Prism Magazine, founded by Maher Arar, will be broadcasting a livestream discussion on Sunday May 29 at 10:00am EST. Jeff Sallot, an instructor of Journalism at Carleton University and former Globe and Mail Bureau Chief, will host a discussion on the Canadian and American “No-Fly Lists” and their impact on civil liberties. Confirmed guests are Roch Tassé, Ben Wizner and Moazzam Begg.
“The only crime in my view, equal to willful inhumanity is the crime of indifference, silence and forgetting.”
Dennis Edney, Lawyer For Omar Khadr speaks on Fear, Injustice and his Guantanamo visits in a Conference on Islamophobia and The Politics of Fear at Islamic Society of York Region, Toronto Canada, May 21, 2011. This is the conference that Moazzam Begg was deniedpermission to board a direct Air Canada flight from London to Toronto to speak at “because of US policy” and the extremely unlikely possibility that the flight may be diverted into US air space.
The following are transcribed excerpts from Dennis Edney’s speech.
What we are witnessing is the constant drip of sanity slipping from our grasp as our apathy has allowed whispers of anti-Muslim sentiment to become part of the mainstream on conversation.
On Guantanamo protecting us: We want to protect ourselves from the voice of people like Moazzam Begg.
And we’re just simply to accept that the government knows what’s best for us. And should be left to get on with the job. That’s the same language we use here in Canada. It’s the same language I meet every day when I fight my way up to get disclosure. I’m not entitled to get disclosure because I and the Canadian public, you know, we just can’t be trusted with secret information. So I have to go in a secret court, and fight in a secret court. And then what do I find. I find that the information isn’t that secret after all. It covers up egregious misconduct by our government.
And you are not allowed, when you are in Guantanamo Bay, to mention Camp 7 or ask any questions. Because the prisoners in Camp 7, they’re just nobody. They were brought over last year, from some of the prisons in Europe and other countries. And I remember saying to a lieutenant colonel, who is the head of all the lawyers and military lawyers for the eastern seaboard. I said “How do you get lawyers for these guys in Camp 7?” He said “Forget it, Mr. Edney. They’re toast.” And all the rest of these well educated, Harvard educated lawyers all nodded their heads in approval. So one can only imagine what goes on in Camp 7.
On visiting Unit C in Camp 5: Unit C is 32 single cells. And each one of those detainees who had been chosen to be a hunger striker was moved into these solitary cells. And that was over five years ago. And no one ever asked these detainees, as rotations changed, as military personnel moved on, knocked on the door of these cells and said to any one of the detainees “Do you still wish to be a hunger striker?” Assuming they ever were in the first place. No one asked that question. And in the review of the documents there was nothing to determine what criteria was being used to determine whether someone was a hunger striker or whether he was simply on a fast.
But outside of each cell is a restraining chair, or what I call a feeding chair. So those individuals are now into their sixth year in Guantanamo in these solitary cells because they were deemed to be on a hunger strike. But the story gets better. Because outside each cell is a feeding chair, and three times a day they are force fed, they are strapped into those chairs by the feet, by the waist, by the neck, put into these chairs with tubes inserted into their nose, and force fed. Three times a day. And after that they are left sitting in the chair for hours. And amongst those is my friend Mohammed.
He describes a Yemeni prisoner who was fed with an extra large feeding tube (causing permanent damage to his nose and throat) and deliberately left in his chair until he urinated and defecated on himself. Mohammed was down to 100 pounds and less. The federal court judge’s response to Edney regarding this treatment was that the court could not touch that, it was up to the correctional facility.
Omar Khadr has problems with arthritis in his knees. So they sit him on a stool so he has to bend his knees. “Anything that makes you uncomfortable, Guantanamo Bay will come up with it. … They keep the place freezing.” Omar Khadr “reminded me of a broken little bird. … When I see Omar on July 3, he will be on a chair. Things have become much more humanitarian at Guantanamo, he gets a chair. And he is always, always chained from the waist to the floor. I have never seen him walk other than the few occasions that we’ve been in court. In all those years, I have never seen him walk.” He has fought for close to eight years to get a pair of protective glasses to preserve the amount of sight remaining in Omar’s one eye with vision. He received them in November of last year. That is the extent of the help Omar has received from the Canadian government, they can’t even get him a pair of glasses.
