Friday, May 30, 2008

Repatriate Khadr and restore some semblance of international credibility for us

If the Harper government wanted to get back on the right track in matters of Foreign Affairs, here's where they might start: by saying enough is enough to the political show trial of Omar Khadr at Gitmo. Incredible and outrageous news last night that the judge overseeing the trial has been "relieved of his duties" without a word of explanation. This is the judge who had dismissed Khadr's case once before, but who was overruled on appeal. Of late, in early May, he had threatened to suspend Khadr's case due to the prosecution's conduct in withholding evidence from the defence.

The public story circulating is that the judge wanted to retire. The real implication of this move is that this is just the latest manifestation of blatant U.S. government interference in the trial processes which are inherently unfair to begin with. There's a U.S. election coming, don't ya know. The Republicans need to have some kind of crude, malformed "victory" to show from their festering sore at Guantanamo. Or at a minimum, trials actually up and working.

From the Associated Press:
The chief judge for the Guantanamo tribunals, Marine Col. Ralph Kohlmann, dismissed Brownback and appointed a new judge for Khadr's case without explanation, defense lawyer Navy Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler said.
Military prosecutors have been pressing Brownback to set a trial date, but he has repeatedly directed them first to satisfy defense requests for access to potential evidence. At a hearing earlier this month, he threatened to suspend the proceedings altogether unless the detention center provided records of Khadr's confinement.

Kuebler said he believes the U.S. military is anxious for the trial to start before political pressure leads Canada to demand Khadr's repatriation. (emphasis added)
If that latter view is indeed what motivated this judge's removal, the U.S. military is sorely misguided in its fear from us. Support for repatriation may be growing in the public mind and as a result of figures such as Romeo Dallaire speaking out, but the track record of the Harper government on Gitmo thus far has been one of willful blindness. Sticking its head in the sand. Mouthing platitudes of deference to the legal process in place there. Ignoring leading bar associations who have advocated that Khadr be returned to Canada to face proper rule of law oriented justice. If the U.S. government is expecting Steve to pick up the phone and push for Khadr's repatriation, well, they don't know the Steve we do. He has yet to publicly pivot on such a major issue.

If Harper wants to shock us all, however, and do the opposite of what his government has done thus far in respect of Khadr and Gitmo, that'd be fine by me. He's in a deep hole in Foreign Affairs. And if there is any ounce of sanity being voiced and getting through to the PM's bubble, this would be a great way to start digging himself out of it.