Saturday, November 14, 2009

Omar Khadr

Omar Khadr is a Canadian citizen who was captured in Afghanistan at the age of 15, based on allegations that he threw a grenade which killed a US soldier. Though the evidence against him is shaky at best, he has been held in Guantanamo for the past seven years, and has undergone torture for the first part of that time.

By chance I happened onto a C-SPAN broadcast last night of argument before the Canadian Supreme Court of the case involving Khadr. Khadr's lawyer was asking that the Canadian court system require Canada to "request" his repatriation from the US. He acknowledged that Canada couldn't *require* the US to act, but apparently he had reason to believe that the US would comply if repatriation were requested.

The basis for the request is that Canada was "complicit" in the torture, in that the Canadian government sent agents to question Khadr, knowing he had been tortured prior to the questioning. "Complicit" seems to be a word that has special meaning under Canadian law, as it was used repeatedly. Under the Charter (Canada's equivalent to our Bill of Rights), he has certain rights by virtue of this complicity.

The problem is fashioning a remedy to fit the wrongdoing. It is a unique case and the attorney could offer no precedent to help the Justices. However, the trial court and the court of appeals have both ruled for Khadr, so he does have that going for him.

Several observations spring to mind:

1. Most of the questioning was done by three female Justices, leading me to wonder about the gender makeup of the court. Looking it up just now, I see that 4 of the 9 Justices, including the Chief Justice, are women.

2. A graphic stated that the Court has allowed cameras since 1981.

3. The questioning was mild-mannered and deferential, compared to US Justices.

4. The attorney for Khadr was simply outstanding, fielding a barrage of questions without hesitation and without stuttering. His name is Nathan Whitling, kudos to Mr. Whitling for his stellar advocacy.


By coincidence, I heard on NPR this morning of a ruling by the Canadian Supreme Court in another unrelated case. It involved a female ski jumper who was being denied the chance to compete in the Olympics, even though she has jumped farther than any Canadian male. The report stated that ski jumping is the only Olympic sport, winter or summer, still closed to women.

Apparently the aforementioned Charter guarantees equality of the sexes, but the Court nevertheless ruled against the ski jumper because it was the International Olympic Committee setting the rules, and not the Canadian government.

No comments: