Omar Khadr: The Injustice Continues

By Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada.  Neve is currently at Guantánamo to observe the military commission trial against detainee Omar Khadr. This is his first post in series from the field.

 

Alex Neve stands in front of the building housing the courtroom in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

 

It  seems difficult to believe that after being held here at Guantánamo Bay for close to eight years and having been put through an astonishing array of legal twists and turns – including charges being thrown out at one point and then reinstated – Omar Khadr is about to face trial by military commission, possibly this week if pre-trial proceedings are completed.

I’m here to observe these proceedings on behalf of Amnesty International. And quite honestly at this stage I find it very difficult to predict just what I will observe.  All that seems certain is that it will be another phase in the systematic injustice to which Omar Khadr has been subjected.

First, today there will be more legal arguments as to whether all or at least some of the statements Omar Khadr made in the course of over 100 interrogation sessions between 2002 and 2004 – first at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and then here at Guantánamo – will be excluded from the trial.  He has laid out detailed and credible allegations as to the many forms of physical and psychological torture and other abuse he says he was subject to at that time, including during many of the interrogation sessions.  The prosecution has maintained in its legal filings that “the accused was not tortured; nor subjected to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment”. Yet at a hearing in May, one of Omar Khadr’s interrogators at Bagram admitted to using a rape scenario as a fear tactic against the teenager. And it is clear that at Guantánamo, Omar Khadr was one of the detainees subjected to the sleep disruption/deprivation technique known as the “frequent flyer” program.

Then there is the question of his legal representation.  Omar Khadr dismissed his civilian US lawyers last month.  He has not been allowed to dismiss his US military lawyer, but it is not yet clear whether he will try to represent himself or allow his military lawyer to.  He does still have his Canadian lawyers, Dennis Edney and Nate Whitling, but as they are not US citizens they are not permitted to take part in the legal proceedings here, just observe and provide assistance.

It is also not clear whether Omar Khadr will even attend the proceedings.  Last month he told the military judge that he would boycott the trial because of “the unfairness and unjustice [sic] of it”.  Today, the day before pre-trial hearings resume, his lawyers are indicating they do not know whether he will appear or not.  If he does stay away there is every indication that proceedings will simply go on without him.

One thing that still does seem certain is that there will be little if any regard for the fact that Omar Khadr was 15 years of age at the time of his alleged offense.  From the outset the USA should have taken full account of his young age, and he should have been given special protections under international human rights law. The fact that he was taken into custody following a firefight in Afghanistan also placed him within the scope of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, ratified by the USA in 2002. The USA’s treatment of Omar Khadr and its looming trial of him by military commission flies in the face not only of its international obligations in relation to fair trials and juvenile justice, but also of its stated objectives and policies aimed at preventing the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict. The Committee on the Rights of the Child, the expert body which oversees implementation of the Optional Protocol, has called on the USA not to try any such child before a military tribunal.

Also apparently certain is that the Canadian government will maintain its steadfast indifference to the many human rights violations in this case, including violations for which Canadian officials who came here several years ago to interrogate Omar Khadr  were themselves involved.  There have been numerous Federal Court and Federal Court of Appeal rulings chastising the Canadian government and calling for the government to remedy the violations, including by seeking his return to Canada.

And the Supreme Court of Canada – not once but twice – has found that the Canadian government has violated and continues to violate Omar Khadr’s rights.  Earlier this year the Court concluded that it was not its role to specify how those violations should be remedied but that they certainly must be remedied.  The government’s less than half-hearted response to that ruling – a request to US officials not to make use of information they had received from Canada – was not only ineffective it was rejected by the US several months ago.  So here we sit, proceedings about to get underway in this US military base with the Canadian government failing to provide any meaningful aid to its national who has been trapped in a circle of injustice since he was 15 years of age.

Today it resumes in courtroom #1 at Guantánamo Bay.

*****************

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11 thoughts on “Omar Khadr: The Injustice Continues

  1. Amnesty rightly condemns the war crime of using children as soldiers, and you argue the US should have released Omar Khadr from Guantanamo as soon as it was known he was age 15, since he was a “ child soldier”

    But, if Omar had been released at age 15 he would have been returned to his family.

    Would this really have been better for him?

    It is Omar Kahdrs own family that proudly admits it is they, not the US, who commuted the original war crime against Omar by forcing Omar as a young child age 11 to enroll as an Al-Qeda fighter.

    My question to Amnesty International is this:

    Give the unarguable fact that Omar's own family are horrible, evil, sickening people, would not returning him to his family, the very people who original abused him in the first place, long before he was imprisoned by the Americans, would that really be better for Omar than just keeping him in Guantanamo. At least in Guantanamo he is safe from his own demented family who cannot abuse him any more.

