May 23, 2008 – The Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) ruled today that Canadian officials violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms – analogous to the U.S. Bill of Rights – by turning over interrogation records of Canadian citizen Omar Khadr to the United States. The court reached this result after finding that, at the time Canadian officials interrogated him, Khadr was being detained and prosecuted at Guantánamo in violation of U.S. and international law.
Khadr was 15 when he was shot and captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan in July 2002. The SCC, citing decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court, wrote that “the conditions under which Mr. Khadr was held and was liable for prosecution were illegal under both U.S. and international law at the time Canadian officials interviewed Mr. Khadr and gave information to U.S. authorities,” and it ordered Canadian officials to turn over the records of Khadr’s interrogations to his defense lawyers.
The following can be attributed to Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project:
“Today’s decision by the highest court of Canada makes a clear statement that the legal system under which Omar Khadr was detained and charged was fundamentally unlawful. While the Bush administration continues to argue that the U.S. Constitution doesn’t apply at Guantánamo and that prisoners held there don’t have the right to challenge their detention in court, the Canadian court’s decision is a declaration that Guantánamo is not an island without law. Notably, the Canadian court’s decision is based in large part on the Guantánamo decisions that the U.S. Supreme Court has issued over the last four years.”
An ACLU report submitted earlier this month to the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) argues that the lack of protections for alleged foreign child soldiers in U.S. military custody violates international standards. The report charges that the U.S. has prosecuted Omar Khadr in a trial that raises serious fairness concerns, including the use of testimony his attorneys claim was coerced through torture. Yesterday, the CRC reviewed the United States government’s compliance with international protocol on children in armed conflict.
The following can be attributed to Jennifer Turner of the ACLU Human Rights Program:
“In pursuing the prosecution against Omar Khadr, the United States is poised to become the first developed country since the Nuremburg trials to try a former child soldier for war crimes. Yesterday, the United Nations expressed strong concern that the detention, treatment and prosecution of Omar Khadr violates international law and flies in the face of accepted international practice.”