Omar Khadr Pleads Guilty: Justice as a Victim of Friendly Fire in the War on Terror

Deal or no deal?

No, I’m not referring to the game show hosted by Canada’s own Howie Mandel, albeit his involvement in this matter would not have been completely surreal.

Well, it appears there is a plea deal in the farce show trial military commission trial against Canadian citizen and Guantanamo Bay detainee, Omar Khadr. For a backgrounder, see my previous posts here and here.

From the CNN Wire Staff report today:

“One of Khadr’s Canadian attorneys indicated last week that he was open to a plea deal.

“He is anxious to avoid a trial before that kangaroo court,” Nate Whitling said in reference to the U.S. military commission at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility.

Catherine Loubier, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Foreign Ministry, offered no details about Khadr’s plea, saying: “This matter is between Mr. Khadr and the U.S. government, and we will not have further comment on this today.”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reached out to Canadian officials last week as part of an effort to resolve the case, according to two sources.

One source close to the negotiations said, “Khadr will have to decide” whether to sign onto a tentative deal negotiated by prosecution and defense lawyers.

That arrangement calls for Khadr to be sentenced to eight years — one year to be served in U.S. custody and seven years in Canadian custody.”

What to make of all of this?

After the jury of Khadr’s peers (i.e. seven military officers on the jury)  issue a sentence, US military judge Army Colonel Patrick Parrish will consider the plea agreement and likely will accept the lesser sentence of the two. Who wants to bet that the military jury will recommend more than 8 years? Recall that it was Judge Parrish that previously ruled that Khadr’s confessions were admissible at trial, despite the Supreme Court of Canada’s  contrary views).

Khadr’s sentencing may not be so clear-cut. The US government’s breaches of international law and denial of Khadr’s Charter rights, to which the Canadian government is complicit, casts a dark pall over what Khadr’s counsel, Nate Whitling describes is a “kangaroo court”.  Of the many casualties of the War on Terror, justice is best classified as a victim of “friendly fire”.

It is important to not lose sight of the fact that Khadr has pleaded guilty  (unless he rejects the tentative plea bargain) to serious charges—murder in violation of the laws of war, attempted murder in violation of the laws of war, conspiracy, two counts of providing material support for terrorism and spying in the United States. The most likely result will be that Khadr will spend another year as a guest of the United States government at Guantanamo Bay and a further 7 years courtesy of the Canadian federal penitentiary system. This begs the question: how much time and Canadian taxpayer money was wasted by the Harper government’s obstinacy in not allowing Khadr to be repatriated to serve his sentence here sooner?

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