Khadr to face U.S. military commission

A U.S. military commission will resume hearing the case against Omar Khadr, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Friday, the same day the Supreme Court of Canada heard a federal government appeal in his case.

Decision 'devastating and shocking,' lawyer says

A U.S. military commission will resume hearing the case against Omar Khadr, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Friday, the same day the Supreme Court of Canada heard a federal government appeal in his case.

It is unclear when or where the 23-year-old inmate will face charges, but he is one of 10 high-profile detainees who the U.S. confirmed on Friday will face justice.

Five of those inmates, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, will be put on trial in a federal civilian court in New York City.

Five others, including Khadr, will be tried in military commissions on a variety of terrorism charges.

Earlier, there were reports that Khadr would be transferred out of Guantanamo Bay to face justice in the United States. But the U.S. Justice Department confirmed to CBC News that no decision has been made as to where the commission will take place.

Khadr's civilian lawyer, Barry Coburn, said the U.S. government's decision to proceed with Khadr's case in a military commission was "devastating and shocking" and that he had expected more from the Obama administration.

"We thought that the incoming Obama administration signalled a new day with respect to these cases, a new respect for civil liberties, an abhorrence of torture, a respect for the time-honoured legal procedures and protections that are mandated by the constitution and enforced by the federal courts," he said.

News of Khadr's hearing came on the same day that the Canadian government pleaded its appeal in the Supreme Court on Khadr's latest case. 

Ottawa asked the top court to overturn a Federal Appeal Court decision to uphold a lower-court ruling that required Ottawa to try to repatriate Khadr, the only Western citizen still being held at the U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

On Friday, Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre told reporters that "any decision to ask for Mr. Khadr’s return to Canada is a decision for the democratically elected government of Canada and not for the courts."

Asked whether that meant the government would ignore the Supreme Court's decision if it rules against it, Poilievre repeated that Khadr's fate should be decided by an elected government and not the courts.

As for the U.S. decision to try Khadr in a military commission, Poilievre said that "we believe the U.S legal process announced today should run its course."

Toronto-born Khadr was captured by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan in 2002, when he was 15, and has been held at Guantanamo for seven years. The U.S. accuses him of throwing the grenade that killed Sgt. Christopher Speer, a medic with the U.S. army, but leaked documents have called into question the Pentagon's murder case against Khadr.

Rights breached, court rules

In a 2-1 judgment in August, the Federal Appeal Court agreed with a Federal Court judge's ruling that Khadr's rights under Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms — the rights to life, liberty and security of person — had been breached when Canadian officials interviewed him at the prison in Guantanamo in 2003 and shared the resulting information with U.S. authorities.

In early September, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the federal government's appeal.

Ottawa's position is that Khadr should remain in U.S. custody so the U.S. can try him, and that the court order to attempt to bring him home is meddling in foreign policy.

"In my respectful submission, we're in the realm of diplomacy here," government lawyer Robert Frater told the Supreme Court.

He denied the allegation that the government had ignored calls to bring Khadr back to Canada: "Mr. Khadr's voice has been heard repeatedly."

But Nathan Whitling, counsel for Khadr, argued Friday that returning his client to Canada would help "lessen the harm" he has suffered.

Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin said while there's no doubt Khadr had "suffered greatly," she wondered how repatriating him would fix what's now in the past.

Whitling said Khadr's predicament amounted to "a unique case."

Khadr has been stuck in legal limbo since the swearing in of U.S. President Barack Obama, who vowed to close Guantanamo and repatriate all but its most serious prisoners.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was asked during a news conference whether a Supreme Court of Canada directive to the Canadian government to request Khadr's transfer back to Canada would trump the military commission process.

"We'll look at that matter," Holder said. "At this point, it's one of the cases designated for commission proceeding.

"We will, as that case proceeds, see how it should be ultimately treated."

With file from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press