety on that as possible. If he is, in fact, a threat, it’s hard to see the advantage, in Dr. Welner’s memorable phrase, of him continuing to “marinat[e] in a community of hardened and belligerent radical Islamists” at Guantanamo Bay.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, September 14, 2012 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
Vic Toews suggests Omar Khadr won’t be home for Christmas.
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews shot down as erroneous a report that said convicted terrorist and murderer Omar Khadr would be back in Canada in November. ”The process in regular transfer of offenders situation is about nine months,” Toews told reporters Thursday. “We received his application in April.”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 4:43 PM - 0 Comments
The Harper government tries to explain why it hasn’t made a decision about Omar Khadr yet.
The Canadian government claims in court documents that they only became aware of psychological assessments of Guantanamo prisoner Omar Khadr through media reports in February, despite the fact that the existence of this material had been widely reported since 2010.
The tapes he sought apparently landed on his desk on Sept. 7, but Vic Toews hasn’t viewed them yet.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 at 8:19 PM - 0 Comments
The Huffington Post reports that “while Public Safety Minister Vic Toews is not expected to formally communicate the decision for several weeks … the Conservative Government will approve Khadr’s transfer from the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay and plans are afoot to house the 25-year-old Canadian in a federal institution with a segregated space for his own safety.”
The Prime Minister’s Office says, “False. No decision made.”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, September 6, 2012 at 4:21 PM - 0 Comments
The videotapes and transcripts that Vic Toews demanded have now been delivered. It has now been nearly two years since the Harper government told the American government that it would look favourably on Omar Khadr’s transfer to Canada.
Last week, Michael Friscolanti looked at speculation that Mr. Khadr was sexually abused in Afghanistan. We’ve also posted five psychiatric reports on Mr. Khadr here, here, here and here, as well as a transcript of Michael Wellner’s testimony at Mr. Khadr’s trial.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, August 31, 2012 at 11:36 AM - 0 Comments
Ministerial instructions to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, RCMP and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) leave the door open to the kind of information exchanges that led to Arar’s torture in Syria a decade ago, says Toronto lawyer Lorne Waldman.
“It’s extremely disappointing that after all of these years, and after all of the effort, we’re not any further ahead than we were,” Waldman said in an interview.
The New Democrats and Liberals registered their objections earlier this week.
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, August 25, 2012 at 12:59 AM - 0 Comments
The Canadian Press reports that directives have been issued to the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency to explain how the agencies can use information when torture might be involved.
As with the directive to CSIS, the instructions from Mr. Toews to the RCMP and the border agency apply to information sharing with foreign government agencies, militaries and international organizations. They say Canada “does not condone the use of torture” and is party to international agreements that prohibit torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.
The directives add that “terrorism is the top national security priority” of the government and it is essential that the RCMP and border agency maintain strong relationships with foreign entities and share information with them, as well as with domestic agencies. They say that in “exceptional circumstances” the RCMP or border agency “may need to share the most complete information in its possession,” including information foreign agencies likely obtained through torture, “in order to mitigate a serious risk of loss of life, injury, or substantial damage or destruction of property before it materializes.” “In such rare circumstances, ignoring such information solely because of its source would represent an unacceptable risk to public safety.”
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, July 27, 2012 at 5:48 PM - 0 Comments
Liberal Senator Romeo Dallaire releases a statement on the tenth anniversary of Omar Khadr’s capture in Afghanistan.
Today marks the 10th anniversary of Omar Khadr’s capture—a Canadian citizen and former child soldier. During his decade at Bagram and Guantánamo Bay, Mr. Khadr’s rights have been consistently violated. He has been denied the right to due process and a fair trial, the right to protection from torture and the rights afforded to him under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“After years of inertia, Canada finally agreed to Mr. Khadr’s return in 2010, as long as he served one additional year in Guantánamo. That year has passed, and yet the transfer request continues to gather dust on Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews’ desk, awaiting his signature.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, July 20, 2012 at 12:20 PM - 0 Comments
Three months after first receiving Omar Khadr’s application to return to Canada—and 21 months after the Harper government assured the American government that it was inclined to look favourably upon such an application—Public Safety Minister Vic Toews says he needs more information.