I have never met anyone like Omar. Who I believe can give so much to the world, but has been so abandoned by so many that should know better. And all the times I’ve been with him I have never heard him say an angry word about anyone. … What he is, is he is a good man.
Wikileaks has just released the full video of their interview with PBS which will be used as source material in a documentary airing tonight.
On 24 May, 2011, 9pm EST, PBS-Frontline will air a documentary “WikiSecrets”. WikiLeaks has had intelligence for some time that the program is hostile and misrepresents WikiLeaks’ views and tries to build an “espionage” case against its founder, Julian Assange, and also the young soldier, Bradley Manning.
In accordance with our tradition of “scientific journalism” (full primary sources) we release here our, behind the scenes, interview tape between Julian Assange & PBS Frontline’s Martin Smith which was recorded on 4/4/2011. In the tape, Assange scolds Martin Smith for his previous coverage of Bradley Manning and addresses a number of issues surrounding the 1917 Espionage Act investigation into WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning.
The Frontline documentary will include footage of a number of individuals who have a collective, and very dirty personal vendetta, against the organization. These include David Leigh, Adrian Lamo, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, Eric Schmitt and Kim Zetter. While the program filmed other sources, such as Vaughan Smith who provided a counter-narrative, these more credible voices have been excluded from the program presented to the US public.
Updated information from Khadr’s legal counsel states that the Supreme Court dismissalthis morning related to a years old appeal from Khadr that was actually disallowed last fall by the terms of his plea deal, which ordered “he must dismiss all presently pending action.”
“As part of his pre-trial agreement, he had to dismiss his claim against the government,” said his US military defense attorney Lt.-Col. Jackson. “Once the claim was dismissed, and the government accepted the dismissal, they still keep the caption (or heading) of the case as Khadr vs. Obama (as a way to keep the process) consistent, but he’s no longer a plaintiff on that.” Khadr’s request for review was bundled with several other requests from other Guantanamo prisoners.
The US Supreme Court denied Guantanamo inmate Omar Khadr’srequest for clemencytoday. While a majority voted against granting the petition, Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor “indicated that they wanted to review the case.” Courthouse Newsopines “Monday’s contribution affirms the appearance that the court will defer to the mostly conservative D.C. Circuit on Guantanamo detention matters. The justices have not decided a detainee case in nearly three years.”
Omar is currently serving the first year of eight further years he was sentenced to, in Guantanamo Bay, in what the pentagon terms “punitive post-conviction confinement.” He had already served eight years, including solitary confinement and torture, in two of the world’s most notorious torture camps at the time of his trial. He was captured at fifteen, and he is now 24 years old. He agreed to a plea deal last fall which sentenced him to eight years for killing a US Special Forces soldier, after one of the most highly controversial and dubioustrials in recent history.
His defense attorney Dennis Edney told WL Central, “Omar is doing his post sentencing time back in Camp 5 which, as the Pentagon states, is ‘designed for enhanced interrogation techniques’. He is back in solitary confinement where he has spent so much of his life. Prior to trial, we were able to have him removed to the cages where he was able to socialize with others which made him happy. He is not happy and has been subject to interrogations by the FBI. He is never allowed mail from other than family which rarely arrives.”
“Punitive post-conviction confinement” is described by Carol Rosenberg in the Miami Herald. Bahlul and Qosi, Khadr and Noor are segregated because they are “serving punitive sentences,” says Navy Cmdr. Tamsen Reese, a Guantánamo spokeswoman. Under the 1949 Third Geneva Conventions, she said, the other captives are “detained under the Law of War only as a security measure” and “should not be subjected to a penal environment or comingled with prisoners punitively incarcerated as a consequence of a criminal conviction.” Once their sentences are over, under Pentagon doctrine, they become ordinary detainees again — put back with the others in a penitentiary away called Camp 6, the closest thing at Guantánamo today to POW-style barracks housing.”
