Omar Khadr will remain incarcerated for at least two years, report says

A Correctional Service of Canada report obtained by the Toronto Star states that due to his Guantanamo conviction, Omar Khadr was assessed as an inmate convicted of first-degree murder and terrorism and therefore is automatically designated “maximum security.”

A Correctional Service of Canada report states that because of his Guantanamo conviction, Omar Khadr, now at Millhaven, was assessed as an inmate convicted of first-degree murder and terrorism and therefore is automatically designated “maximum security.”


By:   Toronto Star

A Correctional Service of Canada report states that because of his Guantanamo conviction, Omar Khadr, now at Millhaven, was assessed as an inmate convicted of first-degree murder and terrorism and therefore is automatically designated “maximum security.”

Former Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr will remain incarcerated at Millhaven Institution’s maximum security facility with little chance of rehabilitation or parole for at least two years.

A Correctional Service of Canada report obtained by the Toronto Star states that due to his Guantanamo conviction, Khadr was assessed as an inmate convicted of first-degree murder and terrorism and therefore is automatically designated “maximum security.”

Although Khadr would be eligible for day parole in March, it is extremely rare for anyone with this designation to be approved. His status will be reviewed in December 2014.

University of Toronto criminologist Anthony Doob said he was dismayed that Corrections Canada chose to apply the standardized “Custody Rating Scale” for Khadr, which automatically designates him maximum security, despite the unique aspects of his case and reports of his good behaviour during his 10-year incarceration at Guantanamo.

“They should be looking at his past, the circumstances of his offence, how old he was,” Doob said. “It’s perpetuating this view that he’s the same as the guy who is a terrorist or member of organized crime who killed somebody on the streets of Toronto yesterday.

“The thing about approaching this the way they did ensures the outcome. I’ve never met Omar Khadr, I know nothing about him and I can go to the web and see that he’s going to be classified as maximum security.

“Isn’t that a little bizarre? Why didn’t it take three minutes instead of three months if that is all they were going to do?”

Khadr has been held at the Millhaven facility’s hospital for assessment since being transferred to Canada from Guantanamo on Sept. 29. The 26-year-old is now expected to be moved to a range in the general population with other maximum security inmates.

The Khadr saga stretches back to July 2002, when at the age of 15, he was shot and captured following a battle in Afghanistan.

In October 2010, he pleaded guilty to five Guantanamo offences including “murder in violation of the laws of war” for the death of U.S. Delta Force soldier Christopher Speer who was fatally wounded in the battle.

His plea deal gave him an eight-year sentence and chance to return to Canada.

Child and civil rights advocates, including Liberal Senator and retired Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, have pushed to have him recognized and treated as a child soldier, and the UN condemned both the U.S. and Canada for the prosecution of a juvenile for war crimes.

Khadr’s lawyer, John Norris, said he was disappointed the designation will limit Corrections Canada’s ability to provide rehabilitation options, aside from Khadr continuing his education and religious counselling from a prison-approved imam.

“Their hands really are tied by the fact that he’s stuck in max, because they can’t help him get ready to return to the community,” Norris said, adding that he is “weighing the options” in terms of any legal challenges.

“What he really needs is the ability to re-integrate into the community. Re-integration is one of the cardinal principles of dealing with child soldiers. It’s also a key principle in dealing with young people in general.”

Véronique Rioux, a spokeswoman for Corrections Canada said she was unable to comment on individual cases, citing privacy concerns.

It is believed Khadr will receive similar rights as other inmates, including the ability to see visitors. Norris said Khadr has already met with his mother Maha Elsamnah and Arlette Zinck, an English professor from King’s University College in Edmonton, who began providing him lesson plans and visiting him while he was incarcerated in Guantanamo.

Although the eight-page report does outline many of the aspects of the case, Khadr’s security risk rating of 139 determines his status. The scale automatically gives him 69 points for a murder conviction, 20 points for a terrorism offence, 30 points for his age at the time of conviction (he was 25) and 20 points for his sentence length (eight years.)

Any rating over 134 is considered maximum security.

“This says absolutely nothing about whether Omar is a danger to the public and it’s critical people understand it’s completely divorced from that,” Norris said. “In fact, the scoring requires Corrections to ignore the evidence that his is not a danger.”

The Millhaven’s Assessment Unit report recommends that Khadr be kept in a “highly structured environment in which individual and group interaction is subject to direct and constant supervision

“During the intake assessment interview Khadr emphasized that his current sentiments/beliefs reflect pro-social changes in attitudes promoting peaceful resolution to conflicts,” the report states.

But the report also notes that given Khadr’s limited access to other inmates since his arrival, it is difficult to assess how he will interact with other prisoners.

“Not to negate the length of time he has spent in custody (in Guantanamo) with no evidence of attitudinal or behaviour problems; Khadr is a new arrival to the Canadian federal correctional system . . . Correctional Services Canada has not had the opportunity to assess the risk he may pose to the security of the institution, other offenders or the risk to his own safety.”

