Ex-diplomat: Delay in Khadr’s transfer ‘unprecedented’
TORONTO — The Harper government’s foot-dragging on the return of Omar Khadr from Guantanamo Bay is unprecedented in light of the commitment it gave the United States that it would accept his transfer to Canada, a former diplomat says.
Gar Pardy, who spent more than three decades with Canada’s foreign service, said it was on the basis of that commitment that Khadr pleaded guilty before a widely maligned U.S. military commission to war crimes committed as a 15 year old.
“It’s more than extraordinary, it’s unprecedented,” Pardy said of Ottawa’s inaction.
“I don’t think there’s any enthusiasm by any of the people in the Canadian government to see him come back to Canada — they’re trying to drag it out in every way possible.”
Pardy, who retired in 2003, is one of four people swearing affidavits in support of a new application by Khadr’s lawyers asking Federal Court to order Public Safety Minister Vic Toews to make a decision on the file.
Under his October 2010 plea deal, Khadr, 25, became eligible to transfer to a Canadian prison last fall. Toews, however, has steadfastly refused to authorize the transfer, saying Khadr’s potential threat to Canadians needs to be evaluated.
In their application, which they hope will be heard quickly, Khadr’s Canadian lawyers — they have been in Guantanamo Bay this week briefing him on the application — call the delay “unreasonable.”
“The minister has breached the principles of natural justice and deprived the applicant of procedural fairness,” their application states.
“The minister’s delay in rendering a decision … is an abuse of process.”
It was almost exactly 10 years ago that U.S. soldiers found a gravely wounded and barely alive teenaged Khadr in the rubble of a bombed-out compound in Afghanistan following a four-hour firefight that left an American special forces soldier dead.
In his plea deal, the Toronto-born Khadr admitted to throwing a hand grenade that killed the soldier. He was convicted of five war crimes, including murder in violation of the laws of war — a crime not recognized outside of the U.S. military commissions.
One of Khadr’s former lawyers has questioned whether Khadr even understood what he was signing when he agreed to the plea deal.
The case has polarized Canadian public opinion, with supporters arguing he was a child soldier convicted in a kangaroo court while detractors claim him to be a dangerous terrorist.
The split can be seen in duelling online petitions currently doing the rounds.
One by former general Sen. Romeo Dallaire demanding Khadr’s return was closing in on 20,000 signatures within a week.
Another, by a resident of the east-end Toronto neighbourhood where Khadr’s family lives, wants him kept out on the basis that he would be a “role model” for other Canadian jihadists. It has picked up almost 4,000 signatures in three months.