Omar Khadr will remain incarcerated for at least two years, report says December 21, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Iraq and Afghanistan, Torture, War.
Tags: corrections canada, Criminal Justice, Guantanamo, michelle shephard, millhaven, Omar Khadr, roger hollander, torture
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Roger’s note: when will the torture of Omar Khadr end? He pleaded guilty only to avoid a lifetime in Guantánamo. He was nearly dead when captured, was tortured mentally and physically, including a torturous series of “interviews” with Canadian CSIS, which are documented in the film, “You Don’t Like the Truth: 4 Days Inside Guantánamo.” His treatment both by the American and Canadian government can be characterized as vengeful and barbaric.
Janet Hamlin/POOL/REUTERS FILE PHOTO
A Correctional Service of Canada report states that because of his Guantanamo conviction, Omar Khadr, now at Millhaven, was assessed as an inmate convicted of first-degree murder and terrorism and therefore is automatically designated “maximum security.”
Former Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr will remain incarcerated at Millhaven Institution’s maximum security facility with little chance of rehabilitation or parole for at least two years.
A Correctional Service of Canada report obtained by the Toronto Star states that due to his Guantanamo conviction, Khadr was assessed as an inmate convicted of first-degree murder and terrorism and therefore is automatically designated “maximum security.”
Although Khadr would be eligible for day parole in March, it is extremely rare for anyone with this designation to be approved. His status will be reviewed in December 2014.
University of Toronto criminologist Anthony Doob said he was dismayed that Corrections Canada chose to apply the standardized “Custody Rating Scale” for Khadr, which automatically designates him maximum security, despite the unique aspects of his case and reports of his good behaviour during his 10-year incarceration at Guantanamo.
“They should be looking at his past, the circumstances of his offence, how old he was,” Doob said. “It’s perpetuating this view that he’s the same as the guy who is a terrorist or member of organized crime who killed somebody on the streets of Toronto yesterday.
“The thing about approaching this the way they did ensures the outcome. I’ve never met Omar Khadr, I know nothing about him and I can go to the web and see that he’s going to be classified as maximum security.
“Isn’t that a little bizarre? Why didn’t it take three minutes instead of three months if that is all they were going to do?”
Khadr has been held at the Millhaven facility’s hospital for assessment since being transferred to Canada from Guantanamo on Sept. 29. The 26-year-old is now expected to be moved to a range in the general population with other maximum security inmates.
The Khadr saga stretches back to July 2002, when at the age of 15, he was shot and captured following a battle in Afghanistan.
In October 2010, he pleaded guilty to five Guantanamo offences including “murder in violation of the laws of war” for the death of U.S. Delta Force soldier Christopher Speer who was fatally wounded in the battle.
His plea deal gave him an eight-year sentence and chance to return to Canada.
Child and civil rights advocates, including Liberal Senator and retired Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, have pushed to have him recognized and treated as a child soldier, and the UN condemned both the U.S. and Canada for the prosecution of a juvenile for war crimes.
Khadr’s lawyer, John Norris, said he was disappointed the designation will limit Corrections Canada’s ability to provide rehabilitation options, aside from Khadr continuing his education and religious counselling from a prison-approved imam.
“Their hands really are tied by the fact that he’s stuck in max, because they can’t help him get ready to return to the community,” Norris said, adding that he is “weighing the options” in terms of any legal challenges.
“What he really needs is the ability to re-integrate into the community. Re-integration is one of the cardinal principles of dealing with child soldiers. It’s also a key principle in dealing with young people in general.”
Véronique Rioux, a spokeswoman for Corrections Canada said she was unable to comment on individual cases, citing privacy concerns.
It is believed Khadr will receive similar rights as other inmates, including the ability to see visitors. Norris said Khadr has already met with his mother Maha Elsamnah and Arlette Zinck, an English professor from King’s University College in Edmonton, who began providing him lesson plans and visiting him while he was incarcerated in Guantanamo.
Although the eight-page report does outline many of the aspects of the case, Khadr’s security risk rating of 139 determines his status. The scale automatically gives him 69 points for a murder conviction, 20 points for a terrorism offence, 30 points for his age at the time of conviction (he was 25) and 20 points for his sentence length (eight years.)
“This says absolutely nothing about whether Omar is a danger to the public and it’s critical people understand it’s completely divorced from that,” Norris said. “In fact, the scoring requires Corrections to ignore the evidence that his is not a danger.”