    Omar's primary inspiration was his father, Ahmed Sa'id Khadr, one of Osama bin Laden's key lieutenants and a high-ranking member of the terrorist group Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Ahmed Sa'id Khadr together with Al-Qaeda terrorist Ayman al Zawahiri, was responsible for numerous terrorist operations together with , most notably the November, 1995, bombing of the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad that left 16 dead and dozens injured.

    Omar's mother Maha Elsamnah, the wife of Ahmed Said Khadr, Omar's older sister Zaynab Khad and Omar's older brother Abdurahman gave an interview shown Feb. 22, 2004. on the Canadian Broadcast Corporation, and later broadcast on PBS Frontline.

    Source ; http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/

    Maha, I guess a lot of Canadians would say how could a mother send her children to these camps for this kind of military training?

    MAHA: To be a brave man. I like my son to be brave. I mean as I was telling you, if I was in Canada, I would like my son to be trained to protect himself, to protect his home, to protect his neighbor, to see a young girl innocent, being raped or attacked, to really fight to defend it. I would really love to do that, and I would love my son to grow with this mentality. … So I would do training my child to defend his rights, it's OK.
    ZAYNAB: And as Muslims, we are ordered to be trained, and always be ready–
    MAHA: To defend ourselves.
    ZAYNAB: The prophet ordered that people should get their children trained in swimming, aiming or sniping, and horseback riding. These are the three most important thing for a child even before he learns to read and write. …
    MAHA: And you would you like me to raise my child in Canada and by the time he's 12 or 13 he'll be on drugs or having some homosexual relation or this and that? Is it better? For me, no. I would rather have my son as a strong man who knows right and wrong and stands for it, even if it's against his parents. It's much better for me than to have my child walking on the streets in Canada taking drugs or doing all this nonsense.

    Omar's older brother Abdurahman Khadr, was captured in Afghanistan in 2001 , but now lives in Toronto with the rest of his family.
    "I just admitted we are an al-Qaeda family. We had connections with al-Qaeda," he told Canada's CBC television.
    He said he and his brothers were sent to Afghanistan to train with al-Qaeda by their family.
    "I was raised to become a suicide bomber." he admitted.
    “The first time I went to training, I was 11-and-a-half years old. I was 11-and-a-half. I remember that. My brother was 12. And we went to Khalden. Since '92 until 2003, I've been to Khalden, like, five times. I took assault rifle course, explosive-making course, snipers, pistols and Pet CC, which is a course that includes all of these. “

  2. Amnesty rightly condemns the war crime of using children as soldiers, and you argue the US should have released Omar Khadr from Guantanamo as soon as it was known he was age 15, since he was a “ child soldier”

    But, if Omar had been released at age 15 he would have been returned to his family.

    Would this really have been better for him?

    It is Omar Kahdrs own family that proudly admits it is they, not the US, who commuted the original war crime against Omar by forcing Omar as a young child age 11 to enroll as an Al-Qeda fighter.

    My question to Amnesty International is this:

    Give the unarguable fact that Omar's own family are horrible, evil, sickening people, would not returning him to his family, the very people who original abused him in the first place, long before he was imprisoned by the Americans, would that really be better for Omar than just keeping him in Guantanamo. At least in Guantanamo he is safe from his own demented family who cannot abuse him any more.

    Omar's primary inspiration was his father, Ahmed Sa'id Khadr, one of Osama bin Laden's key lieutenants and a high-ranking member of the terrorist group Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Ahmed Sa'id Khadr together with Al-Qaeda terrorist Ayman al Zawahiri, was responsible for numerous terrorist operations together with , most notably the November, 1995, bombing of the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad that left 16 dead and dozens injured.

    Omar's mother Maha Elsamnah, the wife of Ahmed Said Khadr, Omar's older sister Zaynab Khad and Omar's older brother Abdurahman gave an interview shown Feb. 22, 2004. on the Canadian Broadcast Corporation, and later broadcast on PBS Frontline.

    Source ; http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/

    Maha, I guess a lot of Canadians would say how could a mother send her children to these camps for this kind of military training?

