By Gail Davidson, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada
Attention CBC Ombudsperson;
Re: CBC’s Reply to Kathleen Ruff’s complaint on the Omar Khadr case reporting by CBC
Omar Khadr did not ‘plead guilty’, was not charged with ‘crimes’ and has never been ‘sentenced.’
The terms, ‘plead guilty’, ‘crimes’ and ‘sentenced’ are all words understood by Canadians to refer to widely known concepts that are the underpinnings of our criminal law system. Crimes are violations of statutory penal law; a guilty plea is the accused’s freely and voluntarily given confession in open court, to the crime(s) with which he has been charged; sentencing is the judgment made by a court after an accused is convicted in accordance with law. The term ‘court’ refers to a competent, impartial and independent tribunal mandated to conduct a fair hearing, according to law, and in open court. In the Omar Khadr case there were no charges no court, no guilty plea.
Imposition of sentence, as done by the Guantanamo Bay military tribunal, “without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized people” is a grave breach (i.e. a crime) of the Geneva Conventions and a crime in Canada.
By using these terms the CBC invited listeners to accept a description of what has transpired in the Omar Khadr case that is not only misleading but wholly false. This in turn promotes acceptance of what the law forbids absolutely, violations of rights by state authorities coupled with denial of remedies. CBC has a duty in all its reporting, to accurately convey and honour the meaning of these important words and the principles of fundamental justice they represent in our legal system: principles upon which we all depend.
I would be pleased to provide correct legal information to CBC and to contribute to fair, accurate and balanced reporting by the CBC on the Omar Khadr case.
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Lawyers Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) is a committee of lawyers who promote human rights and the rule of law internationally by protecting advocacy rights. LRWC campaigns for advocates in danger because of their human rights advocacy, engages in research and education and works in cooperation with other human rights organizations. LRWC has Special Consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.