Sunday, April 26, 2009

Enough Dithering - Bring Omar Khadr "HOME" Now

In Canada's system of democracy and government we are supposed to uphold what is generally referred to as the, 'Rule of Law'. Citizens of this country are assured of certain protections and rights written into our laws and upheld by our courts. Our Federal Court has ruled that Stephen Harper's Conservative government must ask the United States to send Omar Khadr home. Rather than act swiftly on this ruling our government is hemming and hawing and contemplating an appeal.

Take a quick look at the illustration I provided of justice. Its of a woman holding a sword in one hand and balanced scales in the other. After weighing the evidence, if guilt is determined...the sword of justice is applied. But also take note of her eyes, they're blindfolded. It doesn't matter the accused's skin colour, or his religious background. Lady Justice's judgement is based strictly on the evidence, nothing more and nothing less.

Everyone knows the story about Omar Khadr, about how this fifteen year old Canadian ended up being held in Guantanamo Bay. Taken to Afghanistan by his father to fight against the American led invasion, he is alleged to have killed a U.S. medic. He has not been convicted of anything however, instead he's been left to rot for 7 years. We've all heard the axiom, "justice delayed is justice denied"...well this young man has spent nearly a full third of his life being held in a prison notorious for allegations of torture.

When Khadr was brought to Guantanamo Bay he was severely injured with no assurance he would even survive. If he had died as a result of his injuries none of this would matter. There would be no need of a trial or even a formal inquiry. This young teenager could have simply been buried and tried posthumously in the court of public opinion. He would have been branded a terrorist without benefit of any defence and all would have been quickly forgotten. That didn't happen though, he didn't die. Our government though has decided to treat him as though he's no longer among the living.

We are now hearing further allegations against Mr. Khadr, or young Master Khadr if you prefer, given his young age when these alleged crimes took place. It is said he may have been involved in the making of road side bombs or IEDs, the same devices responsible for the deaths of so many Canadian soldiers. While this strikes me as an obvious ploy by the Conservatives to sway public opinion against Khadr's repatriation, in point of fact any further allegations are totally irrelevant.

We've given the United States almost 7 full years to bring forth a case in this matter, and they have failed to do so. If our American friends are unwilling or unable to bring this case to trial, then Canada should take responsibility for its own citizen.

If Omar Khadr is found guilty of any crimes, for the death of the U.S. army Sergeant or the making of IED's, he should be punished according to whichever laws and statutes apply. If he is found not guilty he should be set free, that's the way our system works. Our's is not a country of arbitrary justice, when the civil liberties of one individual are diminished we are all less secure.

The question is as basic as it is simple. Will Stephen Harper and his Conservative colleagues stand up for basic precepts of justice and the rule of law? If they don't we should all be worried about our constitutional protections, because they'll no longer exist.

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