The Millhaven’s Assessment Unit report recommends that Khadr be kept in a “highly structured environment in which individual and group interaction is subject to direct and constant supervision
“During the intake assessment interview Khadr emphasized that his current sentiments/beliefs reflect pro-social changes in attitudes promoting peaceful resolution to conflicts,” the report states.
But the report also notes that given Khadr’s limited access to other inmates since his arrival, it is difficult to assess how he will interact with other prisoners.
“Not to negate the length of time he has spent in custody (in Guantanamo) with no evidence of attitudinal or behaviour problems; Khadr is a new arrival to the Canadian federal correctional system . . . Correctional Services Canada has not had the opportunity to assess the risk he may pose to the security of the institution, other offenders or the risk to his own safety.”
Concerns about Khadr’s connections to Al Qaeda as a teenager and during his incarceration at Guantanamo are noted in the report, which recommends monitoring his association with other offenders, “particularly those who look up to him.” A security officer noted a Millhaven inmate convicted of terrorism communicating with Khadr through his cell on Oct. 1, 2012, the report states, without giving any further details.
The report references positive assessments of Khadr by Katherine Porterfield, a clinical psychologist at New York’s Bellevue Hospital and forensic psychiatrist and retired U.S. Army Brig.-Gen. Stephen Xenakis. The pair spent several years and hundreds of hours with Khadr during his detention in Guantanamo and the report states according to their accounts, “it would appear that Khadr demonstrated the ability to develop positive interpersonal relationships.”
But the report also states, that “Correctional Services Canada is not in receipt of information from Guantanamo Bay pertaining to his behaviour while detained at the facility.”
There is no mention of the reports by psychiatrists Michael Welner or Alan Hopewell, which Public Safety Minister Vic Toews personally requested from U.S. defence secretary Leon Panetta, delaying Khadr’s expected transfer to Canada and infuriating Obama administration officials eager to transfer the Toronto-born detainee.
Welner told a Guantanamo courtroom during Khadr’s sentencing hearing that he was “highly dangerous” and considered a “rock star” at Gitmo.
Tags: andy worthington, bagram, Canada, child soldier, geneva conventions, Guantanamo, International law, law of war, michelle shephard, military commissions, obama administration, Omar Khadr, roger hollander, torture
(Roger’s note: this long and painful article describes in tortuous detail the abuse of a child caught in the web of insanity known as the war against terror. It recounts only one of many stories which serve as an indication of the level of barbarism to which the American program has sunk under the leadership of allegedly civilized leaders such as George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Those of us who have not become inured to the implementation of torture and other gross violations of human rights that are being perpetuated on a daily basis in our name have a moral obligation to continue to speak out and act against these crimes and the criminals – elected and otherwise – who perpetuate them.)
by Andy Worthington
Are we so inured to the implementation of torture by the Bush administration that we no longer recognize what torture is? Torture, according to the UN Convention Against Torture, to which the US is a signatory, is “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person.”
Under President Bush, however, John Yoo, an ideological puppet in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, which is supposed to objectively interpret the law as it applies to the executive branch, purported to redefine torture, in two memos that have become known as the “torture memos,” as the infliction of physical pain “equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death,” or the infliction of mental pain which “result[s] in significant psychological harm of significant duration e.g. lasting for months or even years.”
I ask this question about torture – and our attitude to it – because of what took place last week, in pre-trial hearings at Guantánamo preceding the trial by Military Commission of the Canadian prisoner Omar Khadr, who was just 15 years old when he was seized after a firefight in Afghanistan in July 2002. A number of witnesses revealed details of Khadr’s mistreatment, in the US prison at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, which hinted at his inclusion in an abusive program that, before the 9/11 attacks, before Yoo’s memos and before a general coarsening of attitudes towards abuse and the mistreatment of prisoners, would have led to calls for that mistreatment to be thoroughly investigated, and, very possibly, for it to be regarded as torture or as cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.
In Khadr’s case, these questions should not even need raising, for a number of other compelling reasons. The first concerns his age. Under the terms of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, on the involvement of children in armed conflict, to which the US is also a signatory, juveniles – defined as those under the age of 18 when the crime they are accused of committing took place – “require special protection.” The Optional Protocol specifically recognizes “the special needs of those children who are particularly vulnerable to recruitment or use in hostilities,” and requires its signatories to promote “the physical and psychosocial rehabilitation and social reintegration of children who are victims of armed conflict.”
