OTTAWA (AFP) — Lawyers' organizations from around the world have sent a letter to US and Canadian leaders urging the closure of the US prison facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the repatriation of a Canadian suspect.
"By calling for the closure of Guantanamo, we do not detract from the horror of acts of terrorism in the US or other countries," said the letter released Monday and signed by 34 bar association leaders.
The lawyers issued a particular appeal for Omar Khadr, a Canadian whose trial is set to open in May, to be released and tried in Canada instead.
Khadr is accused of throwing a grenade that killed a US medic in Afghanistan in 2002. He was 15 years old at the time.
"For five years, Omar Khadr, a 'child' under the terms of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, has languished without trial in Guantanamo," said the letter addressed to US President George W. Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
"There is reason to believe he has been subjected to treatment that is at best degrading and abusive and at worst amounts to torture," it said, noting that he is the only citizen of a Western country still held at Guantanamo.
"Few governmental operations by democratic countries have shown such a profound disrespect for the rule of law," the letter said. "Guantanamo Bay has come to signify injustice for some at the hands of the powerful."
The lawyers urged that Khadr be "transferred to the custody of Canadian law enforcement officials, so that he can face due process under Canadian law and the principles of the rule of law."
The lawyers noted however that "transferring Omar Khadr to Canada is not synonymous with impunity."
"We do not deny that some of those detained at Guantanamo may have committed criminal acts. If so, they should be tried by a properly constituted court operating under rules that guarantee a fair trial."
The letter was signed by lawyers' associations in Australia, Britain, France, Finland, South Africa, Ireland, Scotland, Luxembourg, Turkey, Iraq and Romania, among other countries.
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