In a formal letter sent Thursday to both U.S. defence secretary Leon Panetta and Khadr’s Toronto lawyer, John Norris, Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews states that in order to have Khadr sent back to serve the remainder of his sentence in Canada, officials north of the boarder must be given access to sealed video footage of separate interviews with Khadr that were carried out by two psychiatrists during the lead-up to Khadr’s trial in 2010.
Toews also stated complete reports from Dr. Michael Welner and Dr. Alan Hopewell have not been supplied to Correctional Service of Canada and the parole board, and that both are required to administer Khadr’s sentence in Canada, according to sources familiar with the letter.
As Jonathan Kay notes, there are questions about the involvement of Dr. Welner in this case. Reg Whitaker’s review of Ezra Levant’s book on Omar Khadr is here. Ezra Levant’s response to Whitaker’s review is here. More on Dr. Welner’s testimony here, here, here, here and here.
The CBC recently interviewed both Dr. Welner, who worked for the prosecution in Mr. Khadr’s case, and Dr. Stephen Xenakis, who worked for the defence.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 at 3:18 PM - 0 Comments
In October 2010, the Harper government assured the Obama administration that “Government of Canada is inclined to favourably consider Mr. Khadr’s application to be transferred to Canada to serve the remainder of his sentence, or such portion of the remainder of his sentence as the National Parole Board determines.” In October 2011, the Harper government managed to say both that it would respect the agreement between Mr. Khadr and the U.S. government and assert that that agreement had no bearing on the Harper government’s decision.
Mr. Toews says he’s still waiting for “relevant information.”
“I’m not going to make any decisions that would in any way jeopardize public safety. I have an obligation to satisfy myself that I have all of the relevant information before I make a decision,” Toews said in Saskatchewan. ”At this point I do not have all the relevant information and I will not be pushed into making a decision that would have me consider less than the full facts.”
Omar Khadr was first captured by American forces in Afghanistan on July 27, 2002. He was transferred to Guantanamo Bay in late October 2002.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, April 18, 2012 at 11:37 AM - 0 Comments
Though Vic Toews’ office has attempted to distance itself from Omar Khadr’s legal arrangement, the Harper government assured the U.S. administration that it would look “favourably” upon a transfer ahead of Mr. Khadr’s plea deal.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, February 13, 2012 at 11:29 AM - 0 Comments
All of this is to say that the conversation about what to do with tips from torturing states should not be about “never”. Instead, it should be about what the “extraordinary circumstances” are that Minister Toews speaks about, and what then can be done with the information. “Yes” to a search of Flight 182′s baggage. “No” to deporting someone on the strength of problematic information. Where to draw the line? In essence, that is the dilemma with which the Ottawa Principles try to grapple.
As for Minister Toew’s directive: Where I fault the directive is in its lack of precision: what does it mean by extraordinary circumstances, and what then can happen to the information. Where can it creep? A little Ottawa Principles-like language would be preferred.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, February 9, 2012 at 6:14 PM - 0 Comments
“Mr. Speaker,” the NDP House leader posited, “you cannot be half for torture. You are either for or against.”
Given those choices, the Defence Minister decided to go with latter. ”Mr. Speaker, our government has always respected the law and our position is clear,” Peter MacKay reported. “Canada does not approve of the use of torture and does not engage in this practice.”
Alas, this simple equation seems only to make perfect sense if you leave it at that. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, February 9, 2012 at 8:30 AM - 0 Comments
The idea that torture might be used to obtain the information necessary to avert a terrorist attack was revived in the wake of 9/11. Alan Dershowitz was a proponent. Michael Kinsley attacked the thesis in 2005.
The trouble with salami-slicing is that it doesn’t stop just because you do. A judicious trade-off of competing considerations is vulnerable to salami-slicing from both directions. You can calibrate the viciousness of the torture as finely as you like to make sure that it matches the urgency of the situation. But you can’t calibrate the torture candidate strapped down before you. Once you’re in the torture business, what justification is there for banning (as Krauthammer would) the torture of official prisoners of war, no matter how many innocent lives this might cost? If you are willing to torture a “high level” terrorist in order to save innocent lives, why should you spare a low-level terrorist at the same awful cost? What about a minor accomplice?
