Canada will not push Washington on Khadr case

The Supreme Court has confirmed Canadian officials violated Omar Khadr's constitutional rights, but the judges left it up to the federal government whether to ask the United States to return him to Canada. Khadr, 23, is being held by the Americans at Guantanamo Bay.

Foreign Affairs says Ottawa has done enough to ensure the Canadian detainee’s rights are protected

Despite a Supreme Court reprimand and tongue lashing from opposition parties, the Harper government will not press Washington further in the case of Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr.

Canada’s top court ruled in January that Khadr’s Charter rights were violated when Canadian spies interrogated the Toronto-born teenager and shared information with his U.S. prosecutors.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson sent a diplomatic note in response to the ruling, seeking the Obama administration’s assurances that information gleaned from Canada would not be used at his trial.

But Washington responded last week that it would leave the case in the hands of Guantanamo’s military judge to decide what evidence is admitted.

And Canada has agreed to do the same.

Foreign Affairs spokesperson Alain Cacchione told the Star the government has “complied” with the January Supreme Court ruling by delivering a diplomatic note to Washington.

When asked if this meant that no further action would be taken, Cacchione re-iterated the department’s media lines Tuesday in an email response: “As noted below, the government of Canada has complied with the Supreme Court’s Jan.29, 2010 ruling. And Canada recognizes the independence of the U.S. criminal proceedings.”

Evidence from Canada already surfaced during Khadr’s hearings last week when military prosecutors played a taped interview of a Canadian agent questioning the 16-year-old in 2003. But in a bizarre twist, journalists, spectators and Khadr’s Canadian lawyer were excluded from the court as the video was played – despite the fact that the footage was released by Canada’s Supreme Court two years ago and is widely available on media websites, including the Star’s, and broadcast on YouTube.

Canadian lawyer Nathan Whitling even provided the court with the video and then was forced to leave. Security rules governing the military commissions meant the video was still technically classified and couldn’t be played publicly.

Whitling said he will ask the federal court to review the case.

“In open defiance of Canada’s request, the US prosecutors have relied upon the Canadian statements in the military commission prosecution and marked the entirety of these interviews as exhibits. This conduct is a slap in the face to the Supreme Court of Canada and confirms the USA’s status as an outlaw among the community of nations,” he said Tuesday.

While Canada’s high court justices ruled that the actions of Canadian agents, “offends the most basic Canadian standards about the treatment of detained youth suspects,” they stopped short of forcing Harper to seek Khadr’s repatriation.

Opposition leaders blasted the Conservative government for doing the “absolute minimum” by sending a diplomatic note – rather then lobby on Khadr’s behalf and seek his return.

“Our government has been the worst of all the various governments that had citizens in Guantanamo in terms of stepping forward and ensuring due justice is provided for an individual,” New Democrat leader Jack Layton said.

Khadr’s trial is the expected to be the first military commission held under the Obama administration. He faces five war crimes charges, including murder for allegedly throwing a grenade during a 2002 firefight in Afghanistan that fatally wounded U.S. Delta Force soldier Christopher Speer.

Khadr’s next Guantanamo hearing is scheduled for July and his trial postponed until Aug. 10.

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