Maher Arar - Human rights advocate
Posted: August 11, 2010
Ironic Note: Maher Arar's own experience has been put forward as an example of the United States government policy of "extraordinary rendition".
Arar was detained during a layover at John F. Kennedy International Airport in September 2002 on his way home to Canada from a family vacation in Tunis. He was held in solitary confinement in the United States for nearly two weeks, questioned, and denied meaningful access to a lawyer. The US government suspected him of being a member of Al Qaeda and deported him, not to Canada, his current home, but to his native Syria, even though its government is known to use torture. He was detained in Syria for almost a year, during which time he was tortured....until his release to Canada.
Was Omar Khadr captured in Manhattan trying to blow up a civilian or a government installation? Of course not. We all know his story by now. Canadian Omar Khadr was captured in a battlefield in Afghanistan that was illegally invaded by the US army. He was 15 years old at the time. He is the perfect example of a child soldier. But the US army and the Department of Defence had another opinion, they charged Khadr with a never-heard-of-type-of-charge called "murder in violation of the laws of war." So if the alleged crime was done on Afghan soil, why didn't the US officials put Khadr on trial in Afghanistan? Why did they wait for almost 7 years to send him to a kangaroo court? Whoever has read the story in detail perfectly knows that there is contradictory evidence whether Khadr is the one who threw the hand grenade that killed the US medic.
However, many pieces of evidence point to all kinds of abuses Omar Khadr underwent throughout his detention like sleep deprivation and the threat of gang rape. Aren't these abuses enough to redeem his "sin"? Aren't seven years spent between the notorious Bagram and Guantanamo prisons enough? In the Canadian justice system a year spent in a detention center (which is considered a 5-star hotel compared to the prison in Guantanamo) is counted as two. How much should judges count each year that he spent at Guantanamo?
Once captured, did the US army apply the rules of engagement? Why did the US government refuse to afford him the rights normally afforded to prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention?
What kind of justice is this? Did the world go crazy or what? If we Canadians do not care about Omar Khadr, shouldn't we care about our future and the future of our kids? One thing is sure: Khadr's legacy will haunt us for generations to come.
Have you had a chance recently to read the media coverage about his case? In their attempt to stay "neutral," journalists end up writing a dry story with no emotions whatsoever. How can journalists stay neutral anymore? Aren't they offended by the arrogance shown by the US government?
The final question is: Why is Omar Khadr being tried by a military court if the government is certain he was the one who threw the grenade? Don't they have trust in civilian courts? I think we all know the answer: these military courts are made to convict. After all, the government, as is usually the case, is throwing multiple charges at him in the hope that one of them sticks.
This farce trial is already showing us its ugly face: his military judge has just ruled that Khadr's confession can be used in trial.