Canada to Award Ex-Guantanamo Detainee Millions in Compensation

Omar Khadr admitted to killing American soldier in Afghanistan

Camp Delta, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba / Getty Images
July 5, 2017

A former Guantanamo Bay detainee who admitted to killing an American solider is set to receive an official apology and about $8 million in compensation from the Canadian government for his time at the military prison, according to press reports.

The settlement is the result of Canadian citizen Omar Khadr's suit for $20 million Canadian dollars (about U.S. $15 million) on the grounds that the Canadian government violated international law and his human rights by not protecting him and conspiring with the U.S. while he was detained at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba.

The Toronto Star and Globe and Mail newspapers first reported the settlement deal on Monday.

While born in Canada, Khadr, 30, was brought to Afghanistan and Pakistan by his Egyptian-born father, Ahmed Khadr, who was accused of being an al Qaeda money man with ties to Osama bin Laden. Omar Khadr met al Qaeda figures, including bin Laden, and underwent terrorism training. The father was killed by Pakistani troops in 2003.

Omar Khadr was captured in Afghanistan in 2002 at the age of 15 after a firefight with U.S. soldiers. He was detained and sent to Guantanamo Bay, where he spent 10 years.

In 2010, Khadr admitted to throwing a grenade that killed a member of a U.S. Army Special Forces unit, Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer, during the 2002 firefight. U.S. Sgt. Layne Morris was wounded in the blast and is blind in one eye.

Khadr pleaded guilty to murder, attempted murder, providing material support for terrorism, spying, and conspiracy as part of a plea deal, his attorneys said. He received an eight-year sentence with no credit for time served under the condition that he would serve most of the sentence in Canada.

Canada's Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that that the country's intelligence officers breached Khadr's rights by obtaining evidence from him under "oppressive circumstances" such as sleep deprivation and solitary confinement.

In 2012, Khadr was transferred from Guantanamo to Canada to serve the remainder of his sentence.

Khadr later recanted his story in 2015, five years after sentencing, and said he was not sure whether he threw the grenade that killed Speer. He said cutting a deal was the only way he saw to get out of prison and added that he was mistreated at Guantanamo. Khadr was released on bail while he appealed his convictions.

The appeal is ongoing.

The settlement deal that Khadr's lawyers and the Canadian government struck for roughly $8 million was part of a case that had been argued since 2004.

Canadians stand divided on how Khadr's case has been handled. Many see his initial sentence as too lenient, while others say he should have been treated as a child soldier. Khadr's supporters allege he was mistreated at Guantanamo, where he was the military prison's youngest detainee. The U.S. military has denied abusing prisoners at the naval base.

The settlement decision has been met with strong opposition. The Opposition Conservative Party denounced the payment and urged Khadr to give the money to the Speer family.

Morris and Speer's widow previously sued Khadr in U.S. court, winning a $134 million judgment. It is unclear if any of the money Khadr receives will make its way to the U.S.

"Canadians know this is wrong," Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said on Twitter. "If Omar Khadr is truly sorry for what he did, he'll give every cent to Tabitha Speer and her two children."

In contrast, Pascal Paradis, executive director of Lawyers without Borders, said the conservatives are "off base."

"It is not a political matter. It is a legal matter," Paradis said. "In this case, the Supreme Court of Canada has said not only once but twice that Canada was wrong in dealing with the Khadr case, that Canada had participated in violating his basic human rights, including participation of Canadian agents in interrogating Mr. Khadr knowing he had been subjected to cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment."

Khadr currently lives in Edmonton.