Friday, June 20, 2008

Omar Khadr: Globe and Mail doublespeak

The Globe and Mail editorial on the Omar Khadr case this morning begins well. The editorialist excoriates the Conservative government for advancing the specious claim that bringing Khadr home would send the wrong signal about our anti-terrorist resolve. The editorial rightly states that both Britain and Australia, whose resolve is unquestioned, have repatriated their own nationals. It goes on to expose the Conservatives' reliance upon a questionable legal authority in the US, one Howard Anglin, a strident far-right ideologue.

But, as always, one has to read to the conclusion. And what the Globe and Mail delivers is this wormy mush:

But, on security grounds, Canadians have a right to wonder what would happen if Mr. Khadr were brought home. While the committee majority suggested various legal avenues, the dissenters are skeptical that those would work. Their skepticism is justified. The best approach is to repatriate him, in the way that Australia did for one of its citizens: as part of a plea bargain that satisfies legitimate security concerns and is acceptable to the United States and to Mr. Khadr and his counsel.

For readers unfamiliar with the allusion, the editorialist is referring to David Hicks, an Australian citizen who converted to Islam in 1999, was captured in Afghanistan by soldiers of the Northern Alliance, and sold to US forces for $1000. He ended up in Gitmo, where, after being confined for some time, he pled guilty in a pre-trial agreement to a single charge of "providing material support for terrorism," was sentenced to nine months imprisonment and promptly returned to Australia to serve it.

In other words, the
Globe and Mail is prejudging the guilt of Omar Khadr, and suggesting an arrangement whereby he might be jailed here at home. Not even the US kangaroo-court abomination known as a Military Commission is needed, it seems: the editorialist has already found Khadr guilty. Yet there has been a parade of revelations about both the material facts of his case and the drumhead "trial" process being used against Khadr, who was, by international convention, a child soldier when he was captured.

Khadr is presently before a "court" established by Bush to escape the strictures of habeas corpus. (The recent Supreme Court ruling on the unconstitutionality of that may yet have some effect on the case.) The former judge, Col. Peter Brownback, issued too many rulings in favour of the defence to satisfy his superiors: the response was to remove him from the case and replace him with someone evidently more pliable. The new judge, Col. Patrick Parrish, has already refused to allow the defence team time to study the implications of the Supreme Court ruling.

Worse, it appears that Khadr might not even have committed the offence of throwing a grenade at an American soldier, which led to his detention in the first place. There have been credible allegations of torture. But the Harper government hasn't lifted a finger in defence of this Canadian citizen, even though all other countries have repatriated their nationals from the Guantanamo prison camp. Indeed, it has been fighting the disclosure of possibly exculpatory evidence every step of the way.

It is simply adding insult to injury, not to mention colossally presumptuous, for the Globe and Mail even to suggest a plea deal for a crime that the young man might not have committed, and to propose that he should be jailed in Canada as a security threat. No less a body than the Supreme Court of the United States has now ruled in favour of habeas corpus. Would it be too much to ask that the Globe and Mail respect that notion as well, not to mention the equally important principle that a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty?

UPDATE: Chris Selley provides two detailed commentaries here and here.

UPDATE: (June 21) Unbelievable. (H/t CC)

No comments: