2011-04-30 Omar Khadr’s counsel: “There is nothing about this Canadian government that I trust”

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WL Central’s Heather Marsh spoke this week to Dennis Edney, the Canadian defense counsel for Guantanamo inmate Omar Khadr. Following is an excerpt from the interviews.

 

Click here to listen to the interview excerpt with Dennis Edney.

 

Photo credit: Colin Perkel / The Canadian Press

Transcript:

Have you read the Wikileaks release … the Guantanamo file on Omar Khadr?

Yes.

Do you have any observations on that?

Of course. I do. What is it that I should say about that? Well, the one thing that is striking is how unreliable the evidence is to keep people in Guantanamo Bay. So much of the evidence relied upon and detaining people in Guantanamo Bay is second-hand hearsay, unreliable, and not the kind of evidence that would stand up in any court of law, proper court of law.

What a lot of people got … or a lot of the media got out of Omar Khadr’s report is that he was being treated not so much as a criminal, but as an intelligence asset because of his family.

Which is quite … Absolutely. And what does it suggest? What intelligence does a fifteen year old boy have? What it was is that he was being held there because of his father. So, that’s what they were looking for … information about his father … and so, his son has been left to rot in Guantanamo Bay because the Americans want to know about the father.

Before his sentencing last fall the US and Canada exchanged diplomatic notes, where the US asked if Canada would consider favorably his application to be transferred to Canada, and Canada said they were inclined to favorably consider it. And then the Foreign Affairs Minister stood up in the House of Commons and said that their government would implement it. What do you think is the significance of that, and how confident are you that they will actually come through with that, and he will be coming home in the fall. We have had a few extradition cases that haven’t turned out so well …

Well, there is nothing about this Canadian government that I trust. In every single case that we have won, and in fact we have won every case that we have set about, the Canadian government seems to be interested, not in justice, but in wearing us out so that we will tire of fighting. What they do is that they appeal each and every decision. So there is not good intention on behalf of the Canadian government when it comes to Omar Khadr. I don’t know why that is, unless it’s just sheer bigotry.

Because the approach by the American government and the Canadian government towards Brenda Martin, who was convicted of fraud in Mexico and then we sent a private plane to bring her back, and we lobbied on her behalf, and yet we won’t do that for a young boy who has all types of international protection available to him, including being treated as a child soldier. So, no I don’t have any trust in the Canadian government. But, their own answer said that they would bring him back. We entered into a plea agreement based upon that, their commitment, and if they don’t carry through then I guess we will have no choice but to go ahead and fight them in court as we have been doing for the last eight years. Not something I look forward to.

I missed your last statement. Sorry.

I said it is not something that I look forward to. And, you know, I am sort of exhausted fighting the Canadian government, but I have no choice.


Omar Khadr was captured when he was fifteen years old, with two bullet wounds that went completely through his chest and shrapnel in his eyes. He was initially held in Bagram, where he was first ‘interrogated’ by convicted killer Joshua Claus, and then transferred to Guantanamo Bay, where he has been held for the last eight years. He was accused by the US government of killing a special forces soldier (described in the trial as a ‘medic’, referred to in the Guantanamo files and everywhere else as a Special Forces soldier), despite a great deal of evidence that hecould not possibly have done it. He was ‘tried’ in front of a US military tribunal last fall, for the non-existent crime “murder in violation of the law of war.” The trial was widely referred to as a show trial, both because Khadr had already been offered a plea deal, and because of the amount of irregularities apparent throughout the proceedings. He is the first child to be tried for a war crime since world war two.

Dennis Edney, who worked during the trial on a team headed by US military defense, has represented Omar Khadr for the last eight years, against the Canadian government. WL Centraldescribed some of the proceedings earlier:

The Canadian government has fought against providing Omar’s defense with the documentation regarding his case, resulting in a 2008 Supreme Court of Canada unanimous decision that the government had acted illegally, contravening §. 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and an order that the videotapes of the interrogation be released. In April 2009, the Federal Court of Canada ruled once again that Khadr’s rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms had been violated. It concluded that Canada had a “duty to protect” Khadr and ordered the Canadian government to request that the U.S. return him to Canada as soon as possible. In August 2009, the Federal Court of Appeal upheld the decision in a 2–1 ruling. In January 2010, in a unanimous 9–0 decision, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the participation of Canadian officials in Khadr’s interrogations at Guantanamo clearly violated his rights under the Charter but stopped short of ordering the government to seek Khadr’s return to Canada, leaving it to the government to determine how it would balance foreign policy and uphold Khadr’s constitutional rights.

