Omar Khadr has been released from Guantanamo, where he has been detained for a decade, to serve the remainder of his sentence in Canada pursuant to a prisoner exchange agreement. When he was fifteen, Khadr was in Afghanistan fighting with the Taliban against the United States. There, he threw a grenade that killed an American soldier. In 2010, he pleaded guilty for doing this and was sentenced to an eight-year prison term.
Years earlier, nationals of the UK, Australia and other countries who had been detained were repatriated at the request of their governments. By contrast, Canada’s right wing government has refused to do anything to assist Omar Khadr, who was born in Canada and is a Canadian citizen. As early as April of this year, the US authorities indicated they were ready to repatriate Khadr. The Canadian government has been dragging its heels on bringing him home.
It is doubtful that a Canadian young offender, aged fifteen, would be sentenced to more than eight years in prison. Khadr has been in detention for a decade already anyway.
His crime has always been a bit of a mystery to me. There was (and is) an armed conflict going on in Afghanistan. Why is it a crime for a combatant on one side in the conflict to kill a combatant on the other side? And even if it is a crime, presumably it would be a crime under the laws of Afghanistan. Why then would someone be tried for this crime in Guantanamo and then serve his sentence in Canada? Khadr pleaded guilty as a result of an agreement, but he had little real choice. Without a plea deal, he might have much longer in Guantanamo.
Khadr should be released from detention in Canada as soon as possible. He is eligible for release sometime in 2013. This will be a matter for the country’s parole authorities, who we should presume will behave in a fair and objective manner, without the perverse political bias of the Canadian government authorities. If the Harper government had done its job, Khadr would already be a free man.
There remain 166 detainees in Guantanamo. Four years ago, Barrack Obama promised that if he were elected the notorious prison would be shut down.