Concerns about Khadr’s connections to Al Qaeda as a teenager and during his incarceration at Guantanamo are noted in the report, which recommends monitoring his association with other offenders, “particularly those who look up to him.” A security officer noted a Millhaven inmate convicted of terrorism communicating with Khadr through his cell on Oct. 1, 2012, the report states, without giving any further details.

The report references positive assessments of Khadr by Katherine Porterfield, a clinical psychologist at New York’s Bellevue Hospital and forensic psychiatrist and retired U.S. Army Brig.-Gen. Stephen Xenakis. The pair spent several years and hundreds of hours with Khadr during his detention in Guantanamo and the report states according to their accounts, “it would appear that Khadr demonstrated the ability to develop positive interpersonal relationships.”

But the report also states, that “Correctional Services Canada is not in receipt of information from Guantanamo Bay pertaining to his behaviour while detained at the facility.”

There is no mention of the reports by psychiatrists Michael Welner or Alan Hopewell, which Public Safety Minister Vic Toews personally requested from U.S. defence secretary Leon Panetta, delaying Khadr’s expected transfer to Canada and infuriating Obama administration officials eager to transfer the Toronto-born detainee.

Welner told a Guantanamo courtroom during Khadr’s sentencing hearing that he was “highly dangerous” and considered a “rock star” at Gitmo.


Omar Khadr: the case is not closed | Amnesty International Canada

FreeOmar AmnestyOmar Khadr was transferred to Canada on September 29, but the campaign for justice continues.

On September 29, 2012, Omar Khadr was finally transferred from Guantanamo Bay to Canada after ten long years. Captured in Afghanistan at the age of 15 in July 2002, he never should have been on a battlefield in the first place. As the Canadian government stated at the time: “It is an unfortunate reality that juveniles are too often the victims in military actions and that many groups and countries actively recruit and use them in armed conflicts and in terrorist activities.” But instead of demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration, Omar Khadr and other children sent to Guantanamo faced torture and ill-treatment, unlawful detention and the hopelessness of indefinite legal limbo.

Accused of throwing a grenade that ended the life of a US Special Forces soldier, Omar Khadr’s trial by military commission ended in a plea agreement in October 2010. He was sentenced to eight more years in detention, the first of which was to be served in US custody before he would be eligible for transfer to Canada. Diplomatic notes exchanged between the US and Canada at the time of the plea agreement stated that the “Government of Canada is inclined to favourably consider Mr. Khadr’s application to be transferred to Canada to serve the remainder of his sentence.” In November 2010, then Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon told the House of Commons that Canada would “implement the agreement.”

Almost a year after Omar Khadr became eligible for a transfer to Canada, the request stil sat unsigned on the Minister of Public Safety’s desk. In the face of too many delays, Omar Khadr’s lawyers launched a Federal Court action in mid-July. That pressure and the work of many others over the years - including Amnesty members from all over the world - ultimately contributed to his transfer at the end of September 2012.

An explanation for the long delay is owed not just to Omar Khadr, but to the Canadian public. The courts, UN bodies and numerous NGOs including Amnesty International have repeatedly pointed to the outstanding human rights violations yet to be remedied in Omar Khadr’s case. The allegations of torture and ill-treatment are credible and troubling, and must finally be investigated. Canadian officials were also found to have violated Omar Khadr’s Charter rights when they continued to interrogate him in Guantanamo despite the fact that his detention and treatment violated international standards. His status as a child combatant – and the obligations that follow from that – also continue to go unacknowledged.

Please use the form on the Amnesty International Canada website to send a message to Prime Minister Harper that the case of Omar Khadr is not closed.  Not only are there violations yet to be recognized and remedied, but we must ensure that there is greater consistency in the government’s approach to Canadians detained abroad facing serious human rights violations.

Please sign and send the following email to Prime Minister Stephen Harper calling on him to resolve the outstanding human rights issues in the case of Omar Khadr. You can use the comment box to make additional points in your letter.

Dear Prime Minister Harper:

While a welcome step, the transfer of Omar Khadr to Canada after many long delays does not resolve the outstanding human rights issues in this case. I urge your government to promptly:

  • Investigate the credible and troubling allegations of torture and ill-treatment while Omar Khadr was detained in Bagram and Guantánamo  Bay.
  • Recognize Omar Khadr as a child soldier in line with the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict.
  • Acknowledge the grave human rights violations associated with the detention facility in Guantánamo Bay, including the fact that the military commissions fall far short of international standards for fair trials.
  • Provide a remedy as required by the 2010 Supreme Court of Canada decision, particularly with a view to ensuring non-repetition of the human rights violations experienced by Omar Khadr.
  • Ensure that the Correctional Service of Canada is able to manage Omar Khadr’s case without political interference.

Link to the original text and the form on the Amnesty International Canada website