Amnesty International has long called for accountability and remedy for the human rights violations that have been committed by the USA in the name of countering terrorism in recent years. At the same time, the organization has called for any Guantánamo detainee whom the USA intends to prosecute to be promptly charged and brought to fair trial in an independent and impartial tribunal applying fair trial standards. The military commissions are not such tribunals. Any detainee the USA does not intend to prosecute in a fair trial should be immediately released.
How would the USA respond if another government took a 15-year-old US national into its custody, subjected him to ill-treatment, and held him for the next eight years before bringing him to a military trial under procedures falling short of international fair trial standards? For one thing, the case would likely feature in the State Department’s annual reports. But surely the USA would go further and demand his repatriation under such circumstances. The Government of Canada has continued to refuse to seek Omar Khadr’s repatriation, despite Canadian federal court rulings that his rights have been violated, including the right to be free from ill-treatment. The Canadian authorities should think again, and inject some urgency into their pursuit for justice and remedy for Omar Khadr, including his repatriation.
The introduction to the latest US State Department human rights report, cited above, reminds the reader of “President Obama and Secretary [of State] Clinton’s pledge that we will apply a single universal human rights standard to all, including ourselves.” The USA should meet its international human rights obligations, and re-examine those treaty body recommendations to the US authorities that are still outstanding. After all, the Obama administration, advocating for the USA to be elected to membership on the UN Human Rights Council in 2009, promised that the “United States is committed to meeting its UN treaty obligations and participating in a meaningful dialogue with treaty body members”. Assuming its seat on the Council in September 2009, the US government said that “As the United States seeks to advance human rights and fundamental freedoms across the globe, we embrace a commitment to live up to these ideals at home and to meet our international human rights obligations.”
Working with the Canadian government to get Omar Khadr immediately out of Guantánamo would be entirely consistent with this commitment. Keeping him in Guantánamo or elsewhere in US military detention and pursuing his trial by military commission, would not.
For further information on Omar Khadr’s case, see:
USA: In whose best interests? Omar Khadr, child ‘enemy combatant’ facing military commission, April 2008, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR51/028/2008/en
Long overdue, not ‘premature’: Canada must pursue Omar Khadr’s repatriation, April 2008, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR20/001/2008/en
USA: Omar Khadr’s trial by military commission a step closer. Canada must act, 12 May 2008, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR51/038/2008/en