Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Dallaire accuses Canada of hypocrisy on Khadr case

Dallaire accuses Canada of hypocrisy on Khadr case

Updated Tue. Apr. 1 2008 7:54 AM ET News Staff

Liberal Senator Romeo Dallaire is accusing Canada of hypocrisy for "abandoning" Omar Khadr after his capture by U.S. forces in 2002.

Khadr is the Canadian child soldier who was captured by the U.S. in Afghanistan when he was 15 and taken to a prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Dallaire, a UN peacekeeper in Rwanda in the 1990s, says Canada is trying to help rehabilitate and reintegrate child soldiers around the world, but has done nothing to help one of its own citizens.

"In the case of (Khadr), a Canadian child soldier in an American illegal prison ... we've backed off from taking that role and responsibility," the retired general told CTV's Canada AM on Tuesday.

Khadr, the Toronto-born son of an alleged al Qaeda financier, was captured by U.S. soldiers in July 2002 following a firefight in Afghanistan.

The teen was eventually transferred to Guantanamo Bay following allegations he threw a grenade during the firefight, killing a U.S. soldier.

Dallaire says the fact that Canada has not stepped in to help one of its own citizens may be due to the fact that Khadr's late father had alleged terrorist ties.

"(But) that is totally irrelevant of the situation. If your father is a criminal, that does not implicate you of being necessarily part of the crime. On the contrary, if you are a child who has been brought into that process, then we treat you as a juvenile and act accordingly," Dallaire said.

Lt.-Cmdr. William Kuebler, Khadr's U.S. military lawyer, has said Canada should "follow the lead of every other western country" and demand Khadr's repatriation to face justice here. Australian, French, and British citizens who were held at Guantanamo have been sent back to their home countries.

Khadr remains the sole Westerner still held at the prison, where his lawyers have alleged he has been tortured.

Human rights officials, opposition parties, and the Canadian Bar Association have called on the Conservative government to take steps to make sure Khadr is treated fairly. Since his capture, he has been in a legal limbo.

The U.S. government has had various attempts to try Khadr within its military system thwarted by the courts, which have questioned the legality of military tribunals.

Dallaire says Canada needs to step up and help one of its citizens. He says the world is watching to see if Ottawa has dropped its commitment to human rights.

"They are watching us because they don't know where Canada is going in the whole realm of human rights ... generally, this government is making it appear that human rights is not within its parameters," Dallaire said.