Today (July 8) an Alberta court unanimously ruled that former Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr should serve his prison sentence as a young offender and therefore be transferred from the federal prison system to a provincial facility.
Khadr, a Canadian citizen born in Toronto, was only 15 years old when he was captured by American forces on a battlefield in Afghanistan in 2002. He was held for 10 years before authorities charged him with a crime. During that time, he was the youngest person held at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and became the last western national imprisoned there.
In 2010, Khadr pled guilty and was convicted of five military commission offences including “murder in violation of the laws of war”. He accepted an eight-year sentence and was transferred from U.S. custody to a Canadian prison in 2012.
The Alberta court’s decision is significant because if Khadr is able to secure his transfer to a provincial facility, that will take his case out of the jurisdiction of the Parole Board of Canada and allow him to file an application for early release with a youth court judge.
According to the Toronto Star’s report, one of Khadr’s lawyers, Dennis Edney, argues it is important to move Khadr out of the federal prison system because there his case remains politicized in “the hands of the Harper government”.
“This government chose to misinterpret the International Transfer of Offenders Act and place Omar in a maximum security prison, where he spent the first seven months in solitary confinement, instead of treating him as a youth as required under both Canadian and international law,” Edney said.
Today’s court ruling states that the International Transfer of Offenders Act was indeed applied improperly and that Khadr should have been placed in a provincial facility upon his return to Canada.
"We conclude that Khadr ought to have been placed in a provincial correctional facility for adults," the decision reads. "The eight-year sentence imposed on Khadr in the United States could only have been available as a youth sentence under Canadian law, and not an adult one, had the offences been committed in Canada."
If no early release is granted, Khadr is scheduled to complete his sentence in October 2018.