Bishops ask government to repatriate Omar Khadr

By  Canadian Catholic News
  • April 1, 2010

{mosimage}OTTAWA-Canada’s Catholic bishops have requested the repatriation of former child soldier Omar Khadr.

In a March 24 letter to Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ human rights committee chairman Archbishop Brendan O’Brien urged Nicholson to seek to bring Khadr to Canada for a fair and just trial.

Khadr has been detained at the American prison at Guantanamo since 2002, after he was wounded and captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan. O’Brien, archbishop of Kingston, notes Khadr was only 15 when he was captured after a firefight with American soldiers and “could be considered a child soldier.”

The archbishop wrote that the Supreme Court of Canada concluded Canada had infringed Khadr’s rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to life, liberty and security of the person, and reminded Nicholson Canada had signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991 and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 2000.

“If Canada recognizes the reality of child soldiers, it is important to recall that their personal sense of responsibility can be seriously affected by ideological indoctrination which may distort their judgment,” he wrote. “For this reason, Canada has a duty to act in conformity with its Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

O’Brien acknowledged the court did not order the government to repatriate Khadr, because it recognized the constitutional responsibility of the executive in foreign affairs matters. The archbishop emphasized, however, that the “fundamental rights and the dignity of the human person cannot alter, nor be sacrificed in the name of any interest.”

Khadr faces charges of murder, attempted murder and providing material support for terrorism. He is alleged to have tossed a grenade that killed a U.S. army medic.

Though born in the Toronto area, Khadr was raised in Pakistan. His father was a fundraiser for Al-Qaeda and exposed his four sons to radical Islam.

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