    MAHA: To be a brave man. I like my son to be brave. I mean as I was telling you, if I was in Canada, I would like my son to be trained to protect himself, to protect his home, to protect his neighbor, to see a young girl innocent, being raped or attacked, to really fight to defend it. I would really love to do that, and I would love my son to grow with this mentality. … So I would do training my child to defend his rights, it's OK.
    ZAYNAB: And as Muslims, we are ordered to be trained, and always be ready–
    MAHA: To defend ourselves.
    ZAYNAB: The prophet ordered that people should get their children trained in swimming, aiming or sniping, and horseback riding. These are the three most important thing for a child even before he learns to read and write. …
    MAHA: And you would you like me to raise my child in Canada and by the time he's 12 or 13 he'll be on drugs or having some homosexual relation or this and that? Is it better? For me, no. I would rather have my son as a strong man who knows right and wrong and stands for it, even if it's against his parents. It's much better for me than to have my child walking on the streets in Canada taking drugs or doing all this nonsense.

    Omar's older brother Abdurahman Khadr, was captured in Afghanistan in 2001 , but now lives in Toronto with the rest of his family.
    "I just admitted we are an al-Qaeda family. We had connections with al-Qaeda," he told Canada's CBC television.
    He said he and his brothers were sent to Afghanistan to train with al-Qaeda by their family.
    "I was raised to become a suicide bomber." he admitted.
    “The first time I went to training, I was 11-and-a-half years old. I was 11-and-a-half. I remember that. My brother was 12. And we went to Khalden. Since '92 until 2003, I've been to Khalden, like, five times. I took assault rifle course, explosive-making course, snipers, pistols and Pet CC, which is a course that includes all of these. “

  3. Amnesty rightly condemns the war crime of using children as soldiers, and you argue the US should have released Omar Khadr from Guantanamo as soon as it was known he was age 15, since he was a “ child soldier”

    But, if Omar had been released at age 15 he would have been returned to his family.

    Would this really have been better for him?

    It is Omar Kahdrs own family that proudly admits it is they, not the US, who commuted the original war crime against Omar by forcing Omar as a young child age 11 to enroll as an Al-Qeda fighter.

    My question to Amnesty International is this:

    Give the unarguable fact that Omar's own family are horrible, evil, sickening people, would not returning him to his family, the very people who original abused him in the first place, long before he was imprisoned by the Americans, would that really be better for Omar than just keeping him in Guantanamo. At least in Guantanamo he is safe from his own demented family who cannot abuse him any more.

    Omar's primary inspiration was his father, Ahmed Sa'id Khadr, one of Osama bin Laden's key lieutenants and a high-ranking member of the terrorist group Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Ahmed Sa'id Khadr together with Al-Qaeda terrorist Ayman al Zawahiri, was responsible for numerous terrorist operations together with , most notably the November, 1995, bombing of the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad that left 16 dead and dozens injured.

    Omar's mother Maha Elsamnah, the wife of Ahmed Said Khadr, Omar's older sister Zaynab Khad and Omar's older brother Abdurahman gave an interview shown Feb. 22, 2004. on the Canadian Broadcast Corporation, and later broadcast on PBS Frontline.

    Source ; http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/

    Maha, I guess a lot of Canadians would say how could a mother send her children to these camps for this kind of military training?

    MAHA: To be a brave man. I like my son to be brave. I mean as I was telling you, if I was in Canada, I would like my son to be trained to protect himself, to protect his home, to protect his neighbor, to see a young girl innocent, being raped or attacked, to really fight to defend it. I would really love to do that, and I would love my son to grow with this mentality. … So I would do training my child to defend his rights, it's OK.
    ZAYNAB: And as Muslims, we are ordered to be trained, and always be ready–
    MAHA: To defend ourselves.
    ZAYNAB: The prophet ordered that people should get their children trained in swimming, aiming or sniping, and horseback riding. These are the three most important thing for a child even before he learns to read and write. …
    MAHA: And you would you like me to raise my child in Canada and by the time he's 12 or 13 he'll be on drugs or having some homosexual relation or this and that? Is it better? For me, no. I would rather have my son as a strong man who knows right and wrong and stands for it, even if it's against his parents. It's much better for me than to have my child walking on the streets in Canada taking drugs or doing all this nonsense.

    Omar's older brother Abdurahman Khadr, was captured in Afghanistan in 2001 , but now lives in Toronto with the rest of his family.
    "I just admitted we are an al-Qaeda family. We had connections with al-Qaeda," he told Canada's CBC television.
    He said he and his brothers were sent to Afghanistan to train with al-Qaeda by their family.
    "I was raised to become a suicide bomber." he admitted.
    “The first time I went to training, I was 11-and-a-half years old. I was 11-and-a-half. I remember that. My brother was 12. And we went to Khalden. Since '92 until 2003, I've been to Khalden, like, five times. I took assault rifle course, explosive-making course, snipers, pistols and Pet CC, which is a course that includes all of these. “

  4. Guantanamo, with its tortures & violence & secret assassinations by officials & guards, may be your culture's answer for a child….

