Canadian Detainee at Guantanamo Wins Document Access
TORONTO - Canada's government violated the constitution when it gave American officials the results of interviews conducted with a Canadian detainee at the Guantanamo Bay prison, the nation's top court said Friday.
The high court ruled 9-0 that Omar Khadr has a constitutional right to material directly related to interviews that Canadian intelligence officials conducted with him during his detention.
Khadr's attorneys say they'll use the documents to help defend him against a murder charge before a U.S. tribunal.
Khadr was captured in July 2002 and is accused of throwing a grenade that killed a U.S. special forces soldier during a firefight in Afghanistan. He was 15 at the time and is now 21.
He has been held since October 2002 at the prison, where some 275 men are being held for alleged links to al-Qaida and the Taliban.
The court said the Canadian government violated a provision in Canada's bill of rights that requires disclosure of evidence.
The high court said Canada was wrong to interview Khadr in a place where international laws are not followed and that Canada became a participant in a process that violated Canada's international human rights obligations.
The court said a lower court judge will "decide which documents fall within the scope of the disclosure obligation."
That could leave the door open for the government to raise objections on some material by citing national security.
Nathan Whitling, Khadr's lawyer, said he was happy with the ruling, but the court's decision limits what they will be able to see.
Whitling said he wanted the court to release a U.S. military report, shared with Canada, that details the battle that resulted in the soldier's death.
"The remedy is far short of what we're hoping for," Whitling said.
A lawyer for Canada's Justice Department, Robert Frater, accused Khadr's lawyers in March of going on a "fishing expedition" for sensitive intelligence information. He said U.S. practices at Guantanamo Bay should not be on trial in a Canadian courtroom.
Jameel Jaffer, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's National Security Project, said the court's decision makes a clear statement that the legal system under which Khadr was detained and charged was unlawful.
"The Canadian court's decision is a declaration that Guantanamo is not an island without law," he said in a statement.
Khadr is expected to be among the first detainees to face a U.S. war-crimes trial since the World War II era. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted on charges including murder, conspiracy and supporting terrorism.
Canadian foreign affairs spokesman Neil Hrab reiterated Friday the government's long-standing position when asked if Canada will seek his release.
"The government of Canada has sought and received assurances that Mr. Khadr is being treated humanely," Hrab said. "Any questions regarding whether Canada plans to ask for the release of Omar Khadr are premature."
Khadr has received little sympathy in Canada, where his family has been called the "First Family of Terrorism."
Khadr is the son of an alleged al-Qaida financier. One of Khadr's brothers has acknowledged that their Egyptian-born father, Ahmed Said Khadr, and some of his brothers fought for al-Qaida and had stayed with Osama bin Laden.
Another brother, Abdullah Khadr, is being held in Canada on a U.S. extradition warrant, accused of supplying weapons to al-Qaida.
The elder Khadr was killed in Pakistan in 2003 when a Pakistani military helicopter shelled the house where he was staying with some senior al-Qaida operatives.
© 2008 Associated Press