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.
Photo credit: Colin Perkel / The Canadian Press
Have you read the Wikileaks release … the Guantanamo file on Omar Khadr?
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.