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The Story Of Omar Khadr And Why He Is Controversial

Omar Khadr
Courtesy of The Star, Photo Credit: JASON FRANSON / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Omar Khadr has been compensated 10.5 million dollars by the Canadian government and has received a formal apology for alleged human rights abuses against him, but many feel he deserves nothing.

It was during an Afghan firefight in July 2002 that 15-year-old Omar Khadr allegedly threw a grenade and killed Sergeant Christopher Speer. Since then, Khadr has been subject to a myriad of circumstances, including what he alleges are human rights abuses perpetrated by the Canadian government.

Omar
Omar Khadr at the time he was detained; Omar Ahmed Khadr born on September 19, 1986

Khadr, after being detained and thrown into Guantanamo Bay, alleged that before and after his detainment he was subject to human rights abuses in the form of enhanced interrogation. 

Notably, Khadr claimed that during 2003 and 2004 while being held in Guantanamo, he had his constitutional rights violated by Canadian officials, with his lawyers contending that his Guantanamo trial was directly related to the information extracted by the Canadian interrogation. With the information gleaned under interrogation leading to Khadr’s conviction, alleged torture would make the teen’s admission of guilt inadmissible.

On October 25th, 2015, Khadr plead guilty to the killing of Sergeant Christopher Speer, along with charges of terrorism and violations of the law of war. 

A plea deal was granted that would see Khadr serve an additional year in Guantanamo and deliberate transfer to a Canadian facility. Canadian authorities initially refused to repatriate Khadr, but after a Supreme Court ruling in 2009 declared that the teen’s rights had been violated, ensuing repatriation was granted.  

During this time, many advocated for Khadr’s return to the country, including the famous lieutenant-general Romeo Dallaire who petitioned his release into Canadian custody. In 2012 Khadr was transferred to a Canadian maximum-security prison and on May 7th of 2015 was released on bail, with subsequent lawsuits brought up against him by Speer’s widow and friend, leading to a grant of $134 million dollars, which has yet to be played out.

Omar Khadr and 2017 settlement with Canadian government

After filing a 20 million dollar lawsuit against the Canadian government in 2013, alleging that the country conspired with the US in abusing his rights, Khadr was compensated 10.4 million dollars on July 4th of this year. Three days later Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale confirmed the compensation and formally apologized to Khadr on behalf of the government.

This did not sit right with a lot of people. This included the opposition leader Andrew Scheer, known for his traditionally conservative viewpoints.  The Conservative MP was quoted as saying “if Omar Khadr is truly sorry for what he’s done, that money would be given directly to the family of Sgt. Speer”.

The case of Omar Khadr divides Canadians this way. There are those (mostly on the conservative side) who see the young man as nothing more than a convicted terrorist; and there are those (mostly on the liberal side), who see a child soldier forced into abuse and incarceration at the hands of government agencies.

The case of Khadr is hard to judge because the reality is that no one knows if he is truly guilty of the crime he was sentenced. If torture was involved and Khadr was forced into an admission of guilt, innocence in the death of Sergeant Speer is conceivable. But the truth is that because many see Khadr already through the prism of a convicted terrorist, his personage in the public sphere will always be tainted.

Indeed, many consider Khadr as nothing but a cold-blooded jihadist who managed to swindle 10.5 million dollars from the Canadian government, while at the same time barely paying for the murder of an American soldier. Khadr has lived a strange and complicated life. To judge and condemn or embrace the figure will be equally strange and complicated. The world sees Omar Khadr as either a child or a terrorist. His life and tribulations are mirrored in the opinions of other people who judge the figure by their own predisposition. This is the reality of such a figure, and although his government trials are over, his public ones are still forthcoming.

 

Read Also: Canada’s New Conservative Leader Shifts Emphasis To Christian Chaldean Refugees

 

2 Comments

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  • Very sad day for Canada. It’s a shame. He deserves to be deported and his Canadian citizenship be taken from him & not to be rewarded.

    • It seems to me that he was simply defending his parents’ home country from American invaders. But like the article says, we do not know all the facts.

About the author

Mark Chamoun

Mark Chamoun

Mark Chamoun is a third-year Political Science and Near and Middle Eastern Studies major at the University of Toronto. His interests belong mostly in the political and philosophical spheres. Chamoun works as a president of the Chaldean Canadian Student Association which advocates for the culture, identity, and political needs of the Chaldean people. In addition, he is focusing on issues pertaining to minority groups in the Middle East and the current politics and happenings in the region.

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