Instead, however, the US government is attempting, for the third time, to prosecute Khadr for war crimes in a special trial system for foreign terror suspects – the Military Commissions – which were first ruled illegal by the Supreme Court in 2006, were then revived by Congress but abandoned by President Obama on his first day in office (after they had succeeded in delivering just three dubious results), and were then revived again by President Obama, with the support of Congress, last summer.
Compounding the dark absurdity of Khadr’s proposed trial is an uncomfortable truth that has been particularly noted by Lt. Col. David Frakt, a former military defense attorney for the Commissions, who has regularly pointed out that the Military Commissions are fundamentally flawed because they contain “law of war offenses” invented by Congress, including “Providing Material Support to Terrorism” and “Murder in Violation of the Law of War.” Lt. Col. Frakt has recently expressed even graver concerns about how the new Military Commissions Act includes a passage which claims that “a detainee may be convicted of murder in violation of the law of war even if they did not actually violate the law of war.”
As I also explained in an article last week, “critics of Khadr’s trial have, from the beginning, recognized that there is something horribly skewed about redefining the internationally accepted laws of war so that one side in an armed conflict – the US – can kill whoever it wants with impunity, whereas its opponents are viewed as terrorists, or, when brought to trial, as those who have committed ‘Murder in Violation of the Law of War.’”
Nevertheless, as the Obama administration has decided to press ahead with Khadr’s trial, pre-trial hearings were held over the last two weeks in an attempt to address concerns raised by Khadr’s defense team. These largely skirted the issues discussed in the paragraphs above, but focused unerringly on Khadr’s alleged mistreatment, through a “Motion to Suppress Statements Procured Using Torture, Coercion and Cruel, Inhumane and Degrading Treatment” (PDF), in which his lawyers argued that any self-incriminating statements that Khadr may have made should be ruled out because of the manner in which they were extracted.
The torture of Omar Khadr
Over the years, and in an affidavit submitted in February 2008 (PDF), Khadr has described his mistreatment in detail, explaining how he was unconscious for a week after his capture, when he was severely wounded, and how, in Bagram, where he was taken after just two weeks in a hospital, his interrogations began immediately, at the hands of an interrogator who manipulated his injuries (the exact details were redacted from his affidavit). Crucially, he also explained how, as soon as he regained consciousness, “the first soldier told me that I had killed an American with a grenade,” and how, during his first interrogation at Bagram, “I figured out right away that I would simply tell them whatever I thought they wanted to hear in order to keep them from causing me [redacted].”
There is much more in the affidavit – casual cruelty, whereby guards made Khadr do hard manual labor when his wounds were not healed, and, significantly, threats “to have me raped, or sent to other countries like Egypt, Syria, Jordan or Israel to be raped.” He also noted, “I would always hear people screaming, both day and night,” and explained that other prisoners were scared of his interrogator. “Most people would not talk about what had been done to them,” he declared. “This made me afraid.”
Khadr also described what happened to him in Guantánamo, where, as I explained last week, he “arrived around the time that a regime of humiliation, isolation and abuse, including extreme temperature manipulation, forced nudity and sexual humiliation, had just been introduced, by reverse-engineering torture techniques, used in a military program designed to train US personnel to resist interrogation if captured, in an attempt to increase the meager flow of ‘actionable intelligence’ from the prison.”
At various points in 2003, while the use of these techniques was still widespread, Khadr stated that he was short-shackled in painful positions and left for up to ten hours in a freezing cold cell, threatened with rape and with being transferred to another country where he could be raped, and, on one particular occasion, when he had been left short-shackled in a painful position until he urinated on himself:
Military police poured pine oil on the floor and on me, and then, with me lying on my stomach and my hands and feet cuffed together behind me, the military police dragged me back and forth through the mixture of urine and pine oil on the floor. Later, I was put back in my cell, without being allowed a shower or a change of clothes. I was not given a change of clothes for two days. They did this to me again a few weeks later.
Crucially, when describing the interrogations that punctuated these experiences at Guantánamo, Khadr explained, “I did not want to expose myself to any more harm, so I always just told interrogators what I thought they wanted to hear. Having been asked the same questions so many times, I knew what answers made interrogators happy and would always tailor my answers based on what I thought would keep me from being harmed.”
