Far from Guantanamo Bay, and its warped legal regime that undermined the most basic ideas of justice, Omar Khadr has finally been treated fairly. On Friday, Alberta judge June Ross ordered the 28-year-old, who in 2010 pleaded guilty to "murder in violation of the laws of war," to be released from prison on bail while awaiting the results of his appeal of that conviction.
This is the correct decision, and it is unfortunate that the Canadian government – which intends to appeal – remains unwilling to accept that Mr. Khadr is right to challenge the legality of his conviction before a U.S. military commission, and has the right to be granted bail in Canada in the meantime.
As Justice Ross noted, Mr. Khadr's appeal has "a strong probability of success" – and this despite the fact that Mr. Khadr secured his release from Guantanamo and his return to Canada in 2012 only after waiving his right to appeal.
Mr. Khadr has been the victim of other people's ideologies for far too long. The Canadian government wants him held to his U.S. plea agreement. But there is little about it that comes close to meeting the standards of the Canadian legal system. Captured as a 15-year-old child soldier in 2002, Mr. Khadr pleaded guilty under duress. After eight years in limbo, threatened with indefinite imprisonment if he did not co-operate, he told his captors what they wanted to hear in exchange for an eight-year sentence and the chance to finally get out of Guantanamo, where he had been tortured.
It's absurd Ottawa persists in denying that Mr. Khadr's "conviction" was the result of a legal process that went against legal norms, including suppressed evidence and a coerced confession. There is no reason to believe that granting him the bail he is due, and allowing him to reside with one of his lawyers while waiting for his appeal to be heard, poses a threat to anyone. Mr. Khadr, Justice Ross noted, "has a 12 1/2-year track record as a model prisoner," which is both a sad and a heartening statement, given what he's been through.
"We're glad to be back in Canada where there are real courts and real laws," said Mr. Khadr's lawyer Nathan Whitling, "rather than in Guantanamo Bay." If only the government of Canada could realize that the scene has shifted and the rules have changed, for the better.