Friday, April 18, 2008

Khadr and torture

Looks like, early on, there were instincts from our government that were on the right track about Gitmo and Omar Khadr being sent there. Unfortunately, this early leadership was not followed through upon by governments beyond 2002:
Canada asked the United States not to send Omar Khadr to Guantanamo Bay in 2002 because he was only 15 years old, and requested discussions with the Americans before they made any decisions.

In a diplomatic letter released Thursday, Canadian officials said there was “some ambiguity” about Mr. Khadr's role in a firefight that July, adding it would be “inappropriate” to transfer him from U.S. custody in Afghanistan to the prison camp in Cuba.

“Under various laws of Canada and the United States, such an age provides for special treatment of such persons with respect to legal or judicial processes,” reads the letter from the Canadian embassy in Washington, dated Sept. 13, 2002.

“As such, the government of Canada believes that it would be inappropriate for Mr. Omar Khadr to be transferred to the detention facilities at the American naval base at Guantanamo Bay.”

The letter also expressed concern that the State Department wasn't officially confirming information about Mr. Khadr, and said details were ambiguous and requested discussions “prior to any decisions being taken with respect to his future status and detention.”
Those were the days, hey? A brief shining moment it appears. No such luck anymore, particularly in the last two years when Maxime Bernier's been AWOL in "standing up for Canada" while the rest of the world stares at us in disbelief over our wilful blindness toward Gitmo. Not holding out any hope at this point that the Harper government will do the right thing.

On a somewhat related note, the U.S. Justice Department is confirming that it's investigating how the John Yoo legal memorandum came to be. The one that legally justified the use of torture despite international law providing otherwise.
The Justice Department is investigating whether agency officials acted appropriately when issuing a memo saying the President's wartime authority could not be limited by domestic laws or international bans on torture.
The department's Office of Professional Responsibility, which is handling the investigation, generally does not publicly discuss what matters are under review. The office called Senator Sheldon Whitehouse late Wednesday night to confirm the expanded inquiry into the 2003 memo, according to his spokeswoman, Alex Swartsel.

In a statement, Mr. Whitehouse said the investigation will shed light on how the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel reached its conclusions in writing the memo. He said it will “help us discover what went wrong and how to put it right.”

The abject failure of legal scholarship in the Office of Legal Counsel's analysis of torture suggests that what mattered was not that the reasoning was sound, or that the research was comprehensive, but that it delivered what the Bush administration wanted,” Mr. Whitehouse said.
Playing fast and loose with the law may ultimately be catching up with the Bush administration. Finally, an investigation that, amazingly, these conservative ideologues don't seem to be able to stonewall or avoid. Seems to me we need a little bit of that up here these days.