Until two weeks ago, these claims – though well-known to those who have followed Khadr’s case – had, for the most part, not been aired in a courtroom. In response to the defense motion, however, the government attempted to refute Khadr’s claims, calling a female interrogator who stated that Khadr had voluntarily admitted that he threw the grenade that killed US Sgt. Christopher Speer, during sessions after his arrival at Guantánamo in October 2002 that were perfectly amicable, and an FBI agent, Robert Fuller, who stated that his interrogations of Khadr at Bagram earlier in October 2002 were also “conversational” and “non-confrontational,” and that Khadr had freely admitted to throwing the grenade that killed Sgt. Speer.
Whilst it was possible – if not probable – that both interrogators were telling the truth about interrogating Khadr non-coercively, the problem remains that Khadr has stated that, from the time of his very first interrogation, he regarded telling his interrogators what they wanted to hear as the best way of avoiding mistreatment, and so may not have been telling them the truth. As a result, last week’s witnesses were more significant because they shed light on the early days after he recovered consciousness in US custody, and, in particular, on his first interrogation and his subsequent interaction with that interrogator. Along the way, further witnesses cast shadows on the government’s otherwise clean picture of interrogations conducted in a non-coercive environment.
It would have remarkable had this not happened, as countless witnesses – including soldiers as well as current and former Guantánamo prisoners – have described the brutality at Bagram at the time Khadr was held there between August and October 2002, which led, just over a month after Khadr’s departure for Guantánamo, to the murder of two prisoners – and, very possibly, to other murders at the time he was held.
The medic’s testimony — and “Palestinian hanging”
The first to reveal a glimpse of the regime at Bagram was, ironically, a medic called as a witness by the prosecution. “Mr. M,” as he was identified, who testified by video link from Boston, countered Khadr’s claims that, while he was at Bagram, “five people in civilian clothes would come and change my bandages,” and that they “treated me very roughly and videotaped me while they did it,” stating that he alone changed his bandages twice a day, and that no rough treatment was involved.
He did, however, note that, on one occasion, he found Khadr hooded and chained to a cage by his wrists with his arms “just above eye level,” and that when he lifted the hood, Khadr was visibly upset. The medic added, as Carol Rosenberg described it in the Miami Herald, that “he didn’t object to Khadr’s treatment, because chaining was an approved form of punishment” at Bagram, “adding that he didn’t know the reason for the punishment nor how long Khadr had been chained.”
This rather nonchalant description of “chaining” may not have shocked the medic, especially as the chains were apparently “slack enough to allow Khadr’s feet to touch the floor,” but the only reason for this was because of the severity of his wounds, as Khadr explained in his affidavit, in which he also stated that he was chained up “several times.” Otherwise, like numerous other prisoners, including Dilawar (the subject of “Taxi to the Dark Side“) and Mullah Habibullah, the two prisoners who were killed at Bagram in December 2002, he would have been fully suspended by his wrists, in a torture technique more commonly known as the “strappado” technique or “Palestinian hanging.”
Nevertheless, as Barry Coburn, Khadr’s lead lawyer, explained, the medic’s testimony provided “critically important validation” of statements in his client’s affidavit, and another of his lawyers, Kobie Flowers, added, “Had this been an American soldier in North Korea, people would be outraged. Here we have a 15-year-old individual who was nearly killed with bullets in his back who was left up there to hang as punishment.”
“Interrogator No. 2″ and Khadr’s first interrogation — on a stretcher
However, while this was significant in establishing some context for the general and well-chronicled brutality at Bagram, which will no doubt emerge in unprecedented detail should Khadr’s trial proceed, it was not until Tuesday last week that previously unknown information emerged regarding Khadr’s first interrogation on arrival at Bagram, which, according to a master sergeant in the US Army, identified as “Interrogator No. 2,” who appeared in person, took place on the same day that Khadr was moved from the hospital to what Carol Rosenberg described as “the crude, putrid Bagram Air Base detention center.”