According to the rationale above, what Omar has endured since he was fifteen years old was not punitive, and now that he is sentenced, he needs to be punished. Thanks to endless court appeals by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, all levels of court in Canada have now agreed, in 2008 and again in 2010, that the Canadian government has violated Omar’s rights under Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They further found that his treatment was “not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.” His sentencing has been condemned by the United Nations Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict, by Amnesty, UNICEF, and Lawyers Rights Watch Canada as well as numerous other NGO’s and countries, but not by Canada, the country he was born in and is a citizen of.
Mohammad Karim Abedi, a member of the Iranian Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, announced last week that Iran will launch an English news group, The Human Rights News Agency, to publicize human rights violations in the west. Today, Chairwoman of the Human Rights Committee of the Parliament (Majlis) Zohreh Elahian told Fars News Agency, that human rights violations from countries such as the United States and Britain are grave. She called on Iranian NGO’s to increase publicity around these violations.
On May 13 Amnesty International published a report on the United States, which summarized:“Forty-six people were executed during the year, and reports of excessive use of force and cruel prison conditions continued. Scores of men remained in indefinite military detention in Guantánamo as President Obama’s one-year deadline for closure of the facility there came and went. Military commission proceedings were conducted in a handful of cases, and the only Guantánamo detainee so far transferred to the US mainland for prosecution in a federal court was tried and convicted. Hundreds of people remained held in US military custody in the US detention facility on the Bagram airbase in Afghanistan. The US authorities blocked efforts to secure accountability and remedy for crimes under international law committed against detainees previously subjected to the USA’s secret detention and rendition programme.”
Amnesty expressed concern at the “Impunity” granted criminals in the US, pointing out“There continued to be an absence of accountability and remedy for the human rights violations, including the crimes under international law of torture and enforced disappearance, committed as part of the USA’s programme of secret detention and rendition.”
The report on the United Kingdom is summarized: “An inquiry into allegations of UK involvement in torture and other human rights violations of people held overseas was announced. Key counter-terrorism powers were under review. The government continued to rely on diplomatic assurances in its attempts to return individuals to countries where torture is practised. Allegations of human rights abuses by UK soldiers in Iraq continued to emerge. The Bloody Sunday Inquiry concluded that the deaths and injuries caused by British soldiers that day were unjustified. Forced returns to Baghdad continued.”
While the Amnesty reports on every country deserve close scrutiny, it is quickly obvious that the reports on the United States and the United Kingdom justify the need for one or many news organizations devoted to detailing their human rights abuses. Presumably, the Human Rights News Agency is not to be confused with the Human Rights Activists News Agency, established in 2009 to “report and disseminate daily news of human rights violations in Iran.”
Iran’s own Amnesty report is summarized: “The authorities maintained severe restrictions on freedom of expression, association and assembly. Sweeping controls on domestic and international media aimed at reducing Iranians’ contact with the outside world were imposed. Individuals and groups risked arrest, torture and imprisonment if perceived as co-operating with human rights and foreign-based Persian-language media organizations. Political dissidents, women’s and minority rights activists and other human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists and students were rounded up in mass and other arrests and hundreds were imprisoned. Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees were routine and committed with impunity. Women continued to face discrimination under the law and in practice. The authorities acknowledged 252 executions, but there were credible reports of more than 300 other executions. The true total could be even higher. At least one juvenile offender was executed. Sentences of death by stoning continued to be passed, but no stonings were known to have been carried out. Floggings and an increased number of amputations were carried out.”
US news site Mother Jones commented, “Thanks to its focus on the West, the news agency can conveniently ignore the situation back home.” This is true. And vice versa.
Dennis you always say that I have an obligation to show the world what is going on down here and it seems that we’ve done every thing but the world doesn’t get it, so it might work if the world sees the US sentencing a child to life in prison, it might show the world how unfair and sham this process is, and if the world doesn’t see all this, to what world am I being released to? A world of hate, unjust and discrimination! I really don’t want to live in a life like this. – Omar Khadr in a letter to defense attorney Dennis Edney.
Omar Khadr was the first child soldier to be charged with a war crime since world war two. The non-existent crime that he was charged with, “murder in violation of the law of war” can be summed up as: It is legal for US soldiers to kill children. It is a war crime for children to kill US soldiers.
