The Canadian government explained on Friday why it has formally apologized to Omar Khadr and paid him a sum of money as reparations for violating his charter rights while he was detained and abused in Guantanamo Bay as a teenager.
“The settlement that was announced today has to do with the wrongdoing of Canadian officials with respect to a Canadian citizen.”
Public safety minister Ralph Goodale and Justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould publicly acknowledged the settlement for the first time during a press conference in Ottawa after it was widely reported that Khadr and his lawyers received a $10.5-million settlement on Wednesday. The ministers would not confirm the exact amount, citing a confidentiality agreement signed by all parties.
“Canada actively participated in a process contrary to Canada’s international human rights obligations and contributed to Mr. Khadr’s ongoing detention,” said Goodale who described the ordeal as a “complex saga.”
“The settlement that was announced today has to do with the wrongdoing of Canadian officials with respect to a Canadian citizen,” he said.
Goodale added that continuing to fight Khadr in court would only cost taxpayers more money on top of the $5 million already spent on the matter. Khadr had originally tried to sue the government for $20 million.The ministers repeatedly blamed the previous Conservative government for not settling with Khadr sooner, and flouting multiple Supreme Court decisions that found the federal government contravened its obligations to the charter and international human rights law in the way they dealt with him, especially as a youth.
The government also apologized in writing to Khadr, who was 15 years old when he was caught in a firefight in Afghanistan in 2002
As part of the terms of the settlement, the government also apologized in writing to Khadr, who was 15 years old when he was caught in a firefight in Afghanistan in 2002 and eventually prosecuted by the Pentagon for the death of U.S. Army medic Sgt. Christopher Speer. He was accused of tossing a grenade that caused Speer’s death and injured another American Sgt. Layne Morris.
Khadr was also severely wounded and blinded during the incident. In 2010, he entered a guilty plea, later saying he did so under duress believing it was the only way to get out of Guantanamo. He returned to Canada two years later to serve out the remainder of his sentence and was released on bail in 2015 while he appeals his convictions. Khadr, now 30, lives in Edmonton with his new wife.
Speaking for the first time since news broke of the settlement, Khadr told CBC News that an apology will “restore a little bit my reputation here in Canada, and I think that’s the biggest thing for me.” He wouldn’t say anything about the payment he received: “It’s part of the agreement that I don’t talk about those things,” he continued.
It’s been reported that the Liberals made the payout this week in part to get in front of the ongoing efforts by Morris and Speer’s widow and to get a Canadian court to enforce a previous U.S. court decision requiring Khadr to pay them $134.1 million in damages. Their lawyers also filed an emergency injunction to block any government compensation to Khadr.
University of Ottawa law professor Amir Attaran told The Globe and Mail that if Khadr and his team were smart, “that money is not sitting in Omar Khadr’s name, it is sitting in a trust fund or it is sitting in a corporation or some other structure, and good luck in enforcing against that.”
That matter will continue to be heard in a Toronto court next Thursday. The previous Conservative government reached a $10 million settlement with Maher Arar in 2007 over its involvement with deporting the engineer to Syria where he was detained and tortured.