It is probably in the nature of being a journalist that one tends to concentrate on things that need to be improved or changed, but I can hardly think of a single government action that has given me more pleasure than today’s news that the government of Canada intends to apologize to Omar Khadr, and compensate him for the terrible experiences he has undergone, at least partly because (as the Supreme Court has found) of actions of this government’s officers.
This young man has never had a break in life: the son of a fanatic follower of Al Queda, he was transported at the age of 15 by his father into the heart of the battles undertaken by the Western world against Afghanistan, which was thought to harbour Osama Bin Laden, held responsible for the attack by Saudi terrorists on the World Trade Centre in New York. Although only a child, he was present during a firefight in which everyone except him and one or two others were killed. American soldiers believed --- or at least said they believed --- that he had thrown a grenade that had killed an American soldier, but Khadr was discovered covered in blood, one eye permanently damaged, and having been shot twice in the chest. When arrested by the Americans, he was treated thereafter as an adult, in violation of all the rules of war, and after a period in Bagram air base prison, during which he claims to have been tortured and roughly handled by his interrogators, he was transferred to Guantanamo, where he became the youngest inmate.
Khadr owes his escape from that dreadful prison to the selfless Edmonton lawyer, Dennis Edney, who represented him throughout his 10 year imprisonment in the Cuban prison and later, after he was reluctantly transferred to Canada because the Canadian courts put the onus on the Harper government to facilitate his return to his home country. The government showed no enthusiasm for this task, and even after his arrival home, they made his life as difficult as possible.
That he was by this time as young man of 25 did not alter the fact that he had been a child when arrested, but neither the American nor the Canadian governments took this into account in deciding on his punishment.
Very severe doubt was thrown on the American claim that he threw a grenade that killed an American soldier, but Edney advised him to accept a plea deal, confessing to the crime to escape the most probable outcome of the Guantanamo legal proceedings, which would have been a 40-year prison term, in return for a reduced sentence of eight years to be served out in Canadian prisons.
Eventually, again at he insistence of Canadian courts, he was released from prison, into the custody of his lawyer, who has sheltered him in his Edmonton home ever since.
That he is now to be granted compensation for his ordeal is no more than he deserves, for he has accepted the misfortunes that have followed him through life with remarkable courage and grace.