After eight years of delays while the US government searched for a possible crime and changed courts and judge, Omar found himself in front of a military tribunal with seven military officers who decided his fate ought to be another forty years of imprisonment. (For a sentence of ten years or more, six of the seven jurors had to agree.) Human Rights Watch said of the fifteen officers selected as potential jurors, All of the 15 indicated that Khadr’s age held no significance for the case. … An Air Force Captain said that in his opinion, a child would need to be as young as five or six to avoid adult courts if accused of a homicide.
The plea deal
The entire trial process was filled with irregularities. The killed US Special Forces fighter became a “medic” for the duration of the trial. Jurors attended church and Sunday brunch with prosecution witnesses and the widow of the Special Forces fighter. The plea deal revealed a completely rigged trial with some horrific implications for post trial:
The defense was not allowed to test physical evidence (including DNA) brought by the prosecution, or bring any physical evidence of their own, and the prosecution was granted permission to destroy such evidence upon sentencing
He is never allowed to “initiate or support” any action against the United States or any official with regards to his “capture, detention, prosecution to include discovery practice, post conviction confinement and/or detainee combatant status,” and he must dismiss all presently pending action.
While in custody he must submit to “interviews” “whenever and wherever requested by United States law enforcement officials, intelligence authorities, and prosecutors”, without legal counsel present, and “appear, cooperate, and testify truly, before any grand jury, any court, military court or hearing, military commission or any other proceeding requested by the United States Government.”
He agrees that if he is not “truthful” in his testimony, he “may be prosecuted for perjury, false statement or other similar offense before any court or Military Commission having jurisdiction over me.”
His own defense was determined by the prosecution:
I will not seek to offer any testimony, in any form, from any detainee presently held at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay:
I will not seek to obtain any depositions to be offered at the presentencing hearing, nor will I offer any depositions at the presentencing hearing;
I will not seek to offer the testimony, either in court or via VTC of any witness, other than: (I) Dr. Katherine Porterfield: (2) Dr. Steven Xenakis. (3) Captain McCarthy; and (4) Dr. Arlette Zinck, all of whom the Government has agreed to produce at U.S. Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for sentencing. (understand that sentencing proceedings will not be delayed to if these witnesses are unavailable.)
His transfer to Canada is “contingent upon the consent of the Government of Canada,” which is still open to refusal, diplomatic notes notwithstanding.
The petition for clemency
Earlier on WL Central we reported that Khadr’s defense was petitioning for clemency and asking that his sentence be reduced from eight years to four (he had already served eight by the time of his trial). His US defense counsel have written that a few days before trial, they first learned that the prosecutors’ witness, Dr. Welner, proposed to testify that Omar was at high risk to recidivate as a violent extremist. The defense obtained expert testimony from Dr. Marc Sageman, a far more qualified expert, which completely refuted Dr. Welner’s credentials and testimony.
The prosecutors informed the defense that they had consulted with the Convening Authority and, if the defense filed to have Welner’s testimony withdrawn, the prosecutors had the Convening Authority’s permission to withdraw from the pretrial agreement. The defense then agreed to only object orally. The prosecutors countered that if they objected orally, they would still withdraw. The defense attempted to negotiate further, the prosecutors refused. “Faced with the immediate prospect of the Government withdrawing from the pretrial agreement and with no time to make any further record” the defense agreed to it all. The defense now maintains that the government relied on witness Dr. Welner’s testimony to “intimidate the sentencing panel” and “wrongly shielded Dr. Welner’s testimony from the standards of admissibility clearly defined by the Supreme Court and the Military Commission Rules of Evidence.”
In an initial phone call, Dr. Sageman told Omar’s defense, “Dr. Welner’s proposed testimony and conclusions are not valid; Dr. Welner does not have a baseline to make anything more than a guess; and Dr. Welner’s sample size is Omar Khadr.” In a following letter, provided pro bono, Sageman writes, “… as an internationally recognized expert in terrorism and counter-terrorism, I know of no published study that addresses the issue of dangerousness in terrorists. This piqued my curiousity about the basis of Dr. Welner’s “professional” opinion at testimony. … His c.v. mentioned that he took a fellowship in forensic psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania in 1991-1992. I was at the University of Pennsylvania at the time and the university did not have a forensic psychiatry fellowship at the time. … he did not do a fellowship in forensic psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania as he testified under oath … Indeed, his c.v. shows that at the time, 1991-1992, he engaged in a full time residency in psychiatry at Beth Israel Medical Center, in New York City.
