Neve says Canada must defend Omar Khadr


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Alex Neve spoke to King's reporters about Omar Khadr. (Photo: Brittney Teasdale)

Alex Neve, the secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, says Canadians need to act on behalf of Omar Khadr.

He says if Canada refuses to protect the rights of one of it citizens, it is sending the message that rights are not important.

Neve recently returned from the Guantanamo Bay detention camp where he witnessed the military tribunal trial of Omar Khadr, a young Canadian who has been detained since 2002.


Neve visited Halifax last week to give a lecture to the Dalhousie law school and attend the Amnesty International regional meeting on Saturday.

He states that the trial did not deliver justice because the judge, jury, prosecutor and even Khadr's lawyer were members of the military.

Khadr's civilian lawyers were not allowed to address the court.

Why should Canadians act?

Neve says that if human rights are only applied selectively then they might as well not exist. if Canada does not work to reclaim Khadr and protect his rights as a Canadian then the government can choose to ignore the rights of any other citizen.

He says the Khadr case has damaged Canada's image abroad and the country is no longer perceived to be a champion of human rights.

Omar Khadr

Khadr was 15 years old when he was detained for killing a U.S. soldier during a firefight in Afghanistan.

In an Oct. 27 letter to the U.S. Military, Radhika Coomaraswamy, the UN secretary-general's special representative for children and armed conflict, stated that Omar Khadr's story is "the classic child soldier narrative."

Neve says the U.S. military refuses to recognize Khadr as a child soldier because he never wore a uniform or served an official army.

But Neve says child soldiers are almost always part of rag-tag groups that are not part of official militaries.

Neve says that of all Western countries, Canada has lagged behind in reclaiming citizens who have been detained by the U.S. military.

The U.S. on the other hand has been perfectly clear regarding Khadr. Since changing his plea to guilty Khadr has received a plea deal that will allow him to be sent back to Canada in one year to serve the rest of his sentence.

Why hasn't the government acted?

Neve says that there are three reasons why the Canadian government has remained silent about Omar Khadr.

The first is that the Kadhr family is noted for having links to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, organizations the government does not want to support.

The second is the strain between the U.S. and Canada on issues of security. Neve says that there are U.S. politicians who point north and claim Canadian policies put the U.S. at risk. Because of this the Canadian government does not want to give them more fuel to strain U.S.-Canadian relations.

Lastly he places blame on "cold crass politics." He says Stephen Harper's federal government believes efforts to reclaim Khadr will alienate Harper's voter base.


Terrorists should be treated as ones, Even if they are Canadians, if you help the enemy you should be punished and punished hard!

Posted by Isaac | Nov 30, 2021 3:55 AM AT

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