This is an eloquent argument for bringing Khadr back to Canada by Romeo Dallaire. While I appreciate the boy soldier argument there are plenty of arguments for intervening even without it. The idea that "child" soldiers are always victims seems to me seriously flawed. Omar was hardly coerced in the way that many African child soldiers were coerced. There is not some magic age at which teenagers gain free will! Omar's brother Abdurahman grew up in the same family and became a spy for the U.S. However, as Dallaire points out there are many other reasons such as lack of due process that would mandate Canadian intervention. Other countries defend their citizens in Guantanamo but not Canada. France has to intervene on Khadr's behalf. By the way Dallaire is wrong about Khadr being shot in the chest he was shot in the back. If the Special Forces people had not decided he was an asset he would have been executed as the other person who was alive was.
Monday, March 31, 2008
Bring Omar Khadr home
Romeo Dallaire, National Post
Published: Monday, March 31, 2008
Omar Khadr is a Canadian citizen who was a 15-year-old child soldier when he allegedly killed a U.S. serviceman during a firefight in Afghanistan. The debate about his return to Canada must begin and end there. That the current and past Canadian governments have failed to secure his release and repatriation is a glaring instance of hypocrisy by this country that prides itself on its advocacy of human rights and adherence to international law.
Child soldiers who are Canadian citizens belong in Canada for due judicial processing and, more importantly, for rehabilitation after having been reared and coerced into extremism and violence.
All other details about Omar Khadr's activities in Afghanistan and the aftermath of his capture by U.S. forces only strengthen the argument for his return. The 15-year-old Omar was in a compound during aU.S. attack and was shot twice in the chest during the raid. After his capture, he was transferred to the U.S.'s infamous Bagram detention facility where he was processed as an adult combatant and very likely mistreated and tortured.
Since 2002, Mr. Khadr has undergone relentless interrogation at the notorious U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Following years in detention, Mr. Khadr was charged in February, 2007 for war crimes and terrorism under a military tribunal the Bush administration arbitrarily created and continues to manipulate. This makeshift tribunal allows statements made under coercion and hides potentially exculpatory evidence. Despite international protests, Mr. Khadr will be the first ever child soldier tried for alleged war crimes by any Western nation, including the United States.
Canada's Conservative government has demonstrated a sorry lack of decisiveness and effort to bring Khadr home. Our other allies recognized at the outset that Guantanamo was no place for due process, and quickly and successfully pushed for their citizens' release and repatriation. Today, Mr. Khadr is the only remaining citizen of a Western country incarcerated in Guantanamo.
Although Canada has no established system for dealing with child soldiers, we can learn much from nations that do. Rwanda and Sierra Leone, for example, countries we smugly categorize as underdeveloped, use a combination of demobilization, youth justice and rehabilitation on child soldiers who were abused and used to commit unspeakable acts.
Even in Afghanistan where a war is in full swing, thousands of former child soldiers are processed through UN-designed special rehabilitation programs. Such programs are founded on the principle that child soldiers, regardless of their actions during conflict, are themselves victims who were incapable of the adult decision-making consistent with our conventional notions of responsibility and guilt.
In the face of my repeated questions in the Senate and the outcry from human rights groups about Omar Khadr's fate, the Canadian government remains blind and deaf to the obvious. They simply spout the same stock response: he "faces serious charges" and he is "being treated humanely."
As to his status as a child soldier, the government maintains a shameful silence. Perhaps the fact that Khadr's alleged victim was an American intimidates our government. Or perhaps it doesn't like the Khadr family's political views and therefore ignores Omar's plight. How ironic the government fought so vigorously to contain outrage about possible human rights violations of Afghan detainees, yet they ignore those of Mr. Khadr, a Canadian.
Canada's stance on the Khadr case unquestionably violates the spirit of the UN protocol on child soldiers and makes a mockery of our championing this and similar human rights causes.
The recent Manley report on Canada's mission in Afghanistan correctly points out that our commitment "gives faithful expression to our values" and affords us a larger role on the world stage. While the bravery and professionalism of our soldiers in Afghanistan have indeed enhanced our standing as an emerging middle power, the government's handling of other files clearly detracts from our credibility. In Darfur, for example, we have coldly turned our backs on our own Responsibility-to-Protect principles.
The international community notices all of Canada's glaring missteps on the world stage and carefully compares our words to our actions. If we continue to allow discrepancies between the two, we will quickly become known as 'the ugly Canadian' --hypocritical in the international community and uncaring at home. In Omar Khadr's case, we are in danger of being both. - Lt.-Gen. (ret'd) Romeo Dallaire is a Liberal Senator and former Commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda.
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