Regarding Welner’s testimony, Sageman writes, “the interview lacks the usual ethical warning to a defendant that the defendant has the right to not answer questions and that there is no confidentiality between the expert for the prosecution and the defendant. The interview did not ask for any past psychiatric history and did not review potential psychiatric symptoms to assess the mental health of the defendant that could have a bearing in the assessment. Later, Dr. Welner claims that religiosity is correlated to dangerousness – a claim that is in fact without foundation – but he never probed the defendant’s level of religious understanding, beliefs and piety.”
Dr. Sageman then goes on for pages, devastating the credibility of the background sources Dr. Welner relied upon for his authorities. In Dr. Sageman’s opinion, Dr. Welner is very articulate and quite persuasive on the stand, mostly because he conveys very positive and forceful opinions to a jury. He concluded that Dr. Welner displayed this trait in this case. If the jury was indeed swayed by Dr. Welner, which seems unavoidable since he was the star witness, Dr. Sageman’s testimony should have made a very significant difference. It is hopefully unlikely that a judge would have allowed testimony from a witness who falsified their background and relied on completely unscientific methods and misunderstood or unreliable authorities. If he had, surely the jury would have agreed, given the proper rebuttal from the defense, with judge Colonel Parrish who the defense quote as stating, “Dr. Welner would have been as likely to be accurate if he used a Ouija board.”
Canadian defense attorney Dennis Edney is involved in four of the cases we are currently covering. WL Central has received updates from him on three of them.
Moazzam Begg, a high profile advocate for Guantanamo inmates and international lecturer and author, was denied board on a direct Air Canada flight from London to Toronto on the grounds that the plane could possibly be diverted to the US where Begg is on a no-fly list. Begg, a British citizen, was imprisoned in Guantanamo for three years and released in 2005 with no charge. Edney had invited him to Canada to speak.
You were attempting to get him a flight over the north pole to avoid the excuse of a possible diversion into US air space – has there been any response from the Canadian authorities on that?
We have attempted to get clarification from Canadian authorities to state whether they would challenge his entry if he took a flight over Greenland so no fear of being close to U.S. airspace – with no clarification.
Who exactly have you spoken to in the Canadian government or Air Canada regarding this policy?
We have spoken to people at the Canadian High Commission and I have asked Moazzam to go to the London office to get an official response why he was not allowed to fly.
He was to attend 3 conferences in Toronto/ Montreal and Edmonton.
Abdullah Khadr, older brother of Omar, won against the Canadian government’s appeal on May 6. The Canadian government was arguing in support of the US government who are trying to extradite Abdullah based on testimony obtained under torture. Edney represents both Khadrs.
Has there been any word on whether the federal government will be taking this case to the Supreme Court? Has the Canadian government brought charges against Abdullah on their own or indicated whether they have plans to?
No. They have 60 days to appeal.
Mubin Shaikh, Crown star witness who testified in the Toronto 18 trials, was included on a list of names provided to the US as being associated with terrorism according to a recently released US state cable from Wikileaks. “It was his evidence that took them all down,” Edney told CBC. “Most of the warrants for wiretaps that were obtained were obtained as a result of conversations he had with the suspects.” Edney represents Fahim Ahmad, one of the Toronto 18 currently serving a prison sentence.
What are the legal implications of his submission as a terrorism suspect to the US? Does this damage his credibility as a key Crown witness, and if so, what are the possible consequences for the verdicts relying on his testimony? Will you be filing a complaint for the defense in this case?
There are many questions arises from a CSIS agent who was provided to the RCMP as a central witness against the Toronto 18 when they viewed him as so undeniable to warn the U.S. about him.
The prosecution had the obligation to provide the defense of this concern. I will be asking for the information provided to the US to determine to what extent if at all it would impact on any appeal.
