Omar Khadr’s settlement a case of defending human rights

Armchair Mayor
By Mel Rothenburger
July 7, 2017 - 5:00am
Image Credit: Nathan Denette / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Those expressing outrage at the $10.5-million settlement between the federal government and Omar Khadr should look more closely at the facts.

Contrary to what some might think or what some editorialists would have us believe, this isn’t a case of the government losing its mind and simply handing over a big paycheque to a confessed terrorist. It’s a settlement of a $20-million lawsuit. (He also reportedly will receive an apology.)

According to the Supreme Court, Khadr’s human rights were violated. Canada takes human rights seriously, and when someone suffers because we fail to protect that person’s human rights, the country and its courts try to make amends.

The Canadian-born Khadr was a child when he allegedly killed an American soldier with a hand grenade, and blinded another in one eye during a firefight in the Afghanistan war in 2002. He was captured and imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay, where Canadian interrogators were at least complicit in the use of sleep deprivation to wring a confession out of him.

The confession was then passed along to the U.S. There were a number of other issues, as well, including denial of access to a lawyer. Khadr later recanted his confession.

In 2010, the Supreme Court of Canada found that Khadr’s treatment “offends the most basic Canadian standards about the treatment of detained youth suspects.”

It isn’t the first time the Canadian government has made payouts to individuals who suffered due to Canadian involvement in the improper treatment of prisoners. Though the cases are much different, Maher Arar (who lived in Kamloops for a short time after he regained his freedom) was paid $10 million. And there are others.

The $10.5 million reportedly paid to Khadr (it was reported Thursday night the cheque has, indeed, been written) is a lot of money, but how do you measure how much compensation is proper when torture is involved?

We’re so afraid of terrorism these days that we tend to think in terms of generalities and too easily engage in exaggerated rhetoric.  Righteous indignation can’t be allowed to usurp our commitment to human rights.

As the Supreme Court stated, Khadr was not treated according to “the most basic standards.”