United Church Appeals to Prime Minister on behalf of Omar Khadr

    TORONTO, Jan. 31 /CNW/ - In a letter sent this week to Canadian Prime
Minister Stephen Harper, The United Church of Canada has asked that he
formally intervene with the Government of the United States on behalf of Omar
    Khadr, whom the U.S. has classified as an enemy combatant, has been held
in custody at a naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since his capture in
Afghanistan in July 2002.
    "The United Church acknowledges the complexity of the situation but
believes that the overriding issue is his age at the time of capture. We do
not believe that Canada should remain silent in a precedent-setting
prosecution of a child soldier for war crimes, least of all when that child is
a Canadian citizen," writes Nora Sanders, the General Secretary of the General
    In the letter, Sanders draws particular attention to fact that Canada is
a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. She
notes that Article Two says that "States Parties shall take all appropriate
measures to ensure that the child is protected against all forms of
discrimination or punishment on the basis of the status, activities, expressed
opinions, or beliefs of the child's parents, legal guardians, or family
    In addition to asking Mr. Harper to intervene on behalf of Khadr, the
United Church's letter also requests
    -  that the Prime Minister insist that Khadr be returned to Canada
    -  that when Khadr is returned to Canada, he either be released or
       charged with a recognizable criminal offence and prosecuted through a
       process where he will be afforded all the protection available under
       the criminal justice system
    -  that no evidence obtained under torture will be used in any
    -  that while these actions are in progress, the Prime Minister ensure
       that Khadr is afforded adequate contact with his family

    Sanders says the church also believes that it is important that the role
of the Canadian government in the interrogations of Khadr, including the
positions taken formally or informally by the government in respect to the
rights of Khadr to appropriate counsel and legal advice, be examined.
    "We are therefore requesting that an independent review of the Canadian
government's involvement in Khadr's detention be implemented," says Sanders.
    She ends the letter by saying she hopes the Prime Minister receives the
church's requests "as an indication of our desire that Canada continue to be
recognized throughout the world as a just and civil society, and as a leader
in the protection of children affected by war."

For further information:

For further information: Mary-Frances Denis, Communications Officer, The
United Church of Canada, (416) 231-7680 ext. 2016 (office), (416) 885-7478
(cell), (416) 766-0057 (home)

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