The interrogator, who was an observer at Khadr’s first interrogation on August 12, 2002, revealed that “the questioning took place while Khadr was on a stretcher – he couldn’t remember if Khadr was shackled to it – and that his notes included this detail: ‘Clarification was difficult due to the sedation and fatigue of the detainee.’” He also explained that no coercion was used on him, but just two approved techniques from the Army Field Manual: “fear down,” which is designed to play down a prisoner’s anxieties, and “fear of incarceration,” which encourages prisoners to tell the truth by pointing out that otherwise they may face extended imprisonment.
It is hard to tell if this controlled line of questioning strictly reflects reality, but even so, as one of Khadr’s military lawyers, Army Lt. Col. Jon Jackson noted, the testimony showed that Khadr “was first questioned within just 12 hours of his transfer from the US field hospital to the detention center.” Kobie Flowers was more forceful in his criticism. “You got a guy who is 15, seriously wounded, who has had multiple surgeries, and that’s the first time the United States government takes a statement from him to use in his prosecution,” he said, adding, “Now whether it is torture, cruel, inhumane, degrading treatment or simply involuntary … I don’t think any federal judge in the United States would allow that type of conduct.”
The testimony of Damien Corsetti
On Wednesday, a peripheral figure in Khadr’s story – but one who has achieved a certain notoriety – testified by video link from Arlington, Virginia. Damien Corsetti, who was known as “Monster” at Bagram, based on a tattoo on his chest, and also as “The King of Torture,” described himself as “a disabled veteran suffering post traumatic stress disorder as a result of his interrogation work in both Afghanistan and Iraq,” and explained how, on seeing Khadr on July 29, 2002, just two days after his capture, he was struck by how he was an injured “child” detained in “one of the worst places on Earth.” He added, “More than anything, he looked beat up. He was a 15 year-old kid with three holes in his body, a bunch of shrapnel in his face. That was what I remember. How horrible this 15 year-old child looked.”
Corsetti, who was cleared in 2005 of abuse charges relating to his conduct in Bagram and, later, at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, explained, back in 2007, how he was still haunted by “the cries, the smells, the sounds” of those whose torture he witnessed, when he was called upon to attend sessions in the basement of Bagram in which “high-value detainees” were tortured. “[T]hey are with me all the time,” he said.
Last Wednesday, Corsetti told the court that he was “not one of Khadr’s interrogators” but had befriended him in Bagram. He explained that the guards and interrogators, who identified all the prisoners as “BOB” (which stood for “Bad Odor Boys”), named Khadr “Buckshot BOB,” due to his injuries. He added that “there was the sound of screaming and yelling ‘continuously,” and also confirmed that threats were made to send prisoners to countries where they would be tortured, or raped. He specifically mentioned Israel and Egypt, but added, as Michelle Shephard explained in the Toronto Star, that he “did not know if Khadr had been told this.” As Khadr stated in his affidavit that he was indeed threatened with being sent to Israel or Egypt (or Syria or Jordan), Corsetti’s testimony therefore endorsed another of Khadr’s claims.
“Interrogator No. 1″ and the rape threat
If Corsetti’s testimony, for the most part, did little more than add some more color to the story of Khadr’s early months in US custody, Thursday’s witness, Joshua Claus, provided potent testimony regarding the kind of threats to which Khadr was subjected, and also provided a disturbing link to the kind of violence in Bagram that led to the murders of Dilawar and Mullah Habibullah in December 2002. Claus, formerly a sergeant in the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion (of which Corsetti was also a member), was identified in court as “Interrogator No. 1,” and was Khadr’s main interrogator at Bagram, the “skinny blond” man with glasses (just 21 years old at the time) who also interrogated him while he was on a stretcher, on the day that he was moved to Bagram from the field hospital, and who, according to Khadr, mistreated him in an unknown manner (because the details are redacted) during his first interrogation.
Testifying by video link from Arizona, Claus recalled, in particular, using the technique described as “fear up harsh” in interrogations of Khadr, during which he would kick the furniture and scream at the young prisoner. He also admitted that he invented a rape story to scare him, explaining, as Spencer Ackerman described it in the Washington Independent:
“I told him a fictitious story we had invented when we were there,” Interrogator #1 said. It was something “three or four” interrogators at Bagram came up with after learning that Afghans were “terrified of getting raped and general homosexuality, things of that nature.” The story went like this:
Interrogator #1 would tell the detainee, “I know you’re lying about something.” And so, for an instruction about the consequences of lying, Khadr learned that lying “not so seriously” wouldn’t land him in a place like “Cuba” – meaning, presumably, Guantánamo Bay – but in an American prison instead. And this one time, a “poor little 20-year-old kid” sent from Afghanistan ended up in an American prison for lying to an American. “A bunch of big black guys and big Nazis noticed the little Afghan didn’t speak their language, and prayed five times a day – he’s Muslim,” Interrogator #1 said. Although the fictitious inmates were criminals, “they’re still patriotic,” and the guards “can’t be everywhere at once.”