Previous WL Central coverage of Omar Khadr here.

 

2011-04-29 WikiLeaks on Canada in time for the election #Elxn41 #wlcan #Cdnpoli

Just in time for the federal election in Canada, Wikileaks has released 2222 cables about the Canadian government. With two days until the election, this is a crowd sourcing job.

Wikileaks has asked people to post their findings on reddit or you can tweet them with the following hashtags (in order of importance): #Elxn41 #wlcan #Cdnpoli

Or you can add them to the comments below.

 

 

 

2011-04-29 Canadians plot to bring down a government they haven’t voted for yet #Elxn41 #wlcan #Cdnpoli

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As pollsters and pundits all agree that none can guess what the votes, much less the seats will look like after the May 2 election, almost all of the possibilities are anything but straightforward. A Conservative majority would be straightforward, and may happen. Ontario controls 106 of Canada’s 308 seats and is subject to a three way vote split in many ridings. The latest EKOS seat projection states it is conceivable that the Conservatives could back into a majority with just slightly more than one-third of the overall votes. This would see the Conservatives in power until they call another election.

Other than that, here are the options likely now:

1. The Conservatives win a minority government. This we have seen for five years. The Conservatives will then be open to another non confidence vote, which may bring their government down for a third time. They were not able to pass their budget in March so would probably have to bring it before the House soon. Or not. One idea from Murray Dobbin:

A number of constitutional experts are already mulling over the possibility of what some refer to as a kind “informal constitutional coup” – Harper refusing to accept the results of a non-confidence vote. According to a Hill Times story quoting University of Ottawa constitutional law expert Errol Mendes, ignoring such a vote “…would amount to a sort of informal constitutional coup. Essentially that position he’s taking is he’s not the Prime Minister shackled by the will of the people, he’s the elected president of Canada.”

Queen’s University professor Ned Franks, stated: “If it’s early in the new Parliament, if it’s a defeat on a vote of confidence, the Governor General is entitled to inquire whether there is another person who would enjoy the confidence of the House.”

But Harper could delay the opening of Parliament, funding the government with special warrants through Order in Council and the Governor General. Running the government in this manner for six or eight months would provide Harper with the argument that the opposition parties were simply conspiring to defeat a government that had been functioning effectively for many months. And he then refuses to go.

2. A party that is not the conservatives wins a minority government. Usually, this means that party will govern. But the Conservatives still have the option (and there is a good chance it would be exercised) of facing the House in a post election confidence vote instead of leaving quietly.

The outcome of any minority scenario is going to depend on the third place party, now looking to be the Liberals, who may have made themselves the most powerful party in Canada by dropping to third. Most pundits agree that convincing the Liberals to accept third place, and drop from “Canada’s natural ruling party” to support the NDP in a coalition government would be difficult. But within the eroded ranks of the Liberals, there are people who are violently against supporting the NDP and others who are violently against supporting the Conservatives. If the Liberal leader attempts a coalition with either the NDP or the Conservatives, he risks having a large number of MP’s cross the floor or risk losing the support of their constituents.

May should be interesting.

 

2011-04-29 Canada’s democratic revolution #cdnpoli #elxn41

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Canada has a federal election on May 2. While there is nothing new in that, there have been four called in the last seven years, this is already easily the most interesting one of the four. It started when MPs voted 156-145 to find the government in contempt of Parliament, a first in the history of the Commonwealth. They brought down the government on March 25 to force another election, something Prime Minister Harper called “a dangerous and unnecessary exercise.” Harper’s Conservative Party of Canada, a coalition between Canada’s old right leaning conservative party and the newer and much farther right leaning Reform Party, has been governing with a precarious minoritysince 2006. Harper prorogued Parliament for three months in 2008 to avoid a vote of confidence, and once in 2010 to cripple the Afghan detainee investigation, and the government was still brought down twice.

