All the facts on Omar Khadr
Omar Khadr pled guilty to murder and war crimes. According to Khadr himself, he threw a hand grenade that resulted in the death of U.S. army medic Christopher Speer. Khadr was 15 years old at the time.
Khadr subsequently said that he only confessed because of threats of torture. However, an (independent) U.S. judge found that there was no evidence that he had ever been tortured, and further, that his confession was made voluntarily.
This reality puts Khadr’s unrelenting defenders in a logically difficult position. They express with certainty that he was telling the truth about his torture (in spite of the lack of evidence) while being profoundly skeptical about his guilt (in spite of evidence, and his own confession).
These facts leave me highly skeptical of the Canadian government’s decision to give Omar Khadr $10.5 million of taxpayers’ money. With that sum, tax free, he will never have to work again.
It is fair to recognize that Khadr’s background did not exactly give him the best chance in life. In 1995, his father, Ahmed Khadr, was arrested in Pakistan on terrorism-related charges. Former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien intervened and he was released. Ahmed and the family were closely connected to Osama bin Laden. Omar Khadr was a mature 15–year–old at the time of his crimes, but his worldview had no doubt been profoundly shaped by his family.
What is true of Omar Khadr is true of many people who commit terrible crimes — that their worldview and actions are shaped by their upbringing. As such, I believe in the place of forgiveness and rehabilitation. But, seeking opportunities for rehabilitation and reconciliation should not be conflated with a denial of crime or a refusal to treat the true victims in a fair and proportionate way. A rational justice system encourages people to take responsibility for their own actions, not to blame circumstances and other people.
Speaking of proportion, let’s think a bit about the real victims — in particular, the Speer family. The Canadian government made a political choice to pay out a large award to Christopher’s murderer in a way that minimized the opportunity for the Speer family to access any of those funds.
The Liberal government decided to give this money to Khadr in the way that they did. While Khadr was suing the government, the specific outcome and process was far from certain. The government chose to settle this case, at the beginning of the summer, and I believe it was therefore at a time when they were least likely to face questions on the issue.
Maybe the Supreme Court would eventually have decided that Khadr was owed some money — but the cost of litigation would be well worth trying to establish the principle that Canadian taxpayers should not be on the hook for a multi-million–dollar settlement simply because we, apparently, didn’t seek repatriation early enough.
This decision is dead wrong. It shows a complete lack of proportion, a disregard for the evidence, and a lack of compassion for the real victims.
Published: Monday, July 17, 2017