After a one-year stint as a prosecutor, Lieutenant-Colonel Darrel Vandeveld’s confidence in the Guantanamo Bay legal system was shattered.
He faced a common moral dilemma. Keep trying to improve the system from within, or resign.
Struggling with the decision, Vandeveld approached his priest.
“Do not co-operate with evil,” he was told, according to a report in the Globe and Mail.
But Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon won’t.
He still refuses to repatriate Omar Khadr from the Guantanamo prison.
“What I have said on numerous occasions is that this individual is allegedly a murderer and (stands) accused of terrorism,” Cannon was quoted in Canada’s national paper shortly after meeting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Cannon’s hardline stance on the Khadr case is hypocritical.
While the guy publicly decries murder and terrorism, his decision to keep Khadr locked up in Guantanamo is a tacit endorsement of state torture, a second-tier legal system beyond the public’s purview and a repudiation of international human rights laws and the Geneva Convention.
What forced Vandeveld to quit was the treatment of Mohammed Jawad, another youth a couple of years older than Khadr, who was just 15 years old when he was captured by US soldiers.
Like Khadr, Jawad was tortured by officials. And the evidence against him was highly suspect.
Vandeveld came to the prison as its supporter, looking for revenge – he’d seen friends die in Iraq.
But it took only a few months for the man to realize what was happening there was deeply wrong. He resigned, joining six other ranking officials who have done the same.
“I couldn’t bring myself to believe Americans could do this,” he said of Jawad. “This was just sadistic mistreatment of a kid.”
And, of Khadr, Vandeveld said “We’ve mistreated that poor fellow, regardless of what he’s done.”
Khadr is accused of killing a US soldier during a firefight. Khadr himself was severely wounded in the battle.
He is the sole Canadian and last westerner jailed in the facility.
President Barack Obama has announced the facility will close within a year, and is asking nations to reclaim its inmates.
But, so far, Ottawa won’t co-operate.
Khadr is a Canadian citizen detained in an infamous prison. He has been tortured by officials in that facility.
And he’s been behind bars for seven years, though he still has not been formally convicted of any crime.
Now his outspoken defence attorney, Lieutenant-Commander Bill Kuebler, another US serviceman, is being denied access to his client.
Khadr should be brought to justice – in an open court.
To date, he has not.
Instead of bringing him back to a Canadian court, Cannon merely talks about terror. But his lack of action on the Khadr case simply furthers it.
More than anything else, it is the rule of law that separates western society from anarchy and terror.
Vandeveld’s priest had it right – you shouldn’t co-operate with evil.
Cannon does so at our peril.