Canadian judge’s ruling clears way for Khadr trial

Saturday, July 24, 2010 – Globe and Mail
ANNA MEHLER PAPERNY

A court ruling that would have obliged Ottawa to repatriate Omar Khadr or intercede on his behalf while he’s in U.S. custody meddled with the federal government’s right to call the shots on foreign affairs, a federal appeal court judge says.

Federal Court of Appeal judge Pierre Blais’ ruling released this week effectively clears the way for the 23-year-old Canadian detainee to face trial in Guantanamo Bay next month.

Mr. Justice Russell Zinn of the Federal Court earlier this month gave the government a week to come up with a list of ways to help protect Mr. Khadr’s rights. Ottawa appealed that ruling, and this week, Judge Blais sided with the government. Judge Zinn’s order “results in a kind of judicial supervision over any diplomatic action that Canada may take in relation to [Mr. Khadr],” he wrote in the court’s decision.

“I am not at all convinced that Justice Zinn does effectively have the power to ‘impose a remedy.'”

Moreover, Judge Blais ruled that forcing the government to intercede diplomatically could have caused Ottawa irreparable harm. It would “result in improper interference by the court in the conduct of foreign relations, and this harm cannot be reversed … nor be compensated by damages.”

The quick ruling – both sides argued it last Friday by phone – comes less than two weeks after Ottawa said it would appeal the Federal Court decision that obliged the government to remedy breaches of Mr. Khadr’s Charter rights.

And it leaves Mr. Khadr’s Canadian legal team wondering whether it’s worth pursuing an appeal given how quickly the trial is approaching.

Prosecutors allege that, when he was 15, Mr. Khadr killed a U.S. sergeant with a grenade during a firefight in Afghanistan. Charges against him include murder, attempted murder and supporting terrorism; he could get a life sentence if convicted.

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