OTTAWA — The U.S. is violating international norms by holding a Canadian former child soldier at Guantanamo Bay, his lawyers told Canada’s high court Wednesday as they sought to force the country’s intelligence service to provide details from their interviews with him.Omar Khadr’s attorneys argued Canadian intelligence officers violated Canada’s bill of rights by questioning him in 2003 and 2004 at the U.S. military base, where some 275 men are held for their alleged links to al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
Khadr’s attorneys asked the Canadian Supreme Court to order Canada’s government to release details about the interrogations so the material can be used in Khadr’s war-crimes trial at Guantanamo, which is expected to begin this summer.
The lawyers condemned the U.S. war-crimes trial system and said Khadr should be tried before a proper court on charges that he killed a U.S. soldier with a grenade in a 2002 firefight in Afghanistan when he was 15 years old.
The so-called military commissions at Guantanamo were created by Congress and President Bush in 2006 after the U.S. Supreme Court threw out the previous system, declaring it unconstitutional.
Broadening the scope of Wednesday’s hearing, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled last week that Khadr’s lawyers could raise the legality of his detention and forthcoming trial at Guantanamo. The Toronto-born Khadr has been locked up at Guantanamo since October 2002.
“Omar Khadr is before a military process that is abomination. To expect success in that unfair process is to hope a great deal,” attorney Dennis Edney said after the hearing.
A lawyer for Canada’s Justice Department, Robert Frater, accused Khadr’s lawyers 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.
Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin said the court would rule later.
Nathan Whitling, another Khadr attorney, argued that Canadian intelligence officers violated his client’s rights by interrogating him while he is detained under an unfair system.
“He was expressly prohibited from getting access to a court,” Whitling told the nine justices. “Canadians should have refrained from going down there and participating in his vulnerability.”
Several of the nine justices asked Frater to reveal which U.S. authorities were given information obtained in the questioning of Khadr. Frater acknowledged material was shared but declined to say who got it.
Khadr’s lawyers said the U.S. is violating juvenile justice rules set out by the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child and international agreements on civil and political rights and the treatment of prisoners.
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.
The U.S. military says it plans to charge about 80 detainees at Guantanamo, but so far no case has gone to trial.
One of Khadr’s brothers, Abdurahman Khadr, has acknowledged that their Egyptian-born father, Ahmed Said Khadr, and some of his brothers fought for al-Qaeda and stayed with Osama bin Laden. The elder Khadr was killed in Pakistan in 2003 when a Pakistani military helicopter attacked a house where he was staying with senior al-Qaeda operatives.
Another of Khadr’s brothers, Abdullah Khadr, is being held in Canada on a U.S. extradition warrant that accuses him of supplying weapons to al-Qaeda.
Khadr’s mother, two sisters and younger brother, were in the courtroom Wednesday. They declined comment.