In the post 9/11 frenzy there was immense pressure brought by the US government on the Canadian government to ensure that terrorists were not crossing the world’s longest border to attack the US. That pressure is clear in the US state cables, and it led to many highly questionable activities by the Canadian government, such as submitting names of their own citizens to the infamous US suspect lists, lists that Maher Arar is still on, even after being cleared of all wrongdoing and apologized to by Canada, as well as awarded 10.5 million dollars and one million in legal costs.
Canada was also under urgent pressure to seek out and prosecute any terrorists at home, which led to the tracking and capture of the Toronto 18 in 2006. Much about this case has been widely criticized over the years. The decision by the federal government to cancel the preliminary inquiry and proceed directly to trial, denying the defense the opportunity to hear the Crown’s case, and, more importantly, the chance to cross examine the crown’s star witnesses is one controversial element. A preliminary hearing is not a necessary component of a trial, but it is unusual to schedule one and cancel abruptly halfway through. Defense attorneys said they had made concessions to have the right to cross examine these witnesses and they were incensed at the change. And of course, the question rose, never to be put to rest, of what the federal government was afraid of in not allowing the preliminary cross examination.
Along with the preliminary hearing, the publication ban was highly controversial. All evidence was secret, as were trial proceedings, but one of the crown’s star witnesses decided to go public. In the words of the Toronto Star in September 2007, Now you can’t shut him up. He’s been interviewed by the Star, the National Post, the Los Angeles Times, the CBC and most recently the BBC. While the star witness was covering the world with extraordinary allegations about the suspects, there was a ban on anything that may have been said in their defense.
The case against the Toronto 18 was built primarily on both the testimony and actions (which many have called entrapment) of two of the crown’s witnesses, Mubin Shaikh, who was paid almost $300,000 by the RCMP for his services, and Shaher Elsohemy, who was given a package worth $4 million. The case is huge, with years of evidence on all aspects, but to get a brief picture of the importance of the crown witnesses, and their credibility, read points 171 – 183 of the reasons for judgement in one case where Justice Sproat applies “The Carter Test” for allowing hearsay evidence of co-conspirators and assesses the credibility of the crown’s witness, Mubin Shaikh. The justice’s opinion of Shaikh’s integrity and credibility was not shared by all. Defense lawyer Dennis Edney suggested that Shaikh — who was 30 years old at the time — was egging on the younger and gullible men. (Four of the suspects were juveniles.)
And what does all of that have to do with us now, in 2011? Well, according to a recently released US state cable* from Wikileaks, Mubin Shaikh was included on a list of names provided to the US as being associated with terrorism. “It was his evidence that took them all down,” Edney told CBC. “Most of the warrants for wiretaps that were obtained were obtained as a result of conversations he had with the suspects.”
“We aren’t commenting on your story,” CSIS public relations person Isabelle Scott wrote to CBC. But the story will not go away that easily. At this point, CSIS and the Canadian federal government get to pick their poison. They can state that, once again, their policy of handing over names of the Canadian citizens they are supposed to protect has resulted in a devastating mistake, and attempt to compensate Shaikh while dealing with further loss of credibility. Or, they can state that they were correct in treating Shaikh as a terrorism suspect, leaving them open to liability in the cases of every suspect they prosecuted using Shaikh’s testimony.
Defense attorneys Chernovsky and Edney have both saidthey would probably make formal demands to the Crown, asking why they were not told of whatever information led CSIS to denounce Shaikh to the Americans. Defence counsel are legally entitled to disclosure of all such information, in order to prepare their cases.
In either case, the ongoing policy of handing the names of Canadian citizens over to the US government as “terrorism suspects”, without trial or public accountability, has got to stop.
*CBC has elected to redact the names of all people on these lists (except those convicted) to “protect their privacy.” It is the opinion of this writer that their privacy was lost the day they were added to a list given to a country famous for abduction and torture of people on this list, and both the people named and the rest of the Canadian public have an overwhelming right to see these names and hear why they were added. If ever there was information that we require in order to make informed decisions in a democracy, this is it.
