Thursday, April 10, 2008

Law of the Living Dead

The Romans had a very peculiar legal designation. A man could be deemed a Homo Sacer and thereby could be killed by anyone with impunity. He would lose all rights associated with being Human thereby reducing him to Bare Life or Zoe. It's a bizarre notion that can't just be attributed to an uninformed and primitive culture. By this time the Romans had a lengthy legal and political tradition and they had legal scholars who could argue the fine details of proposed legislation. So it seems anomalous that such an advanced culture could devise such retrograde legislation.

Recent developments have shown us that it is quite possible for a highly advanced culture with a long tradition of Human Rights to go seriously off track in much the same way as the Romans did. Those who have been held prisoner in Guantanamo Bay over the last several years have effectively been stripped of their human rights and been reduced to Bare Life. Some have debated on American television that these prisoners had no rights because they were the intended targets of American bombs and just happened to accidentally survive the attack. They have actually been called "ghost prisoners". Are they to be considered zombies or living dead? Everyone knows it's OK to torture and kill zombies because they're not really human, right?

I grant that it's possible that some of these prisoners are really bad guys. It's also very likely that most of them are probably clueless zealots who were at the wrong places at the wrong times. We have a process for sifting through this indeterminacy. It's called a functioning legal system that works for the most part in arriving at guilt where there is evidence of guilt. Let's just put them through the system and see what sticks.

Canada has been well regarded throughout the world for its stand on Human Rights. It has mostly deserved this regard until now. The current Harper government refuses to respect the rule of law when it goes along with the US insistence on incarceration without charge. Furthermore, Canadians have been pioneers in advocating child soldier laws for African children but its government has been sitting idly by as one of its citizen children has been languishing in Guantanamo Bay for the last several years without charge. Omar Khadr was 15 when he was shot in the back and captured by US soldiers in Afghanistan. He should have been classified a child soldier and dealt with through the processes that have been designed for children who are caught up in military movements often within the control of malevolent adults or family.

Let's bring him back to Canada and deal with him like we would any child soldier. Hopefully he will not be too far gone to reintegrate into society and come back to the land of the living.