What are human rights worth?

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Added: Wed, 07/19/2017 - 10:01pm
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A recent $10.5 million settlement to former child-soldier Omar Khadr for his treatment at Guantanamo Bay has been making headlines, with many Canadians (71% according to a recent Angus Reid Institute survey) saying the Trudeau government made the wrong decision by not leaving it to the courts to determine the outcome of Khadr's $20 million lawsuit (filed in 2004). 
Born in Toronto, Khadr moved to Afghanistan in 1996 and was arrested in 2002, at the age of 15, for allegedly killing an American soldier during a military assault on an Al Qaeda compound. Severely wounded, Khadr was detained at Guantanamo Bay where he plead guilty to several charges, including the murder of the soldier, and was convicted by an American court in 2010. He later claimed he plead guilty to get out of Guantanamo.
In 2010, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Canadian government violated Khadr's Charter rights, deprived him of the fundamental principles of justice, and denied “the most basic Canadian standards about the treatment of detained youth” for federal officials' involvement in his US interrogations that obtained evidence under “oppressive circumstances”. The current government stated the settlement, which also includes a formal apology, was inevitable given this ruling. Khadr was transferred to an Alberta prison in 2012 and was released on bail in 2015 while appealing the US conviction.
The International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group and Lawyer’s Rights Watch Canada has also said Canada violated obligations under the Conventions against Torture.
However, there has been fierce criticism of the settlement, with many claiming the government is bowing to a convicted terrorist. According to the Angus Reid study, 66% of Canadians are either unsure about whether Khadr was treated fairly (42%) or believed he was treated unfairly (24%) while detained in the US. Yet, 43% believe he deserved neither an apology nor compensation, 25% said he should have received only an apology, and 3% said only compensation was needed. The remaining agreed with the government's decision.
There are important details the public must consider before passing judgement.
The evidence against Khadr was thin and full of inconsistencies, contradictions, and arguably corruption. His confession, obtained through coercion and essentially torture, was the main foundation of his trial. How reliable are confessions obtained in this manner, especially from a youth under duress who was stripped of rights as a young suspect? How credible is a plea deal that allows that person to escape these abuses and eventually be free?
About three quarters of respondents agreed Khadr was a child-soldier when arrested. “Under international agreements endorsed by Canada, child soldiers are to be treated first as victims of the violence they are indoctrinated into, rather than perpetrators of it. Programs for offending child soldiers are often built around rehabilitation rather than punitive measures,” reads the Angus Reid study. Is it ever acceptable to wave these standards?
Is turning a blind eye to human rights abuses of a Canadian citizen - for close to a decade - not just as bad as performing them? Is there really a fair compensation for these abuses? These are behaviours we denounce in other countries; why should we accept them here?

Allyson Beauregard
Rédacteur / Managing Editor