For decades, the Canadian justice system has gradually molded and revised its penal system towards a restorative model, as opposed to criminal. No longer would we simply punish people for wrongdoing. We had apparently risen above “vengeance for barbarism” sake: Our intention would now be to restore wrongdoers to citizenship within our society. This paradigm is opposed by many, as it appears to sometimes give license to excessive impunity, creating opportunity for secretive pardons, early criminal release and lax sentencing.
While we grant grown men and women often outrageous leniency, however, our country’s leaders have unilaterally changed directions and avoided principles when it comes to one individual, Omar Khadr.
Khadr’s firing of his American lawyers, and his attempt to boycott the military commission this week has been a bizarre twist to an already dreadfully sad situation. It is a story of irony, tragedy and half-truths. No matter what this man does, he is openly reproached and accused.
When the logic of Khadr’s accusers is followed, it drives him into an impossible situation. It demands that he should have denounced his family’s political viewpoints as a child, and somehow, miraculously, align himself with western ideals. It ignores the fact that his upbringing included severe punishment should he question anything his father said. It requires him to have understood the world political stage when he had only an elementary education, and it presumes that he would be immune to the brainwashing of the terrorist militants which surrounded him. It maintains that he should have single-handedly renounced the militant control in his life, when he had been taught from his birth that disobedience meant eternal damnation.
It dictates that he trust the captors who abused him.
Omar is told that his compliance as a child was shameful. Now when he chooses not to comply on principal to a plea bargain, he is slammed for his defiance. When he shows a clear head, he’s deemed arrogant and manipulative. When he shows confusion, he’s deemed to be an imbecile and not worth saving. When he cries, he is discredited. When he stays steady and calm, he is said to be untrustworthy.
What do people want of this human being? To pay for his wrongs? for his misunderstandings? for his lack of courage? for his parents’ lethal hatred of our country? When you examine the apparent reasoning that some people have, it only seems to point to one thing: People don’t want sanction. They want sacrifice. Their goal is not justice. It is revenge.
Each of the following points can be disputed, but let us consider that they all point in the same direction: to his guilt.
What if somehow this boy was different than all the other children of the world? What if, as a child, he was somehow immune from his extreme upbringing, was able to come to a clear and honest review of the world around him, and then of his own volition, decided to live as a terrorist? What if his mental and physiological capacity was secure enough at age 14 to make a choice of this nature, and he was psychologically adept enough to establish his personal devotion to this militancy? What if, on July 27, 2002, he intentionally killed Sergeant Christopher Speer by tossing a grenade over the wall? What if during his forthcoming incarceration he admitted to this guilt of of own free will, without prompting? What if his treatment has up to this point been fair and impartial, just and dignified?
What if all documentation related to his wrongdoings have been forthright, clear, and demonstrated his guilt without doubt? If all measures of the law have to this date been followed, and the US and Canadian governments acted only within the restrictions of international guidelines and restrictions?
What then? Do we hang him? Do we torture him? Do we make him pay for the pain he caused by inflicting him with pain? What do people want? Do we then unleash our vengeance on him, make a spectacle of him in the world, and give him no chance of reconciliation to society? Would that not make him a martyr in the eyes of the enemy?
These are some comments posted on news sites:
“If this Muslim terrorist murderer wishes to waive his right to defend himself, then so be it. Then he can be executed without much more delay.”
“Anyone who wants this piece of garbage along with his likes to rot in hell are anti immigrant or spews how we are all bush lovers, is just the type of person who does not deserve then benefit this great country offers.”
“Throw away the key …Who cares …A misguided fool who will pay the price for 25 years ..What a waste …!”
“Whatever punishment he gets is too good for him.”
“Omar shoulda eaten a bullet on the spot. He’s got no info we need.”
It appears to me that people’s hatred for terrorists have been conceptualized into the face of this boy.
It is no longer relevant where his mother gave birth to him, this young man, in many respects, has become an international child. If we, in our “humane” society, can withhold honest justice from an abused child, how dare we demand that the world follow in our democratic values.
Let him have justice. Let him stand trial. Let the evidence be accurately weighed, and if it deems that he committed crimes of his own will, let him pay for them. But for our own sake, let justice be true, honest and impartial. Let our Governments stand for what is right, and not for what is politically convenient. Let the West demonstrate impartiality, and respectfully uphold the integrity that the world expects of us.