Hamdan ruling could benefit Khadr: prof

With University of Victoria professor Catherine Morris taking issue in this week’s Law Times Speaker’s Corner column with the notion that Omar Khadr received fair treatment and benefited from due process in the United States, she’s also touting the effect last week’s U.S. court ruling in favour of Osama bin Laden’s driver could have on Khadr’s prospects in Canada.

“The Hamdan case draws attention to persistent concerns about the Khadr case and raises questions about how Canadian courts would view Khadr’s plea agreement and his continuing imprisonment,” says Morris, an adjunct professor with the university’s faculty of law.

Morris believes the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruling in the case against the driver, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, “confirms the illegality of at least one of the charges against Khadr.” Both Haman and Khadr, she notes, “were both charged with the same Military Commissions Act offence of providing material support for terrorism. The court found that the enactment of this offence violates the U.S. constitutional bar against ex post facto laws. This offence has never been an internationally recognized war crime.”

The appeal ruling has sparked speculation that it could affect Khadr’s prospects for challenging his detention in Canada since his return last month, particularly when it comes to his prospects for parole. But given that he pleaded guilty to charges beyond providing material support for terrorism, it’s unclear how useful the Hamdan ruling could be to him.

Morris’ latest comments come as she makes clear her feelings about the Canadian government’s treatment of Khadr over the years. In this week’s Law Times piece, she criticized the “erroneous belief that Khadr pleaded guilty to legitimate charges in a properly constituted court. In fact, Khadr was never charged with any U.S. criminal offences or international war crimes,” she writes.

She goes on to challenge Canadian officials’ repeated references to Khadr as a terrorist. “The U.S. plea agreement is not a reliable indicator of guilt in or out of court,” she argues.

As a result, she calls on the Canadian government to change its approach to Khadr.

“Canadian ministers and officials must start treating Khadr in accordance with Canadian and international law,” she writes.

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