Monday, March 31, 2008

Romeo Dallaire: Bring Omar Khadr Home

I don't know of anyone who doesn't have the utmost respect for Retired Lt.-Gen. Romeo Dallaire - as a soldier, as a hero, and as a profoundly and deeply principled human being.

Therefore, when this man speaks out on the case of Omar Khadr, everyone should take note. Even conservatives.

Omar Khadr is a Canadian citizen who was a 15-year-old child soldier when he allegedly killed a U.S. serviceman during a firefight in Afghanistan. The debate about his return to Canada must begin and end there. That the current and past Canadian governments have failed to secure his release and repatriation is a glaring instance of hypocrisy by this country that prides itself on its advocacy of human rights and adherence to international law.

Child soldiers who are Canadian citizens belong in Canada for due judicial processing and, more importantly, for rehabilitation after having been reared and coerced into extremism and violence.

All other details about Omar Khadr's activities in Afghanistan and the aftermath of his capture by U.S. forces only strengthen the argument for his return. The 15-year-old Omar was in a compound during aU.S. attack and was shot twice in the chest during the raid. After his capture, he was transferred to the U.S.'s infamous Bagram detention facility where he was processed as an adult combatant and very likely mistreated and tortured.

...Canada's Conservative government has demonstrated a sorry lack of decisiveness and effort to bring Khadr home. Our other allies recognized at the outset that Guantanamo was no place for due process, and quickly and successfully pushed for their citizens' release and repatriation. Today, Mr. Khadr is the only remaining citizen of a Western country incarcerated in Guantanamo.

Although Canada has no established system for dealing with child soldiers, we can learn much from nations that do. Rwanda and Sierra Leone, for example, countries we smugly categorize as underdeveloped, use a combination of demobilization, youth justice and rehabilitation on child soldiers who were abused and used to commit unspeakable acts.

If you still aren't convinced, you need to read the Toronto Star's excerpts from 'Guantanamo's Child', cached versions of which can still be found here and here.

As the mother of a fifteen year-old boy, I find the accounts of Khadr's treatment by both his family and his captors utterly sickening. As well, I am disgusted by critics who claim that fifteen is plenty old enough to make independent decisions. I can state categorically and from bitter personal experience that the average fifteen year-old boy doesn't even have enough sense to put on a jacket when it's cold or boots in the snow, let alone take a moral stand in the face of overwhelming pressure from family and peers.

BTW, I did find one error in Dallaire's editorial: Khadr was shot in the back, not the chest. Those holes are exit wounds.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, check out this picture of your precious Omar:

    Nice guy, huh? Let him rot.
    Why not show compassion for the soldier he killed, and the other he blinded with his grenade, hmm??