I spoke with Omar Khadr's older sister Zaynab, today on Parliament Hill. She is on the seventh day of a hunger strike until the Canadian government makes a formal request to the United States government to demand the repatriation of Omar Khadr
(عمر أحمد خضر) to his home in Canada. To it's shame, Canada is the only country in the world that has not asked to have it's nationals in Guantanamo Bay returned.
Even if Khadr is guilty, which is doubtful, he was 15 years old at the time of the alleged (he has never been convicted) offence. Under the Child Soldier Protocol, which both the United States and Canada have ratified, combatants under age 18 cannot be held criminally responsible. The Protocol requires governments to help child soldiers who must be helped to recover and reintegrate into society. It does not specifically bar prosecution of child soldiers but says they should not be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and that they cannot be subjected to life imprisonment without possibility of release. The United States government is seeking life imprisonment for Khadr in a trial which will take place this fall.
I asked her if she was in communication with her brother and she said they can send letters, but it takes a long time and that they are censored. She told me that she would remain on the hill, "as long as it takes".
We will be following this story as it develops so check back soon to read more.
Click here to visit the Khadr families blog and to read Zaynab's thoughts on her hunger strike.
Click here to read "The Unending Torture of Omar Khadr" in Rolling Stone magazine
Update: CBC television will be airing a documentary tonight (Oct. 16, 2008) on the upcoming trial of Omar Khadr.
Update 2: I visited Zaynab again today. She is in good spirits but a little tired and weak. She has not been spoken to by any official, although a few good Canadians took it upon themselves to suggest that she "go back where she came from", not knowing or caring that she, as she told me, was born in Ottawa, so is "as home as I will ever be". She did say that most people were friendly and kind. As we talked she was making simple black felt ribbons with the name "Omar" in white. Zaynab told that me she is afraid that Omar will spend the rest of his life in prison.