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Khadr’s Lawyer Dennis Edney addresses U of A Law

Michael Aytenfisu (2L)

“With due respect, the only crime equal to willful inhumanity is the crime of indifference, the crime of silence and the crime of forgetting.”

This was one of profound messages imparted to those attending Mr. Dennis Edney’s impassioned address at the U of A Law centre on October 17.

Canadian Lawyers for International Human Rights U of A Chapter (CLAIHR) hosted Mr. Edney for a presentation on the highly publicized case of his client, Omar Khadr.

In 2002, Omar Khadr, a fifteen-year-old Canadian citizen, was captured in Afghanistan following a firefight between American forces and an Afghan militia. For his involvement in the battle and alleged killing of an American soldier, Mr. Khadr was arrested and detained in Guantanamo Bay, where he awaited trial. Mr. Edney continues to allege that during the decade that he was kept at Guantanamo, Mr. Khadr was subjected to numerous forms of torture and was repeatedly denied his basic human rights, including the right to a fair trial. Both the US and Canadian governments have flouted numerous international conventions in their treatment of Khadr.

Mr. Edney spoke to various issues arising out of Mr. Khadr’s case, outlining the Canadian’s arduous journey from Canada to Pakistan, to Afghanistan, to Guantanamo Bay, and finally to the federally run maximum security prison here in Edmonton. Mr. Edney was initially retained by Mr. Khadr in 2007, and worked through the trial held in the United States, where Mr. Khadr eventually entered a guilty plea to various charges, including murder, conspiracy, and providing material support for terrorism. Following conviction, Mr. Khadr was transferred back to Canada to serve out his sentence. With numerous experts citing that Mr. Khadr did not pose a threat to Canadian society, Mr. Edney recently filed a habeas corpus application in Edmonton, to have Mr. Khadr moved to a lower security facility. The application was denied.

Even for those familiar with Mr. Khadr’s narrative, it was eye-opening to get an in-depth evaluation from counsel involved in the proceedings. Especially noteworthy were Mr. Edney’s views on the input (unsolicited) of the federal government, who have adopted a hard line with regards to Mr. Khadr. Mr. Edney was equally critical of the Canadian state’s interactions with Khadr during his time at Guantanamo. He is not alone in this condemnation. The Supreme Court of Canada has determined that Canadian officials’ involvement in the Guantanamo Bay process constituted violations of international law that Canada has signed on to. Mr. Edney’s presentation highlighted the issues of the rights of Canadians being held and prosecuted abroad.

Mr. Edney’s presentation was inspiring and provocative. He challenged students and faculty to wake up out of our indifference and uphold the basic tenets of our justice system. Mr. Edney urged for students to be proactive in defending individual rights for the vulnerable in society. He provoked students to make use of our abilities for broader impacts. Providing himself as an inspiring example, Mr. Edney prompted many to re-think motivations for studying and practicing law.

CLAIHR would like to thank Mr. Edney and all of those who attended his presentation.  To learn more information on our club activities or to join, email us at