“So this one unfortunate time, he’s in the shower by himself, and these four big black guys show up – and it’s terrible something would happen – but they caught him in the shower and raped him. And it’s terrible that these things happen, the kid got hurt and ended up dying,” Interrogator #1 said. “It’s all a fictitious story.”
Perhaps so, but as Ackerman also noted, every other interrogator who spoke to Khadr did so “after he heard a ‘fictitious story’ about a young Afghan who lied to US interrogators and as a result was raped and killed in jail.”
In many ways, the events of the last two weeks were inconclusive, and it remains to be seen how the judge, Army Col. Patrick Parrish, will interpret them. Certainly, there was much worse abuse at Bagram and at Guantánamo than that experienced by Omar Khadr, but he was just a child during his time at Bagram and the early years of his abuse at Guantánamo, and it may well be that, as his lawyers assert, any self-incriminating statements that he made (especially regarding the throwing of a grenade that may have taken place when he was face down and unconscious under a pile of rubble) were produced because rape threats and physical violence based primarily on exploitation of his wounds was enough to terrify him into acquiescence with whatever his captors wanted.
The Pentagon shoots itself in the foot: four reporters banned
Ironically, the biggest story in Guantánamo last week was not the reports of Khadr’s treatment but the banning of four reporters (including Michelle Shephard and Carol Rosenberg), after they revealed Claus’ name in newspaper reports. The Pentagon alleged that this violated an order stipulating that Claus’ real name was protected information, but this was patently ridiculous, because his name was already in the public domain, and, in 2008, he had even conducted an interview with Michelle Shephard.
Instead of protecting Claus, the Pentagon’s heavy-handed response served only to make other reporters wonder if the Pentagon was trying to prevent anyone from working out that, unlike Damien Corsetti, Claus served five months in prison for pleading guilty in a court martial to the abuse of an unidentified prisoner at Bagram, who was made “to roll back and forth on the floor and kiss the boots of his interrogator,” as Michelle Shephard described it, and for the assault of Dilawar. In Shephard’s words, “He admitted to forcing water down the throat of Dilawar and twisting a hood over the Afghan’s head.” Moreover, as another soldier explained in a military report into Dilawar’s death, “I had the impression that Josh was actually holding the detainee upright by pulling on the hood. I was furious at this point because I had seen Josh tighten the hood of another detainee the week before. This behavior seemed completely gratuitous and unrelated to intelligence collection.”
In his interview in 2008, Claus insisted that he wanted to set the record straight. “They’re trying to imply I’m beating or torturing everyone I ever talked to [at Bagram],” he said, adding that, with Khadr, “I spent a lot of time trying to understand who he was and what I could say to him or do for him, whether it be to bring him extra food or get a letter out to his family … I needed to talk to him and get him to trust me.”
Responding last Thursday to a question about his conviction posed by Barry Coburn, Claus insisted that he “lost control at a very slight moment. You’re talking about two-and-a-half minutes of my life.” This may not technically be correct, as there was clearly more than one incident, but it is obvious that his actions were part of an abusive program sanctioned at the highest level of the Bush administration, and moreover, as Damien Corsetti explained, “the pressure to get information from prisoner at Bagram was intense.” He told Col. Parrish, “This was less than a year after 9/11 so we’re all still pretty heated up about that. This was life and death stuff we were supposedly dealing with. There was just a ton of pressure on us to get information to save lives and generate reports.”
By banning the four reporters, the Pentagon has only succeeded in drawing attention to something it presumably wanted to hide: that Omar Khadr’s mistreatment in Bagram took place at time when the violence in the prison, sanctioned by the Bush administration, was so intense that prisoners died, and that his first interrogator was implicated in the murder of one of these men. It doesn’t prove that Khadr wasn’t coerced into making false confessions, but it doesn’t augur well for claims that everything about his treatment was “conversational” and “non-confrontational.”
