News Agencies – May 26, 2011
The U.S. military tribunal that oversaw Canadian Omar Khadr’s war crimes case has refused his bid for clemency, issuing a statement that simply confirms the eight-year sentence he received in a plea deal. Under it, Khadr pleaded guilty last October to five war crimes, among them the murder of a U.S. serviceman during a 2002 firefight in Afghanistan, when the Toronto native was 15. He received a sentence of eight years, with one more to be served in Guantanamo, and seven in a Canadian prison.
Khadr had sought to have the sentence reduced, arguing in part that the prosecution had been guilty of “misconduct” regarding the presentation of a key prosecution witness at the October sentencing hearing.
The National Post – February 19, 2011
This article reflects the opinion of Dr. Michael Welner, an expert forensic psychiatrist witness in numerous high profile civil and criminal proceedings in the United States. Here he reflects on the impact of prison relating to the fundamentalism of Omar Khadr:
Against the backdrop of these competing forces, the United States Department of Defense asked me as a veteran of highly sensitive forensic psychiatric assessments to appraise the risk of one such Guantanamo detainee, Omar Khadr. Mr. Khadr, by his own statements in 2002 and most recently in October 2010, admitted to throwing a grenade that killed Sfc. Christopher Speer as he inspected the scene of a recently completed battle. Khadr was 15 at the time that he killed Speer.
When I interviewed Khadr last June in my capacity as a forensic psychiatrist, he was an English-speaking, socially agile 23-year-old with the kind of easy smile that so similarly warms those who encounter the Dalai Lama and Bin Laden alike. Anticipating his eventual release, the military commission asked me to go beyond the natural tendency of advocates and adversaries to see what they want to see in Omar the man.
In American as well as Canadian facilities, tens of thousands of inmates are converting to Islam every year. Yielding to the notion that they are respecting religion, corrections officials have failed to make a committed effort to staff prisons with devout, forceful but peaceful-minded Muslim imams. As a result, the more charismatic, Machiavellian, and aggressive leaders within North American corrections facilities dominate and influence vulnerable and often alienated Muslim prisoners. These influences remain after prisoners are released and have been implicated in American terror attacks by American-born ex-cons.
Canadian Omar Khadr, the last westerner left in Guantanamo Bay, will face trial by military tribunal unlike the high-profile 9/11 plotters who will be brought to New York for trial in a civilian courts where they have far greater rights and protections, US officials announced. Khadr’s lawyer Barry Coburn, accused the administration of resorting to Bush-era injustice.
Some other terrorist suspects, including Khadr, who is accused of killed a US medic during a firefight in Afghanistan when he was only 15 in 2002, will be tried in military tribunals – the special courts created by the Bush administration and widely discredited because they admitted evidence that would be outlawed in civilian or normal military courts. However the White House admits the prison camp on a leased naval base in Cuba won’t be closed by the year’s deadline in January. It remains unknown whether the military tribunals will be held at Guantanamo or elsewhere.
Note: some details of this summary were derived from a 2008 CBC News article.
With the Guantanamo Bay prison set to close within a year, little has been said in recent US/Canada meetings about the fate of Canadian child solider, Omar Khadr. This Globe and Mail article suggests that, assuming that he is returned to Canada, as opposed to incarceration in the United States, serious thought must be given to his rehabilitation and eventual reintegration into society.
One model is Saudi Arabia’s comprehensive counterterrorism program aimed at prevention, rehabilitation and post-release care. A central feature of the program is the recognition the state must also engage in a “war of ideas” to combat the ideological justifications of violence. The Saudi government asserts its interpretation of Islam in which loyalty and obedience to the state are paramount. The Saudi prison rehabilitation program includes art therapy and theological debates between scholars and prisoners.