March 27, 2008 / 12:42 AM / in 10 years

Top court told of Guantanamo rights violations

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian investigators violated the rights of terrorism suspect Omar Khadr when they interrogated him at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, his lawyers told Canada’s top court on Wednesday.

<p>Maha Elsamnah (C), mother of Omar Khadr, who is being detained by U.S. forces at Guantanamo Bay, leaves the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa March 26, 2008. The Supreme Court is hearing arguments from lawyers for Omar Khadr, who is charged with murdering a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan in a firefight when he was 15. Omar, now 21, was taken prisoner in 2002. He said in an affidavit that U.S. interrogators repeatedly threatened to rape him and Canadian government officials told him they were powerless to do anything. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>

The Supreme Court of Canada is examining whether the Canadian government must provide Khadr with any information relevant to him. But Wednesday’s hearing broadened to consider whether the whole U.S. process at its Guantanamo Bay prison on Cuba violated human rights.

The United States accuses Khadr of throwing a grenade that killed one U.S. soldier and wounded another during a firefight at an al Qaeda compound in Afghanistan in 2002. Khadr, 15 at the time and now 21, was shot twice in the back. He has since been held at the Guantanamo naval base.

Officials with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service interviewed Khadr at the base, where he and more than 300 non-Americans accused of links to al Qaeda or associated Islamist groups are being held.

“Canada should have refrained from going down there and participating in this violation of its young citizen’s rights under international law,” Khadr’s lawyer, Nathan Whitling, told the court.

“They should not have participated in this process. They should not have taken advantage of his vulnerability.”

Arguing that Khadr could receive an unfair trial because of information Canada shared with the United States after interviewing him, Whitling said Ottawa must hand over all information it has on him to help his defense.

<p>Maha Elsamnah (R), mother of Omar Khadr, who is being detained by U.S. forces at Guantanamo Bay, leaves the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa March 26, 2008. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>

Pointing to the serious charges against Khadr, the Canadian government said national security interests required the protection of its information.

Government lawyer Robert Frater said one charge in the U.S. indictment was that Khadr converted land mines into other explosive devices “with the intent to kill U.S. and coalition forces.”

“Those are national defense or national security matters and the highest level of protection is accorded to it,” he said, arguing that Khadr has no right to any information the Canadian government has on him.

Another lawyer for Khadr, Dennis Edney, told reporters after the hearing that the U.S. military prosecution’s case against him was unraveling, partly because of documents that had been disclosed already. This emphasized the need for more disclosure, he said.

Last week Khadr said in an affidavit that he had repeatedly been threatened with rape during interrogations.

“Omar Khadr before the military process is an abomination. To expect success in that unfair process is to hope for a great deal, so the least we can do is put a fight up,” Edney said.

He called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to press the U.S. government to get Khadr out of Guantanamo. Ottawa has refrained from doing so, citing the serious charges.

Whitling estimated that Khadr’s case at Guantanamo would go to trial in early July. The court did not reach a decision on Wednesday but will be under pressure to be quick given the need to prepare for the U.S. trial.

Editing by Rob Wilson

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