This morning there was a short press conference held in the un-air conditioned media hangar. Omar Khadr’s lead Canadian lawyer, Dennis Edney, spoke to a small throng of mostly Canadian reporters, plus other reporters, military public affairs officers, and representatives of non-governmental organizations here for the trial which is scheduled to start tomorrow. Later in the day, Edney will meet with his client–the client chained to the floor, government minders listening to their conversation.
It was clear from the beginning of the question-and-answer session that Edney could not say much about the rampant rumors that there is a plea deal in the works for Khadr’s case. When directly asked about such negotiations, Edney responded there is “no deal at this point.”
Edney deplored the lack of action on the part of the Canadian government to help one of its native sons, despite what he described as tremendous empathy (although no action) from members of the Canadian public. Apparently, Canada did provide Khadr with glasses for his “good” eye within the past 2 months, but that is about the extent of the concern. Edney lamented that Canada “has let down a most vulnerable citizen, a youth. It is remarkable how he’s kept his humanity.”
The frustration with the military commission system was best summarized by the reflection that President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize and hundreds of detainees have been released without charges, but Khadr remains at Guantanamo 8 years later. Edney repeated a constant refrain that the case should be moved to the civilian federal court system, as “there is no justice here.” In proclaiming the process “unfair,” Edney reminded the listeners that those were the words of former military commission prosecutors, not Edney’s.
After the press conference concluded, the NGO representatives took questions from the assembled media representatives, where we had the opportunity to speak out against the use of war courts far from the battlefield for crimes that aren’t internationally recognized law of war (law of armed conflict) crimes, and, even, crimes that didn’t exist at the time of their alleged commission.
Tomorrow promises to be a day full of unknowns, as it seems any purported plea deal is far from a certainty today. We’ll have more news as whatever tomorrow brings unfolds.