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


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


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.


2011-01-28 Cable: Torture and police brutality in Egypt are endemic and widespread

US State cable 2009-01-15: 09CAIRO79 is titled SUBJECT: GOE STRUGGLING TO ADDRESS POLICE BRUTALITY. The title is directly contradicted by the cable which concludesThe GOE has not begun serious work on trying to transform the police and security services from instruments of power that serve and protect the regime into institutions operating in the public interest.

Torture and police brutality in Egypt are endemic and widespread. The police use brutal methods mostly against common criminals to extract confessions, but also against demonstrators, certain political prisoners and unfortunate bystanders. … NGO contacts estimate there are literally hundreds of torture incidents every day in Cairo police stations alone. Egyptians are bombarded with consistent news reports of police brutality, ranging from high profile incidents such as accidental but lethal police shootings in Salamut and Aswan this past fall (refs B and C) that sparked riots, to reports of police officers shooting civilians following disputes over traffic tickets. In November 2008 alone, there were two incidents of off-duty police officers shooting and killing civilians over petty disputes.

… the police proceeded to beat a female suspect into confessing about others involved in the theft and the whereabouts of the stolen valuables. A contact from an international NGO described witnessing police beat the doorman of an upscale Cairo apartment building into disclosing the apartment number of a suspect. Another contact at a human rights NGO told us that her friends do not report thefts from their apartments because they do not want to subject “all the doormen” in the vicinity to police beatings.

“Police officers feel they are above the law and protected by the public prosecutor.” Human rights lawyer XXXXXXXXXXXX attributed police brutality against common criminals, including the use of electric shocks, to the problem of demoralized officers facing long hours and their own economic problems. He asserted that the police will even beat lawyers who enter police stations to defend their clients. 

… when MB members mobilize people against the government in a way the regime deems threatening, such as the April 6 Facebook strike (ref D). According to XXXXXXXXXXXX, the MB-affiliated blogger and “April 6 Movement” member XXXXXXXXXXXX whom police arrested November 20 (ref A) falls into this category, and the GOE is probably torturing him to scare other “April 6” members into abandoning their political activities. XXXXXXXXXXXX’s assessment tracks with “April 6” member XXXXXXXXXXXX’s accounts of his own torture and the alleged police sexual molestation of a female “April 6” activist this past November (ref A). Bloggers close to XXXXXXXXXXXX told us that following his arrest he was tortured severely with electric shocks and needed to be hospitalized, but that security forces stopped the torture when he began cooperating. 

… alleged standing orders from the Interior Ministry between 2000 and 2006 for the police to shoot, beat and humiliate judges in order to undermine judicial independence …

For example, in October 2008, a court sentenced a policeman to three years in prison for beating and drowning a fisherman. In November 2008, a court sentenced two policemen to three years in prison for hooking a man to their car and dragging him to his death. XXXXXXXXXXXXX characterized the sentences as “light,” in proportion to the crimes, but commented that any prison sentences are an important development toward holding the police responsible for crimes.