Canada’s notorious Omar Khadr finally buckled before a discredited American military tribunal and provided the guilty plea it was set up to elicit. But nothing like justice has been done in this wretched case.
U.S. President Barack Obama can take no pride in the judicial coercion he faced. And Prime Minister Stephen Harper shamed the nation by acquiescing to it.
Khadr, a marginal militant if ever there was one, has spent eight years in prison for killing Army Sgt. Christopher Speer in Afghanistan in a 2002 firefight, when he was all of 15. That’s more than he would have served in Canada for committing murder as a young offender.
Yet Khadr still faced trial before a U.S. military judge and military officers in a Guantanamo Bay process the American Civil Liberties Union has called “irretrievably defective” and that no U.S. citizen would ever face. It might well have ended in a life sentence. His plea bargain Monday to murder and war crimes was a “hellish decision” to get home. The satisfaction voiced by the U.S. military was nauseating.
Khadr will reportedly serve one more year at Gitmo and more time here.
He could have been tried in a fair U.S. federal court, as others have been, but prosecutors would have hard a hard time getting a conviction. Alternatively he might have been shipped back here and deemed to have done enough time. Instead, he was railroaded.
Compare that rough justice with the fair treatment given Fahim Ahmad, the ringleader of the “Toronto 18” terror plot. During an open and credible Canadian trial, Ahmad pleaded guilty to planning to attack Parliament and cut off heads. On Monday, he got 16 years.
Khadr was forced into battle by his Al Qaeda father. He got neither the protection nor the rehabilitation to which he was entitled under international law. His trial would not pass muster in any normal circumstances.
The guilty plea spares Obama the ignominy of a full trial of a child soldier in a sham court. But it makes the Harper government complicit in an injustice. And it offends the principle that justice should not only be done but also be seen to be done.