Canada's government violated the Constitution when it gave US officials results of interviews conducted with a Canadian detainee at the Guantanamo Bay prison, the nation's top court said on Friday.
The high court ruled 9-0 that Omar Khadr has a constitutional right to material directly related to interviews that Canadian intelligence officials conducted with him during his detention.
Khadr’s attorneys say they will use the documents to help defend him against a murder charge before a US tribunal.
Khadr was captured in July 2002 and is accused of throwing a grenade that killed a US special forces soldier during a firefight in Afghanistan. He was 15 at the time and is now 21.
He has been held since October 2002 at the prison, where some 275 men are held for alleged links to al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
The court said the Canadian government violated a provision in Canada’s Bill of Rights that requires disclosure of evidence.
The high court said Canada was wrong to interrogate Khadr in a place where international human rights laws are not followed and that Canada became a participant in a process that violated its human rights obligations.
The court said a lower court judge would now review the interview material, receive submissions from the parties and “decide which documents fall within the scope of the disclosure obligation.”
That could leave the door open for the government to raise objections on some material by citing national security.
Nathan Whitling, Khadr’s lawyer, said that he was happy with the ruling, but the court’s decision limits what they will be able to see.
Whitling said he wanted the court to release a US military report, shared with Canada, that details the battle that resulted in the soldier’s death.
“The remedy is far short of what we’re hoping for,” Whitling said.
He said the interview transcripts could be useful but would not help Khadr to any significant degree.
Jameel Jaffer, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, said the Supreme Court’s decision makes a clear statement that the legal system under which Khadr was detained and charged was unlawful.
“The Canadian court’s decision is a declaration that Guantanamo is not an island without law,” he said in a statement.
Khadr’s attorneys argued before the court in March that Canadian intelligence officers violated Canada’s Bill of Rights by questioning him in 2003 at the US military base.