    Many american judges indeed opt for prison as THE corrective for juvenile problems… ask your children …..

    But a cage, even it "protects" from life's storms, is not preferrable to the lessons to be learned "out there" by one.

    On one's own land.

    This is not an answer your "knowing – what's – best – for – others" invading culture would understand.

  5. Amnesty rightly condemns the war crime of using children as soldiers, and you argue the US should have released Omar Khadr from Guantanamo as soon as it was known he was age 15, since he was a “ child soldier”

    But, if Omar had been released at age 15 he would have been returned to his family.

    Would this really have been better for him?

    It is Omar Kahdrs own family that proudly admits it is they, not the US, who commuted the original war crime against Omar by forcing Omar as a young child age 11 to enroll as an Al-Qeda fighter.

    My question to Amnesty International is this:

    Give the unarguable fact that Omar’s own family are horrible, evil, sickening people, would not returning him to his family, the very people who original abused him in the first place, long before he was imprisoned by the Americans, would that really be better for Omar than just keeping him in Guantanamo. At least in Guantanamo he is safe from his own demented family who cannot abuse him any more.

    Omar’s primary inspiration was his father, Ahmed Sa’id Khadr, one of Osama bin Laden’s key lieutenants and a high-ranking member of the terrorist group Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Ahmed Sa’id Khadr together with Al-Qaeda terrorist Ayman al Zawahiri, was responsible for numerous terrorist operations together with , most notably the November, 1995, bombing of the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad that left 16 dead and dozens injured.

    Omar’s mother Maha Elsamnah, the wife of Ahmed Said Khadr, Omar’s older sister Zaynab Khad and Omar’s older brother Abdurahman gave an interview shown Feb. 22, 2004. on the Canadian Broadcast Corporation, and later broadcast on PBS Frontline.

    Source ;
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/

    Maha, I guess a lot of Canadians would say how could a mother send her children to these camps for this kind of military training?

    MAHA: To be a brave man. I like my son to be brave. I mean as I was telling you, if I was in Canada, I would like my son to be trained to protect himself, to protect his home, to protect his neighbor, to see a young girl innocent, being raped or attacked, to really fight to defend it. I would really love to do that, and I would love my son to grow with this mentality. … So I would do training my child to defend his rights, it’s OK.
    ZAYNAB: And as Muslims, we are ordered to be trained, and always be ready–
    MAHA: To defend ourselves.
    ZAYNAB: The prophet ordered that people should get their children trained in swimming, aiming or sniping, and horseback riding. These are the three most important thing for a child even before he learns to read and write. …
    MAHA: And you would you like me to raise my child in Canada and by the time he’s 12 or 13 he’ll be on drugs or having some homosexual relation or this and that? Is it better? For me, no. I would rather have my son as a strong man who knows right and wrong and stands for it, even if it’s against his parents. It’s much better for me than to have my child walking on the streets in Canada taking drugs or doing all this nonsense.

    Omar’s older brother Abdurahman Khadr, was captured in Afghanistan in 2001 , but now lives in Toronto with the rest of his family.
    “I just admitted we are an al-Qaeda family. We had connections with al-Qaeda,” he told Canada’s CBC television.
    He said he and his brothers were sent to Afghanistan to train with al-Qaeda by their family.
    “I was raised to become a suicide bomber.” he admitted.
    “The first time I went to training, I was 11-and-a-half years old. I was 11-and-a-half. I remember that. My brother was 12. And we went to Khalden. Since ’92 until 2003, I’ve been to Khalden, like, five times. I took assault rifle course, explosive-making course, snipers, pistols and Pet CC, which is a course that includes all of these. “

  6. Guantanamo, with its tortures & violence & secret assassinations by officials & guards, may be your culture’s answer for a child….

    Many american judges indeed opt for prison as THE corrective for juvenile problems… ask your children …..

    But a cage, even it “protects” from life’s storms, is not preferrable to the lessons to be learned “out there” by one.

    On one’s own land.

    This is not an answer your “knowing – what’s – best – for – others” invading culture would understand.

  7. Savage:

    Omar's land is Canada. His own mother who brainwashed his mind with hate and who sent him from the safety of Canada when he was just an 11 year old child off to war in Afghanistan, just as she had already done to his his 3 older brothers before him. Not surprisingly, all the Khadr brothers ended up being badly injured, one was left a quadriplegic.

    Was this not an extreme case of child abuse, was this not the very first torture Omar was forced to endure as a child, was this not the first and worst of all the war crimes committed against little Omar, Gitmo included ?

