Thursday, July 31, 2014

CCLA Calls for Press Access to Omar Khadr

July 30th, 2014

We understand that for two years, members of the press have been denied requests to interview Omar Khadr, by Correctional Service Canada. At the same time, many statements about Mr. Khadr have been made by government officials to the media. The Toronto Star, CBC, and White Pine pictures have filed an action for judicial review of Correctional Service Canada. We believe that the public has a right to hear from Mr. Khadr.

The CCLA has always taken the position that freedom of the press and freedom of expression are cornerstone rights in a democracy. In our view, freedom of expression includes not only Mr Khadr’s rights to express himself, but also the public’s right to hear from Mr. Khadr. Indeed, the communication of ideas, including informed analysis and reporting by the media, is an indicator of a healthy functioning democracy. In this particular case, the Government has repeatedly expressed its views on Mr. Khadr’s case and it is only fair play in a democracy that other voices — including Mr Khadr’s himself — have equal air time.

Omar Khadr is a Canadian citizen who at age 15, was accused of throwing a grenade that killed US Sgt. First Class Christopher Speer. After over 10 years in custody in Guantanamo Bay, Mr. Khadr confessed to this act, was subsequently transferred to Canada, and later recanted his confession claiming it was done to facilitate his transfer to Canada and his disbelief that he would be afforded fair trial or due process in US military court processes. The CCLA had argued that Mr. Khadr’s alleged offences had occurred when he was a youth and therefore the international law rules applying to child soldiers must apply — for more information on CCLA’s positions click here.

Mr. Khadr has expressed his intention to speak to the media. We understand that US Sgt. First Class Layne Morris, who was blinded in one eye during the same 2002 battle, has stated that he would like to hear from Mr. Khadr. In our view the public interest and public safety is best served in this case by upholding Mr Khadr’s right to express himself and the the public’s right to know and hear from Mr Khadr.

For more information on CCLA’s position on Omar Khadr’s case see here:

Omar Khadr Has the Right to Return to a Canadian Prison (Huffington Post article by Sukanya Pillay)