… In this cold, hard world, allegedly facing a challenge greater than any the civilized world has faced before, would you torture an innocent individual for five minutes in order to spare a million innocents from death? These would be wartime deaths, many of them more painful and grotesque than the laboratory torture you are sparing one lone individual. If you say yes, go ahead and torture an innocent person, you have pretty much abandoned the various exquisite moral distinctions that eased your previous abandonment of an absolute ban on torture. But if you say no, my own moral hygiene, or my country’s, forbids the torture of an innocent individual, even if the indirect but predictable consequence is a million human deaths, you are more or less back in the camp of the anti-torture absolutists whose simple-minded moral vanity you find so irritating.
Pressed after QP yesterday about Vic Toews’ chosen scenario, Jack Harris ultimately dismissed the premise.
This is the mythology that’s been built around torture, that torture can be used to extract true information. In fact, it’s been proven to be and shown to be totally unreliable.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 6:54 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. After offering a general appeal for clarity from the government—”What is happening on your side?” she begged—Nycole Turmel narrowed her complaint to a specific article of speech. In this case, a conjunction.
“Yesterday, the Minister of Public Safety said ‘information obtained by torture is always discounted. However…’ What does he mean by ‘however?’ she asked. “There is no ‘however.’ There is no ‘but.’ Torture is either condoned or it is not. Which is it? No ‘however.’ No ‘if.’ No ‘but.’ ”
Rising as today’s stand-in prime minister, Peter MacKay offered a perfectly straightforward response that entirely avoided the question. “But! But!” the New Democrat side mocked. “But! But!”
Ms. Turmel tried again, this time en français. Mr. MacKay did likewise. “Mais!” the New Democrats chirped. “Mais!”
Switching to English and stepping forward, the Defence Minister attempted to put this all in perspective. Or possibly to read aloud from a script he’d recently submitted to television producers. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, February 7, 2012 at 9:29 PM - 0 Comments
“I’m appalled at the moral bankruptcy of the Harper government. Torture has no place in a civilized world. We cannot condone torture and then talk to other nations about human rights,” said Dewar … “When Mr. Harper and his government condone torture, they are putting Canada on the same moral ground as regimes like Syria that practice torture. Our country should be a beacon for human rights not an enabler of human rights abuses” stated Dewar.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, February 7, 2012 at 6:30 PM - 0 Comments
“As long as there is a market for information derived from torture,” he posited, “torture will exist.”
Mr. Harris’ concern this day was the government’s quiet decision to allow for the use of information potentially obtained through torture. This after publicly renouncing the suggestion that it was operating under any such policy.
“Why,” the NDP critic wondered, “is the government getting Canada into the torture business?” Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, February 7, 2012 at 11:09 AM - 0 Comments
As I reported in September, the Harper government quietly directed CSIS in December 2010 that it could make use of information obtained through torture—this after publicly renouncing a CSIS lawyer’s public testimony that such information might be used. Jim Bronskill has now obtained the full text of the ministerial directive issued by Vic Toews.
The latest directive says in “exceptional circumstances” where there is a threat to human life or public safety, urgency may require CSIS to “share the most complete information available at the time with relevant authorities, including information based on intelligence provided by foreign agencies that may have been derived from the use of torture or mistreatment.” In such rare circumstances, it may not always be possible to determine how a foreign agency obtained the information, and that ignoring such information solely because of its source would represent “an unacceptable risk to public safety.” ”Therefore, in situations where a serious risk to public safety exists, and where lives may be at stake, I expect and thus direct CSIS to make the protection of life and property its overriding priority, and share the necessary information — properly described and qualified — with appropriate authorities.”
The directive says the final decision to investigate and analyze information that may have been obtained by methods condemned by the Canadian government falls to the CSIS director or his deputy director for operations — a decision to be made “in accordance with Canada’s legal obligations.” Finally, it says the minister is to be notified “as appropriate” of a decision to use such information.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 12, 2012 at 10:54 AM - 0 Comments
“Canada demarched the Afghan government on this issue,” a spokesman for Foreign Minister John Baird told Postmedia News. ”Our diplomats have expressed in the strongest terms Canada’s disappointment with the government of Afghanistan’s handling of this matter,” Joseph Lavoie said. “We also underscored that transitioning full security responsibility to Afghan control is an important process that must be carefully managed, with effective co-ordination among (International Security Assistance Force) partners.”
Meanwhile, the squabble over images of detainee hairdos could result in a Charter challenge.