Saturday, May 07, 2011

Canadian court refuses to extradite alleged terrorist to US due to fears of human rights abuses

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Abdullah Khadr, suspected al-Qaeda collaborator
Abdullah Khadr

This is one of those stories that make me proud to be a Canadian, and that should hopefully make Americans look up to their snowy geographical hat and see how justice is properly handled. The Ontario Superior Court of Justice has freed an alleged al-Qaeda collaborator in order to prevent him from being extradited back to the US, where he has already suffered numerous human rights abuses over the past decade and where the Canadian court fears he would be thrown back into the same extrajudicial hell. The court plans to have the suspect tried for his suspected terroristic ties independently.

From the Toronto Star:

Its 3-0 ruling upholds a decision last August by Justice Christopher Speyer of Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice to stay extradition proceedings involving Abdullah Khadr, 30, who is wanted in Boston on charges of procuring munitions for use by Al Qaeda against U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan.

The Toronto man is the older brother of Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr and son of Ahmed Khadr, who was suspected of having close ties with Osama bin Laden and killed in a shootout with Pakistan’s security forces on the Afghanistan border in 2003.

“We must adhere to our democratic and legal values, even if that adherence serves in the short term to benefit those who oppose and seek to destroy those values,” said Justice Robert Sharpe, writing on behalf of Justices John Laskin and Eleanore Cronk.

“For if we do not, in the longer term, the enemies of democracy and the rule of law will have succeeded,” he said. “They will have demonstrated that our faith in our legal order is unable to withstand their threats.”

And here’s the (illegal) mistreatment that spurred the Canadian court to deny Khadr’s rendition back to the United States:

The U.S. paid Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) $500,000 to abduct Khadr, a Canadian citizen, in Islamabad on Oct. 15, 2004.

He was denied access to courts and consular officials, beaten until he cooperated with the ISI and detained at a secret location for 14 months.

U.S. authorities discouraged a request from a Canadian Security Intelligence Service officer in Pakistan that Khadr be granted access to the Canadian consulate.

U.S. officials wanted Pakistan to allow for his rendition to the U.S., but it refused to do so without Canada’s consent, which was denied.

Khadr was flown to Toronto on Dec. 2, 2005 and charges were filed in Boston 12 days later.

In its ruling Friday, the court said Speyer’s decision to pull the plug on the American extradition request was a viable way of protecting the integrity of the justice system and distancing Canada’s courts from how U.S. and Pakistani officials behaved.

Sending Khadr to Boston would amount to sanctioning human rights abuses, the court said.

As unequivocally damning as this sounds, it will come as absolutely no surprise to anyone who pays any attention to the US’s long and grim record of injustices against its detainees at Guantanamo Bay and various other “black sites”. In fact, the Superior Court minced few words when talking about Khadr’s case, implying their condemning of other such rights abuses in the process:

While the federal government argued Speyer had no right to pass judgment on the legality of Khadr’s treatment in Pakistan, the court suggested that was beyond debate.

“It surely can come as no surprise that in a country like Pakistan with a constitution guaranteeing fundamental rights and freedoms, it is illegal to accept a bounty or bribe from a foreign government to abduct a foreign national from the street, to beat that individual until he agrees to cooperate, to deny him consular access, to hold him in a secret detention centre for eight months while his utility as an intelligence source is exhausted, and then to continue to hold him in secret detention for six more months at the request of a foreign power.”

Now, there are certainly some who will be claiming that the court’s decision to free Khadr over letting him rot in the hands of the US somehow indicates that the judge really just wants to help the terrorist or some such nonsense. Of course, this is entirely removed from reality; the point is that the Canadian courts apparently understand that which the US courts simply do not: When you prove yourself willing, and even happy, to abandon your self-avowed principles and laws just to carry out some carnal retribution in the name of political, judicial or moral expediency, you are establishing a precedent that makes it clear that you are willing (and even happy) to sink to the terrorists’ level just to “stick it to the bad guys” and make yourselves feel good over hurting those who’ve (allegedly) hurt you.

But as primitively satisfying as that may be, it is no way to behave if you are to be a part of a society that supposedly functions under the rule of law, especially one based on human rights and dignity for everyone, regardless of what they may have done. The Ontario Superior Court of Justice evidently recognizes this, which is why it decided to show the US how criminal justice is supposed to be handled – calmly and rationally, and by applying the very moral and ethical precepts you claim to infuse your legal system with. True justice is upholding the law for everyone equally and fairly, regardless of what they may have done.

(via @ggreenwald)