OTTAWA (Reuters) - A Canadian court on Monday dealt another blow to the government over its treatment of a young Canadian imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay, giving Ottawa a week to work out a way to properly defend his rights.
The minority Conservative government has suffered a string of judicial defeats over Omar Khadr, who is facing trial at a special military commission this month on charges of murdering a U.S. medic in Afghanistan in 2002, when he was 15 years old.
Judge Russel Zinn of Canada’s Federal Court said that if Ottawa did not come up with a reasonable remedy within seven days, he would impose one.
He noted one solution would be for Canada to formally request Khadr’s repatriation, something Ottawa has refused to do on the grounds that he is accused of a serious crime.
Khadr’s defenders say he was a child soldier when the alleged killing occurred and should be treated leniently.
U.S. interrogators concede that during his imprisonment they tried to scare him with tales of being gang-raped.
Zinn made his ruling in the wake of a decision made by the Supreme Court of Canada in January. The top court said Khadr’s rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms had been breached and ordered Ottawa to take appropriate action.
“I do not share the view that Canada, in its actions taken to date, has remedied the breach or that there are no other potential curative remedies available,” Zinn said in his 43-page ruling.
“Mr. Khadr had a legitimate expectation based on the declaration of the Supreme Court that Canada would effect a remedy that would cure the breach.”
The Supreme Court said Canada breached Khadr’s rights by sending intelligence agents to interrogate him in 2003 and 2004 and then sharing their information with the United States. Khadr’s continuing detention at the U.S. military facility at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba meant his rights were still being infringed, the court ruled.
In response, Canada formally asked the United States not to use any of the information provided by Canadian agents during Khadr’s upcoming trial. The United States refused to do so.
Zinn said “Khadr did not receive fairness” from the Canadian government. Khadr lawyer Nathan Whitling welcomed Zinn’s decision, saying Ottawa had violated his client’s rights by not properly enforcing the Supreme Court ruling.
“My own view is that this government is either extraordinarily ill-informed as to the law that governs its actions or it has some sort of actual malice or dislike for Mr Khadr which is causing it to act in ... an unlawful manner,” Whitling told Reuters.
The government could decide to appeal the ruling to the Federal Court of Appeal. A spokeswoman for Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said officials were reviewing the decision.
Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Peter Galloway