In October 2012, Omar Khadr left Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The young Canadian had survived a ten-year-odyssey by then. Khadr had been accused of killing an US soldier, imprisoned with 15, tortured and interned in Bagram and Guantánamo.
Another terrifying story of a young life destroyed on a September day 2001.
On the 27th of July 2002, Omar Khadr, a young Canadian citizen, was captured during a fire battle in Afghanistan. He was seriously injured during the firefight. However, the US accused him of killing an US Sergeant First Class, injuring two others, even though he was 15 years old at that time.
No doubt, Omar Khadr was born not as a Canadian boy, but as a fanatic anti-western Muslim. His family was the most Un-Canadian family that probably existed north of the Niagara falls. His father worked for al-Qaida, and at the age when most children play computer games, young Omar learned how to kill.
Of course it is easier talking about an innocent child at Guantánamo than about a young man who probably blew up an American soldier.
But even if he did the deed, the case shows some of the major mistakes that the US government made after 9/11, and that led to a dramatic decrease in Americas credibility.
The US failed to treat Khadr right. I mean it´s not easy to work out the right process for a 15-year old kid that could be a fanatic killer. But the Bush administration’s way, certainly was wrong.
In violation and ignorance of International Law, the US treated him like an adult. He was first brought to Bagram Airbase, Afghanistan. The old Russian military area was used as central detention center for US detainees in Afghanistan. The prison is often called “evil twin of Guantánamo”, also because it is way bigger than the Cuba jail. Since it was opened, Bagram has become notorious for horrifying abuses. In 2002, two prisoners died after just some days in US custody. During that time, they were hung up by their handcuffed and badly beaten. Tarek Dergoul, a British citizen that was in Bagram and then in Gitmo (short form of Guantánamo Bay), says that in Bagram, he was stripped naked and hooded. Other detainees would be forced to squat for hours and, if they fell over, being beaten until they lost consciousness. An Afghan government report criticized torture in Bagram in January, short time before the US finally handed over the prison to the government in Kabul. However, the US still run a prison there: the newly built Parwan facility, transferring hundreds of detainees to this new Bagram.
So, Bagram is no place for fifteen year old child soldiers. But the US forces brought him right there.
Khadr complained about being mistreated. During his tribunal at Gitmo, he complained about being hooded in Bagram. He reported he had been hung up by his handcuffs. Even though the personnel noticed him being weak and disoriented, even though he was in hospital in Bagram, he was immediately interrogated. If the officers didn´t like his answers, he would chain Khadrs hands and feet to the side.
He was forced to sit up because military interrogators knew it caused him great pain. Khadr was pulled to the floor even though he had to stay in the stretcher, which caused a cut in his left knee. While his head was covered, a barking dog was brought into the room. The cover would make breathing difficult. Cold water was poured over him.
The teen was not allowed to go to the bathroom, forcing him to urinate on himself. He was threatened to be raped, or to be sent to countries like Syria and Egypt to be raped. This happened several times. The interrogators shone bright light to his eyes, causing pain because hos eye had been wounded by shrapnel.
Still ignoring Khadr´s painful wounds, he was woken up in the middle of the night and then forced to clean the room with a brush until dawn. He was subjected to hard exercising and labor several times. He was forced to carry loads of water, hurting his left shoulder, where he was shot.
It did not take me a single second to be sure this was torture. They forced Khadr to stand for hours, to carry heavy things, to wipe the floor and to sit up, even though he was injured and this caused him great pain. They threw cold water at him, intimidated him with a dog, hooded and handcuffed him and shone bright light directly to his eyes. They threatened him. He was sixteen at that time!
Pics: 1: Bagram Prison by Jarret Brachman 2: Omar Khadr from Human Rights Watch 3: Guantánamo Bay Naval Base from „The Guantanamo Trap“ (movie) 4: Cellblock in Gitmo from Wikimedia Commons 5: Detainee is given water upon arrival at Gitmo from Wikimedia Commons
His odyssey wasn´t at the end yet. He was brought to Gitmo. During the entire transfer, he was shackled. Before the flight, he was not given any food. He was in Bagram about 90 days.
“Welcome to Israel”-Khadr and the other arriving detainees at Gitmo were welcomed by this sentence.
In Guantánamo, Khadr still was not treated like a minor prisoner. Unlike other young inmates, he was not allowed to be teached.
Abusive treatment continued. He was pressed towards a wall until he passed out. After regaining consciousness, the soldiers continued. He was brought to a small cell with a tiny window he couldn´t look at. It often would be extremely cold in these cells.
In violation of International and US laws, Khadr was held together with adults.
Both in Bagram and Guantánamo, he was seen crying and in depression due to harsh interrogation tactics.
He was cuffed to the floor in different positions, then he urinated on himself
He said he had then been used as human floor cloth. The interrogators would tie his hands and feet together, pour oil over him and move him on the floor. He laid in a mix of urine and oil.*
*A press article states that he had been subjected to this method in Bagram, but in the official court documents (USA vs. Omar Khadr) it says that Khadr suffered from this abuse in Gitmo.
He was not allowed to change his clothes for two days.
In March 2003, he was told his brother was in Gitmo.
During a three-week period Khadr had to move to another cell every three hours, which is in fact sleep deprivation
On another occasion, an interrogator told Khadr:“Your life is in my hands” The officer spat on him and tore out a part of Khadr´s hair. He threatened to bring Omar Khadr to a country (Jordan, Syria, and Egypt) to be tortured even more. He told Khadr that he would be raped in Egypt. He then chained Khadr´s hands to his ankles and ordered the prisoner to stand up and sit down again some times. It was very difficult because of the shackles, so the officer called to Military Policemen that lifted Khadr up and then dragged him down again five times.
He was told he would never leave Gitmo.
He also was held in isolation for one month. Everything except his mattress was taken away, and the cell was as cold as a “refrigerator”.
He was chained to the floor, the hands behind the knees for five to six hours.
However, in 2010 a military judge denied a request by Khadr and his lawyers. Khadr and Co. had asked to throw out Khadr´s confessions that were obtained while using extreme techniques.
So in the military trial, information coming from coercive interrogation was allowed.
In the case of Omar Khadr, the Bush administration showed us how to do everything wrong
– By bringing him to jails for adults
– By denying him educational possibilities
– By using harsh and inhumane methods on him
– By keeping him away from a lawyer and a fair trial for years
– By allowing torture confessions in the trial.
In 2008, videotapes appeared showing Canadian agents interrogating Khadr in Gitmo. Khadr is crying, he shows injuries to the agents that were caused by abuses. He tells them he is not receiving good medical care. The Canadian investigator does not seem very interested. He replies: „I´m not a doctor but I think you´re getting good medical care“.
In October 2010, Khadr accepted a deal which meant he should stay eight more years in prison, but with the option to return to Canada after one year in Gitmo. He was found guilty of murder and attempted murder in violation of the laws of war, conspiracy to commit terrorism, providing material support for terrorism, and spying.
But he was not brought to Canada until 29 September 2012, about two years after the end of his trial. He will have to stay in Canadian prison for about two years until being finally released, reports say.
The important on this case is not the question if Khadr killed the soldier or not. It is the question if he should be held responsible for being misused as child soldier by his family and if it was correct to treat him like a terrorist with no rights.
2012- After ten years in custody, after ten years of torture and human rights violations, Omar Khadr’s odyssey is not at the end yet. He is not innocent, but he no terrorist, either.