The Obama administration has until July, when Khadr’s trial is scheduled to start, to extricate itself from a public relations disaster of its own making, by formulating an acceptable plea deal for Khadr and arranging his return to Canada. Too much about this story – from the trumped-up war crimes charges, to the doubts about Khadr’s guilt, to his age and the abuse to which, on occasion, he was undoubtedly subjected – makes proceeding with the trial an unpalatable and essentially pointless exercise. It is, I believe, time, after nearly eight years, for his punishment to come to an end, and for his long-delayed rehabilitation to begin.
Andy Worthington is a journalist and historian, based in London. He is the author of The Guantánamo Files, the first book to tell the stories of all the detainees in America’s illegal prison. For more information, visit his blog here.
“You don’t like the truth: 4 days inside Guantanamo.” The most powerful and disturbing documentary I have ever seen over my 50 some odd years of political involvement.
I cannot tell you how painful it was to watch for over an hour as a Canadian CSIS officer systematically applied psychological torture to this 16 year old child.
If you are a Canadian, you will feel a profound shame (the Canadian Supreme Court found that the interrogation was a violation of the child’s rights, but didn’t order the government to do anything about it). If you are a human being with an ounce of humanity …
The documentary, using the video of the four days of interrogation, shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that the child was innocent of the charge against him. It shows him (who already had been brutally tortured by the Americans) virtually destroyed emotionally over the persistent hectoring of his interrogator and yet, in the end, having more courage and decency than his monster of an adversary (a veritable wolf in sheep’s clothing).
There is much more I could say, and maybe I will add another post once I calm down. If you want to know the truth about this disgusting travesty of justice, try to find a way to see this documentary, or at least view the trailer whose link is at the top of this post. The documentary’s home page is http://www.youdontlikethetruth.com/?lang=En&page=Home
Roger Hollander, October 31, 2010
Harper, federal lawyers at odds over Khadr trial January 12, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
Tags: Afghanistan, Bush, Canada, child rights, child soldiers, childrens rights, Guantanamo, michelle shephard, Obama, Omar Khadr, Pentagon, roger hollander, romeo dallaire, Stephen Harper, unicef, young offenders
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NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER
Toronto Star, january 12, 2009
Canadian government lawyers have repeatedly raised concerns about the U.S. prosecution of Omar Khadr because he was only 15 when captured, while publicly, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has supported the war crimes trial of the Toronto-born detainee.
Internal government documents obtained by the Toronto Star state that “Canada considers that Omar Khadr’s juvenile status should be taken into account in all aspects of his detention, treatment, proceedings and possible sentence.”
The Star made the request for documents through the Federal Access to Information legislation 17 months ago.
The more than 100 heavily censored pages of documents from Canada’s Justice and Foreign Affairs Departments include legal opinions about Khadr’s case and Guantanamo’s war crimes trials. One report concerning Canada’s law for young offenders and titled “Youth Criminal Justice Act” is completely blacked out.
But concerns about Khadr’s age are repeatedly noted and appear to reveal a schism between Harper, who has not publicly challenged the legality of the Bush administration’s military commissions, and the bureaucrats providing legal advice. One undated report to Canada’s former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Maxime Bernier, states that Canada has “continuously demanded that the U.S. government take Mr. Khadr’s age into account.”
The Pentagon has stated that Khadr’s age could be a factor during sentencing if he’s convicted, but that it has not influenced the conditions of his detention for the past 6 1/2 years and will not affect his prosecution.
Khadr’s lawyers have unsuccessfully argued that his case is in violation of international law since the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child – which Canada has ratified – stipulate that children under the age of 18 who are caught in armed conflict must be handled differently than adult captives. Rehabilitation, not prosecution, is the goal.
Now 22, Khadr was shot and captured in Afghanistan on July 27, 2002 following a firefight with U.S. forces.
The Pentagon charged him with five war crimes, including murder for allegedly throwing a grenade that fatally wounded Delta Force soldier Christopher Speer.
His trial is scheduled to begin in two weeks.
This morning, Canadian Liberal Senator Romeo Dallaire will join American child rights advocates in Washington in an effort to put Khadr’s case on the top of the Obama administration’s agenda. Speakers at the press conference will include former child soldier and UNICEF Ambassador Ishmael Beah and David Crane, a Syracuse law professor and former prosecutor for Sierra Leone’s war crime trials.