Michael Ignatieff, the leader of Canada’s Liberal party, frequently referred to as “the natural ruling party of Canada” due to their time spent in power, said “There are only two alternatives here. More of this disrespect for democracy, more of this contempt for the Canadian people, or a compassionate, responsible Liberal government.” That seemed a reasonable statement, considering that some form of the Liberal or Conservative parties (and once a coalition of the two) have governed Canada since confederation. So reasonable that he used it to rebut his opponents in the leadership debate; “But Jack, at least we get into government,” he replied, although no one really was expecting anything other than another Harper minority or perhaps a Harper majority. (Harper renamed the government of Canada “the Harper Government.”)

The best situation the people who hate Harper could envision was another minority government which would then be brought down again, but hopefully this time the opposition would form a coalition. People have turned to creative ideas for the Anyone But Harper campaign, including vote swapping and a huge amount of grass roots campaigning on social media and other venues. The Canadian and international media alike have decreed that voting for a party other than the big two was downright irresponsible as it would ‘split the vote’ and give Harper a majority. Harper is campaigning, not to be elected, but for a majority, and his attacks are directed primarily against a coalition.

The problem is, Canada is a traditionally liberal leaning country with a centre conservative element and neither of those options are currently available, despite the familiar party names. The Conservatives have been pulled much farther right than Canadians are accustomed to by the merger with the Reform party and the election of Harper as leader. The Liberals are currently led by a former Harvard professor who wrote in an op-ed in New York Times magazine on May 2, 2004:

“To defeat evil, we may have to traffic in evils: indefinite detention of suspects, coercive interrogations, targeted assassinations, even pre-emptive war. These are evils because each strays from national and international law and because they kill people or deprive them of freedom without due process. They can be justified only because they prevent the greater evil.”

In Canada, Liberals do not usually advocate pre-emptive wars and torture. He has not been seen as an effective opposition, he has supported many controversial Conservative policies, including Canadian involvement in Afghanistan. He has never been able to attract enough support to have a realistic chance of being elected, and the anti-Harper dreams have been focused on a coalition government. Some thoughts on possible election results from Murray Dobbin:

A number of constitutional experts are already mulling over the possibility of what some refer to as a kind “informal constitutional coup” – Harper refusing to accept the results of a non-confidence vote. According to a Hill Times story quoting University of Ottawa constitutional law expert Errol Mendes, ignoring such a vote “…would amount to a sort of informal constitutional coup. Essentially that position he’s taking is he’s not the Prime Minister shackled by the will of the people, he’s the elected president of Canada.”

Queen’s University professor Ned Franks, stated: “If it’s early in the new Parliament, if it’s a defeat on a vote of confidence, the Governor General is entitled to inquire whether there is another person who would enjoy the confidence of the House.”

But Harper could delay the opening of Parliament, funding the government with special warrants through Order in Council and the Governor General. Running the government in this manner for six or eight months would provide Harper with the argument that the opposition parties were simply conspiring to defeat a government that had been functioning effectively for many months. And he then refuses to go.

But Canada actually has 18 parties registered in the current federal election, and four currently in the House of Commons. It has frequently been difficult to convince the governing parties and state media of this. In the last election, Green party candidate Elizabeth May was only included in the televised leaders debates after a public outcry, and this year the media consortium that decides such things excluded her successfully. With the last election, the Greens had lost their one seat in the House. Polls also unfairly exclude the minor parties from their questions, affecting voter response. The politically entwined media also do their bit to promote the two parties with ties to all things corporate in Canada.

But people do not seem to be listening. An ‘endorsement’ of Harper by the Globe and Mail has received so far 4,388 comments, primarily hostile. A week ago, it became apparent that something was happening with the perennial also-ran New Democratic Party which received 18.18% of the vote in the last election and currently holds 36 seats of 308 in the House of Commons. First pulling support from former Bloc Québécois supporters in Quebec, then climbing rapidly in British Columbia, the fifty year old party suddenly rocketed into second place, ahead of the Liberals.