    And by whom was this torture, this unbearable abuse commited on Omar?

    By Omar's own creepy family, that's who.

    It is Omar's twisted mother who should be on trial for war crimes, not Omar who is just one of her many victims.

  8. Savage:

    Omar’s land is Canada. His own mother who brainwashed his mind with hate and who sent him from the safety of Canada when he was just an 11 year old child off to war in Afghanistan, just as she had already done to his his 3 older brothers before him. Not surprisingly, all the Khadr brothers ended up being badly injured, one was left a quadriplegic.

    Was this not an extreme case of child abuse, was this not the very first torture Omar was forced to endure as a child, was this not the first and worst of all the war crimes committed against little Omar, Gitmo included ?

    And by whom was this torture, this unbearable abuse commited on Omar?

    By Omar’s own creepy family, that’s who.

    It is Omar’s twisted mother who should be on trial for war crimes, not Omar who is just one of her many victims.

  9. Verily here the issue is turned upon its head.

    It is Guantanamo that fuels al Qaida — not the other way.

    It is the problem — not the solution.

    His mother didn’t fill him with hate — it is the US / israeli war machines that perform this function.

    Daily.

    Hourly.

    Globally.

    His land isn’t “canada”.

    His land is where his ancestry lies.

    His mother didn’t commit child abuse — she was following her inbred tradition.

    All indigenous mothers — & fathers & elders — teach their children the same lesson when the People face war & invasion.

    That it is the duty of all members of the Nation to resist, because the honor & the survival of all are at stake.

    That’s why children from Palestine to Kashmir are throwing rocks at the invaders.

    That’s why, in Afghanistan, they’re throwing other projectiles.

    That’s why, when the US Army attacks fortified native villages in Afghanistan, it is the women & the children who supply bullets, food & water all day to the men who are shooting down at the invaders from the walls.

    Even Kipling sings of it –

    “And when you’re lying wounded in Afghanistan’s plains
    And the WOMEN come down to cut up what remains…”

    It’s a long ingrained & ancient tradition of resistance — a culture, a way of life of resistance.

    Invading cultures decry this logic of resistance, calling it “creepy” ( i recognise your language for what it is ).

    If you care that much for the children, first denounce your invasions upon their lands — & then beg the forgiveness of their unforgiving mothers.

  10. Savage

    You are defending a war crime against the Geneva Convention, and against all concepts of human decency, namely Omar Khadr's mother sending him at age 11 from Canada to Afghanistan to fight on the front lines for AL Qeda.

    I think you have left Amnesty International far behind in the dust with this stance of yours approving this criminal act that the thing that calls itself Omar Khadr's mother did to her own child. She is still proud of herself for doing this of course.

    And if Omar and his family's land truly is not Canada as you say, then let them please pay back to the Canadian taxpayers the millions of dollars in Canadian medical care they have received free of charge treating the war wounds they got fighting in Afghanistan for Al Qeda.

    The Khadr family is totaly opposed to everything Canada stands for, such as democracy, equality, human rights, etc., but isn't it amazing that every single time the Kahdrs need Canadian passports as cover for waging war against civilians around the world, and every time the Kahdrs need the Canadian government to free them from POW custody, and every time the Khadrs need millions in free Canadian medical treatment for war wounds they received fighting on foreign soil against Canadian allies like the US, then suddenly the Khadrs seem to always remember very quickly that they are unfortunately Canadian.

    How convenient for them.

  11. Savage

    You are defending a war crime against the Geneva Convention, and against all concepts of human decency, namely Omar Khadr’s mother sending him at age 11 from Canada to Afghanistan to fight on the front lines for AL Qeda.

    I think you have left Amnesty International far behind in the dust with this stance of yours approving this criminal act that the thing that calls itself Omar Khadr’s mother did to her own child. She is still proud of herself for doing this of course.

    And if Omar and his family’s land truly is not Canada as you say, then let them please pay back to the Canadian taxpayers the millions of dollars in Canadian medical care they have received free of charge treating the war wounds they got fighting in Afghanistan for Al Qeda.

    The Khadr family is totaly opposed to everything Canada stands for, such as democracy, equality, human rights, etc., but isn’t it amazing that every single time the Kahdrs need Canadian passports as cover for waging war against civilians around the world, and every time the Kahdrs need the Canadian government to free them from POW custody, and every time the Khadrs need millions in free Canadian medical treatment for war wounds they received fighting on foreign soil against Canadian allies like the US, then suddenly the Khadrs seem to always remember very quickly that they are unfortunately Canadian.

    How convenient for them.