Jan 21, 2009 09:18 AM
GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA – A military judge has suspended the war crimes trial of Omar Khadr until May to give the Obama administration time to decide how to handle the Canadian captive's case.
Late Tuesday, newly sworn-in President Barack Obama asked prosecutors here to request the delay so there is "time to review the process."
Khadr's lawyers did not object and Army Col. Patrick Parrish ordered the case suspended early Wednesday.
While critics of the Bush administration's war crimes trials welcomed the suspension as the first step in shutting down this prison, the move essentially puts Khadr back in a legal limbo. Since his 2002 capture in Afghanistan Khadr has had charges withdrawn and re-instated three times.
Now 22, Khadr has spent almost a third of his life in U.S. custody and is the last Western detainee held here.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has repeatedly said he will not interfere in the Americans' handling of the Khadr case or request his repatriation, as other government's have done for their citizens.
Khadr's Pentagon-appointed lawyer renewed calls Wednesday morning for the Canadian government to intervene.
"There will be no ongoing process that Stephen Harper can use as an excuse for not acting," Navy Lt.-Cmdr. Bill Kuebler said.
"Given the fact that there's almost no likelihood that there's ever going to be a prosecution against Omar Khadr on those charges, in this system, it would simply be in bad faith to say there's a process ongoing."
The prosecution's motion for delay was directed by Obama, through Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and stated that the 120-day delay should be granted in the "interests of justice."
Obama was critical of the 2006 Military Commissions Act, under which Khadr and 20 other prisoners were charged. Captured at the age of 15, Khadr was charged with five war crimes, including murder for the death of Delta Force soldier Christopher Speer.
It was expected that Obama administration would review the cases currently before the military commissions and about 60 others that the Pentagon said they would pursue. Members of his transition team before Tuesday's inauguration hinted that many of these cases would be transferred to U.S. military or criminal courts.
But seeking a delay, rather than withdrawing the charges outright, leaves open the possibility that Obama will revamp the military commissions.
"This is a good step in the right direction, although we still think that the unconditional withdrawal of all charges and shutting down this tainted system is warranted," Jamil Dakwar, director of the human rights program at the American Civil Liberties Union, said late Tuesday.
"The president's order leaves open the option of this discredited system remaining in existence."
Commentary by the Ottawa Mens Centre
Our society is highly skilled at making political rather than legal decisions that void the rule of law and systematically abuse victims of injustice. Mr. Harper's silence may have been greatly appreciated by George Bush but it was equally viewed as a disgusting example of tail sniffing by a wanabe Republican governor of the State of the Great White North. Harper lived in the present, with a dyed in the wool right wing dogma/agenda that was only too willing to turn a blind eye to politically correct injustice. Mr. Harper also failed to deal with Canada's policy of male gender apartheid and Canada's failure to legislate a legal presumption of equal parenting. The Omar Khadar case is only the visible tip of an iceberg that the public can see. Those who flagrantly abuse their powers fail to realize that injustice is like an express train without brakes and it will not stop until the causal problems are addressed. See the roscoe research at the ottawa mens centre