In one day, between April 26 and 27, as the Conservatives dropped nearly six points in the polls from 46.9 per cent, the NDP support rose five points from 21 per cent.

Allan Gregg, chair of Harris-Decima polling firm said “This is unprecedented. In all the years I’ve been following federal elections, and I think this is my 11th, I have never seen anything like this. First, I’ve never seen a third party surge in the polls. And I’ve also never seen a party surge this much. Jack Layton and the New Democrats have doubled their popular vote since this election started … and it’s not over yet.”

Both the Liberal and Bloc parties have coaxed former leaders out of retirement in an attempt to recapture public interest. Wikileaks has done their part by releasing 1800 new cables to help voters make an informed decision. And crowds in Canada are ignoring all the mainstream media as they choose parties they believe in instead of the two they were told were the only choice.

Picture credit to CBC National reporter Rosemary Barton “Uh. Yeah. This is an NDP rally in Saskatoon.”

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Green rally via @CamilleLabchuk

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Voter turnout had been plummeting in the last elections, with only 58.8% bothering to show up in 2008. After the advance polls this Easter weekend, Susan Friend, a spokeswoman for Elections Canada, said “This is the biggest voter turnout at an advance poll ever.” There are vote mobs being organized across the country, particularly at universities. Whatever happens on May 2, one thing has already happened in Canadian politics; the effective two party system is gone.

 

2011-04-29 Does Canada treasure its parliamentary democracy? #Elxn41 #wlcan #Cdnpoli

Canada is currently ranked eighth or ninth in the world among organizations which claim to measure the state of democracy. The parliamentary democracy practiced in Canada is something that the citizens of many dictatorships are trying to implement. The current government of Canada has been accused several times of holding lightly the democratic principles Canada is governed by, and last month the current government was actually found in contempt of parliament, the first time this has occurred in the history of the Commonwealth. That same current government is projected to win either a minority or majority government on Monday, prompting constitutional expert Peter Russell to ask below, “Does Canada treasure its parliamentary democracy?”

As the world’s fourth oldest parliamentary democracy, Russell would like Canadians to be aware of the basic principles of democracy at stake in this election. He describes parliament as being set up so that the monarch was required to disclose their spending and finds the prospect of electing a prime minister found in contempt of parliament for not revealing his spending to be a far bigger issue than ‘partisan bickering’.

2011-04-28 ‘Abdul Khadr’ and other errors in the Guanatanamo files

The first Canadian Guantanamo file released was Omar Khadr, a much anticipated and very thin file that discussed the captured child’s intelligence value as a son of a suspected Al Qaeda member and contributed nothing else of value or accuracy. (Except in this file, the ‘medic’ he was accused of killing in his trial is accurately described as a Special Forces soldier.)

The second widely anticipated Canadian file is that of ‘Abdul Khadr’, assumed to refer toAbdurahman Khadr, Omar’s brother who has claimed he was in Guantanamo as a CIA plant. He was one of the ten detainees whose information was not included in the 2007 files published by the US Department of Defense under the Freedom of Information Act. Unfortunately the file does not match biographical details of any of the Khadr family (there are brothers Abdulkareem and Abdullah as well, but neither was ever in Guantanamo).

Jason Leopold, deputy managing editor of Truthout.org, tweeted “ive discovered that at least 1 of the photos in #Guantanamo files is not the detainee identified by military/govt. No idea who the person is”

So not only is all of the information about the suspects highly suspect, obtained from unreliable and tortured testimony and mistaken identities, some of the files are not even who they are labeled as.

2011-04-28 Telegraph tries all Guantanamo detainees, #ThatWasFast

The Telegraph has released a new searchable database where you can sort through all Guantanamo detainees by nationality, current situation (released or still in Guantanamo) and at last, “Type of Detainee” which will tell you if they are Extremist, Innocent or Terrorist. If only the US Department of Defense had used this database years ago.

While most will be pleased to know that no ‘Terrorists’ have been released, there are 15 of them apparently in Guantanamo, all awaiting trials which are apparently no longer necessary. Abdul Qadir Yousef Hussein is declared innocent but still in Guantanamo. All of the other innocent detainees have, in the Telegraph’s judgment, been released.