US military counsel violating Guantanamo client's rights: Canadian Khadr lawyer

Dennis Edney [Canadian defence counsel for Canadian Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr]: "You may not be aware that Omar Khadr has, verbally and in writing, asserted his right to be represented by his Canadian counsel and not to be represented by any U.S. military counsel.

The Military Commission rules provide for a military lawyer to represent Omar Khadr. Mr. Khadr can choose not to be assisted by the military appointed lawyer and represent himself. In that situation, the military lawyer remains in a "stand down" mode. By purporting to speak on behalf of Omar Khadr to the media and participating in the legal process absent authority to do so, a legal fiction is being created that military counsel [Lt. Commander William Kuebler] is authorized to represent Omar Khadr. In doing so, military counsel is denying Omar Khadr's fundamental right to counsel of choice. He is also interfering in the sacrosanct solicitor/ client relationship between Canadian counsel and client.

As the U.S. Supreme Court said in recognizing this right, "In the long history of British criminal jurisprudence, there was only one tribunal that ever adopted a practice of forcing a counsel upon an unwilling defendant in a criminal proceeding. The tribunal was the Star Chamber".

The very fact the military lawyer is appointed by the same authority that is adverse in interest to Omar Khadr creates obvious conflict difficulties. Conflict takes many forms. How can the military officer purport to be independent when he swears and oath of loyalty to the military authority, its rules and regulations which deny his fundamental rights, the rule of law while at the same time swearing a loyalty to uphold the rights of the client. The duty of loyalty extends beyond the use and abuse of confidential information and includes a duty to avoid conflicts of interest.

Further, Omar Khadr is facing criminal/ terrorist related charges. He is entitled to competent and effective legal representation. Commander Kuebler cannot be said to be acting in Omar Khadr's best interest when he has no legal or trial experience in the area of law in which Omar faces life imprisonment. His legal background is in the area of tax law."

 

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