AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL USA
August 28, 2009
Canada Still Refusing to Seek Omar Khadr’s Repatriation from Guantánamo; Mohammed Jawad Returned to Afghanistan
By refusing to seek the repatriation of its national, Omar Khadr, from US custody in Guantánamo Bay, the Canadian government is betraying human rights principles and perpetuating injustice, while also failing to offer a remedy for its own participation in the violation of his human rights. On 25 August 2009, the government announced that it would be seeking leave to appeal recent court orders requiring it to request the USA to repatriate Omar Khadr. Amnesty International urges Canada to rethink this decision.
At the same time as the Canadian authorities were continuing on their path of resisting calling for Omar Khadr’s repatriation, Afghan national Mohammed Jawad – like Omar Khadr taken into US custody in 2002 in Afghanistan when he was still a child – was released from Guantánamo and has been reunited with members of his family in Afghanistan. His release on 24 August followed a US federal court order that his detention was unlawful. The Afghan authorities had advocated for his repatriation.
Omar Khadr has spent more than seven years, a third of his life, in US military detention, most of it at Guantánamo. In July 2002, at the age of 15, he was taken into custody after a firefight with US forces in Afghanistan in which he was alleged to have thrown a grenade which killed a US soldier. In detention in the US air base in Bagram in Afghanistan and then at the US Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay, he has been subjected to detention conditions and interrogation techniques that have violated the international prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, as well as being denied his right to be free from arbitrary detention and, if charged, to be tried in full accordance with international fair trial standards. He was denied access to any legal counsel for the first two and a half years of his detention, the period when he was still a child.
The USA’s failure to provide Omar Khadr the protections to which he was and is entitled under international law – including provisions specifically addressing the special situation of children – placed a particular onus on Canada to do all it could to remedy this situation. It has failed to do so. To the contrary, its courts have found that Canadian officials knowingly participated in his ill-treatment and unlawful detention in violation of national and international law by interrogating him for intelligence purposes while he was still suffering the effects of sleep deprivation imposed in order to induce him to talk. This has led to two consecutive judicial rulings in Canada that the Canadian authorities must now work for Omar Khadr’s repatriation by way of remedy. The Canadian government has refused to accept either of these rulings, instead resorting to ongoing appeals while refusing to take action to protect Omar Khadr’s rights.
The right of victims of human rights violations to remedy lies at the core of international human rights law. For example, under article 2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which both the USA and Canada have ratified, the state undertakes to ensure that any person whose rights or freedoms under the Covenant are violated “shall have an effective remedy”, and to ensure that “the competent authorities shall enforce such remedies when granted”. The UN Human Rights Committee, the expert body established by the ICCPR to oversee implementation of that treaty, has stated that the Covenant requires not only that the right to remedy be realized, but that “remedies should be appropriately adapted so as to take account of the special vulnerability of certain categories of person, including in particular children”.