“I think one of the problems with this case is the reason people don’t have compassion for Omar Khadr, but have compassion for people like me … It’s easy for people here to say, `Oh we forgive child soldiers,’ because it’s not affecting them directly,” Beah said in an interview with the Star last year.
“But you can’t say that one person’s life is more valuable. So, if a 15-year-old kid in Sierra Leone, in Congo, in Uganda, in Liberia, if they kill somebody and shoot somebody in the war it’s fine, but as soon as that kid kills an American soldier … they are no longer a child soldier, they are a terrorist.”
During an interview aired yesterday with ABC’s This Week, Obama said it was unlikely he would be able to shut Guantanamo’s prison within the first 100 days of his presidency, due to the complex legal situation of some of the remaining 250 prisoners.
But sources told the Star that Obama’s transition team had specifically requested information concerning Khadr’s case and that of Mohammad Jawad, an Afghan detainee who was also under the age of 18 when captured. Khadr’s Pentagon-appointed lawyer, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Bill Kuebler, confirmed Friday that the transition team is “aware of the case, the key dates, and the procedures for turning it off.”
As Dallaire takes his message to Washington today, a grassroots movement is planning to inundate Ottawa MPs with more than 5,000 postcards calling for Khadr’s repatriation. However, Canadians generally remain divided on the case largely due to the unpopularity of Khadr’s siblings and mother.
In a 2004 CBC documentary, family members admitted to knowing Osama bin Laden when they lived in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
For the past two years, Harper’s government has steered clear of the politically unpopular Khadr case, as did the Liberals before them.
But with Guantanamo’s prison set to close, Obama will be reaching out for countries to accept detainees who will not be tried. If the Toronto detainee’s case is not moved to a criminal trial or court martial on U.S. soil, it’s likely he will request that Canada take Khadr back.
Guantánamo North: Last security certificate detainee to be freed January 2, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Human Rights.
Tags: al-Qaeda, bin Laden, Canada, canada immigration, detention, guantanamo north, hassan almrei, kingston, michelle shephard, mosley, national secuity certificate, rcmp, roger hollander, waldman
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National Security Reporter
jANURAY 2, 2009, tORONTO STAR
The last remaining terrorism suspect who has been held for seven years under a “national security certificate” has been ordered released from detention.
Federal court Justice Richard Mosley ruled Friday that there is no evidence that Syrian Hassan Almrei “poses a threat to the safety of any individual” and should be released under strict conditions.
“I am satisfied that any risk that he might pose to national security or of absconding can be neutralized by conditions,” Mosley wrote in his 100-page ruling.
Conditions for his release will likely include 24-hour monitoring by agents with the Canada Border Services Agency, wearing a GPS monitoring bracelet and a ban on any use of cellphones or computers.
“Hassan was very, very happy – very pleased,” said his lawyer Lorne Waldman after speaking with Almrei by phone. “Personally, I’m delighted. Holding someone in Canada without charge, without trial, is a very serious matter and I’m relieved that this detention will end soon.”
Critics of Canada’s immigration law that allows the government to deport non-citizens deemed a risk to national security have called the Kingston holding centre where Almrei is held “Guantanamo North.”
During his lengthy detention review hearings last fall, Almrei received the backing of many prominent Canadians, including documentary filmmaker Alexandre Trudeau, son of former prime minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau. A former RCMP officer and now court expert on jihad testified that he didn’t believe Almrei posed a risk. In past hearings a jail guard once testified that he wouldn’t mind if Almrei was released and moved in next door.
But in fighting his release, the government argued that Almrei once belonged to a terrorist forgery ring and continues to support the ideology espoused by Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Mosley noted in his ruling that he “had no difficulty” in accepting the government’s position about the continued risk faced by terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda, but that the evidence did not show there were “reasonable grounds to believe Mr. Almrei’s continued detention is necessary at this time.”
In 2007, the Supreme Court struck down the national security certificate provision of Canada’s immigration law as unconstitutional. The high court justices ruled that holding secret federal court hearings based on evidence provided by Canada’s spy service was unfair to the accused.
A new law was passed by Parliament last year and introduces the role of special advocates who have security clearance, and are able to challenge the government’s evidence behind closed doors.
New hearings for Almrei and four others accused of links to terrorist organizations are expected to take place early this year.