Appeals court asked to reconsider decision on Khadr


WASHINGTON — Lawyers for Canadian terror suspect Omar Khadr asked a special military appeals court Monday to reconsider its decision to allow legal proceedings against him to resume at Guantanamo Bay.

The U.S. Court of Military Commission Review ruled last month that Mr. Khadr could face murder and terrorism charges at a military tribunal at the U.S. naval base in Cuba, overruling an earlier dismissal of the charges.

The trial judge, Colonel Peter Brownback, had thrown the case out in June, saying he lacked jurisdiction to try Mr. Khadr because the 21-year-old hadn't been declared an “unlawful” enemy combatant as required by Congress.

But the military review panel decided Col. Brownback has the authority to decide whether or not Mr. Khadr was legally fighting U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.

Mr. Khadr's lawyers say two e-mails from Col. Brownback to lawyers involved in the case show the determination will be a hasty, sketchy process that's “fundamentally unfair.”

That process would bar an appeal about Mr. Khadr's status to a regular U.S. court, said Lieutenant-Commander William Kuebler.

And the judge has already said he won't accept arguments that Mr. Khadr was an alleged child soldier deserving of international legal protections.

Mr. Khadr was 15 years old when he allegedly threw a grenade that killed a U.S. medic in an Afghanistan firefight in 2002.

“The courts in this process seem determined to avoid the most controversial aspect of Omar's prosecution — whether imposing a life sentence on a child for so-called war crimes is legal,” said Lt.-Cmdr. Kuebler.

“Allowing the military commission to decide whether it can legally try Omar is like letting the fox guard the henhouse.”

The case, which has faced one legal twist after another, is scheduled to resume Nov. 8 in Guantanamo.

The U.S. military is anxious to try Mr. Khadr.

It would be the first full test of a special justice system for foreign terror suspects initially set up by President George W. Bush and revamped by Congress last year.

The process has been condemned by many western countries and human rights groups, but Canada hasn't criticized it. The Conservative government has said it won't get involved.

Mr. Khadr is the only western prisoner left among Guantanamo's 340 detainees. Other countries, like Britain, demanded their citizens be returned home.

Last month, Liberal Leader Stephane Dion urged Prime Minister Stephen Harper to demand that Mr. Khadr be tried in a U.S. civilian court or sent home to face justice.

“It's stunning that Canada can continue to be idle in the face of such an affront to the rule of law,” said Lt.-Cmder. Kuebler.

“In the military commissions, if you're right on the law, they just don't let you make the argument.”

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Our commentary in the Globe and Mail October 2, 2007

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  1. You (Ottawa Mens, from Ottawa, Canada) wrote: Kudos for Stephane Dion for demanding that Khadr be tried in a civilian court. Stephen Harper has a adopted a head in the sand attitude to Khadr that is not becoming a prime minister of Canada. Regardless of party politics, anyone with the power in Canada has a fiduciary duty in the name of justice to do what they can to send the US government a message that a denial of fundamental legal rights is unacceptable. Stephen Harper is demonstrating his contempt for fundamental legal rights and that’s totally unacceptable for a Canadian prime minister.