Monday, January 16, 2012

Torture Does not Fight Terrorism: Rally to Close Guantanamo & Bring Omar Khadr Home

On January 7, a group of students from the local branch of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) organized a peaceful protest outside of the Alberta Legislature, calling for Canada to support closing Guantanamo and bringing child soldier Omar Khadr home.

I took part in a similar rally around two years ago, at Churchill Square.

Like many of the causes with which I am involved, this seems to be one that is very divisive. I am going to list the arguments that I have been encountering, and explain the rationale behind the perspective that Guantanamo should be closed and Omar Khadr should be be brought back to Canada for a fair trial.

Omar Khadr is a terrorist.
When someone is on our side, that person is a war hero; when they are on the other side, that person is a terrorist. One nation's terrorist is another nation's freedom fighter. Omar Khadr was a child soldier in a war (an illegal and unjust war, at that), and in a war, people get killed (which is one reason me and my cohorts protest against it). If Khadr's actions were criminal, he should be tried, then possibly convicted and sentenced. Instead, he has been languishing in a prison for ten years, without a trial.

Excuse me - he pleaded guilty.
What choice did he have? Since his own country, Canada, would not take him back to try him here, it was probably the only way Khadr and his lawyers felt he would ever see the light of day.

His whole family is a bunch of terrorists.
See my original point. Assuming this is true, it only supports the need for Khadr to be tried in Canada as a Canadian. Likely, at his young age he was under the influence of his family for whatever actions he committed.

He was old enough to know what he was doing.
He was a young teenager. Young teens can be open to influence and easily manipulated. A fourteen year old in Canada who commits murder is usually tried as a child (yes, a murder charge can be bumped up to adult court, but even still, he would not have been imprisoned indefinitely and subject to torture).

Do you think the majority of Canadians agree with your view?
I honestly don't know - I have never conducted a poll. However, that is irrelevant. How the nation conducts itself in this situation is the difference between a government that has a foreign policy that simply follows the lead of the US, or one that holds up values of international law and justice. You see, the use of torture against prisoners of war is illegal. It is also ineffective. A person will say anything to make the torture stop. So, a confession acquired through the use of torture is invalid, as far as I am concerned.

As well, Canada is the only country who has not taken back a citizen from Guantanamo. All of the other countries have taken back their nationals and dealt with them on their home turfs. I see no compelling reason why Canada should act any differently.

I know these are controversial issues and I don't expect everyone to agree with me. Nor am I saying that Khadr is innocent of any wrong-doing. What I and my cohorts are saying is that the way the Canadian government has done one of its citizens a disservice and by doing so, has tarnished Canada's image to the world.

Here is my full set of photos from the event.

A video of highlights from most of the speakers:

The short march around the Legislature pool:

1 comment:

Allan Sheppard said...

Well said, Paula.