KAMLOOPS, B.C. — The lawyer who represented Omar Khadr told a law conference in Kamloops Thursday his client endured systematic physical and mental torture for a decade, and in the process became a living example of the Western world’s disregard for its own principles.
Dennis Edney was speaking at Thompson Rivers University as the keynote speaker at a student law conference on civil liberties.
“Over the years, many Western democracies have exploited the climate of insecurity and used a climate of fear to limit civil liberties,” Edney told several hundred students.
One example, he said, is Canada’s Bill C-51, brought in by the previous Conservative government.
“The legislation allows for unprecedented and excessive power to CSIS to collect and share information,” he said.
Edney’s speech focused on what he said is an imbalance in the tension between security and human rights. Politicians have exploited that fear to provide overriding powers to government, he said, and systematic human rights abuses have resulted.
Edney said Guantanamo Bay in Cuba is ground zero. The international no-man’s land operated by the U.S. government is where Khadr, now 29, was imprisoned for 10 years until his recent release on conditions of bail in Canada.
Edney represented the Canadian citizen in his legal battles.
Khadr was convicted by a U.S. military commission of murder for throwing a hand grenade that killed an American soldier during a firefight in Khost, Afghanistan, in February 2002.
Khadr, then 15, was brought to Afghanistan by his father, Ahmed Khadr, an extremist who abandoned his son with the Taliban before being killed a year later in a village on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
The teenaged Khadr was badly wounded in the fight and was eventually transferred to Guantanamo Bay, where Edney listed a catalogue of abuses that included waterboarding and a type of crucifixion in which Khadr said he was tied, hooded and naked, for hours to a metal cage.
“They don’t call it torture,” Edney said of his guards and interrogators. “They call it interviews.”
Edney said in his interactions with Khadr at Guantanamo, he never saw him not chained to the floor.
Khadr now lives with Edney at his home in Edmonton. Khadr is on bail conditions awaiting appeal of his conviction, a conviction his lawyer said was obtained by torture.
That torture, Edney said, was overseen and viewed by guards, doctors and nurses.
“Their voices were silent,” he said. “How easy it is for people to lose their moral compass when they allow hate and fear to overcome them.”
Read more B.C. news at kamloopsthisweek.com