Moazzam Begg, a British citizen who was held at Guantanamo Bay for three years with no charge, was barred from boarding an Air Canada flight to Toronto today. Omar Khadr’s defense attorney, Dennis Edney, had invited Begg to speak at a conference on fear and justice in Toronto on Saturday as well as other events in Quebec and Edmonton later this week.
The Canadian Press reports that the Canadian High Commission refused permission on the basis the plane could be re-routed to the U.S. Edney contacted the high commission and was told to contact the US embassy. Edney told theToronto Star that a Canadian foreign affairs official informed him that Begg was denied entry due to a “U.S. policy.”
Begg was released from Guantanamo Bay in 2005 and is one of the most high profile advocates for the people currently imprisoned there. He wrote a book, Enemy Combatant: A British Muslim’s Journey To Guantanamo and Back (ISBN 0-7432-8567-0), is a director ofCageprisoners, and has given many interviews and lectures, written articles, and appeared as a commentator on BBC’s Panorama, BBC’s Newsnight, PBS’s The Prisoner, Al-Jazeera’s Prisoner, Taking Liberties, Torturing Democracy, and National Geographic’s Guantanamo’s Secrets, traveling throughout the world to do so. He has never been charged with anything. He was released by the US.
“I’m being invited to a conference with lawyers, and it’s about community relations, so it would seem odd not to allow me in,” Begg told the Toronto Star. “But I guess it’s North America and North America is different from the rest of the world when it comes to these issues.”
“There would be virtually no political blowback domestically for the Conservative Party if the government chooses to pursue an appeal, making this a strong likelihood.”
The above statement from US State cable #09OTTAWA629sums up the last decade of Omar Khadr’s life. The Canadian government, under the last three prime ministers, two Liberal and one Conservative, have done nothing about the plight of a tortured fifteen year old Canadian boy imprisoned with no trial in the world’s most notorious torture camps. They have contributed nothing to his education, nor to his emotional or psychological welfare. They have expressed no concern for his well being. They have not requested his repatriation, nor have they requested that the illegal and amoral conditions of his confinement be improved. (Read a summary of the conditions here.) US State cable 09STATE11937 describes a February 5, 2009 meeting between French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and US Secretary of State Clinton, where the French Foreign Minister requested that the US review his case, but there is no similar suggestion from the country with a legal obligation to defend him.
In Omar’s affidavit statement, of February 22, 2008 he wrote of visits “on numerous occasions” from people claiming to be from the Canadian government who came to interview him in a special “more comfortable” room than the usual interrogation room. These people, however, did not ask how he was or offer him assistance or offer to deliver a message to his family. Instead they asked him about people, such as his father and Maher Arar, or asked him to identify people in photographs they presented.
I was very hopeful that they would help me. I showed them my injuries and told them that what I had told the Americans was not right and not true. I said that I told the Americans whatever they wanted me to say because they would torture me. The Canadians called me a liar and I began to sob. They screamed at me and told me that they could not do anything for me. I tried to cooperate so that they would take me back to Canada. I told them that I was scared and that I had been tortured. …
After the Canadians left and I told the Americans that my previous statements were untrue, life got much worse for me. They took away all of my things except for a mattress. I had no Koran and no blanket. They would shackle me during interrogations and leave me in harsh and painful positions for hours at a time. One navy interrogator would pull my hair and spit in my face.
Approximately one month before Ramadan in 2003, two different men came to visit me. They told me that they were Canadian. One of the men was in his 20s and the other in his 30s. These two men yelled at me and accused me of not telling the truth. One of the Canadian men stated, “The U.S. and Canada are like an elephant and an ant sleeping in the same bed,” and that there was nothing the Canadian government could do against the power of the U.S.
One of the men returned alone approximately one month after the Eid al-Adha holiday. The visitor showed me his Canadian passport, the outside of which was red in color. The Canadian visitor stated, “I’m not here to help you. I’m not here to do anything for you. I’m just here to get information.” The man then asked me questions about my brother, Abdullah.
Within a day of my last visit from the Canadians, my security level was changed from Level 1 to Level 4 minus, with isolation. Everything was taken away from me, and I spent a month in isolation. The room in which I was confined was kept very cold. It was “like a refrigerator”.
Complicity, lies and endless lawsuits
The Canadian government has not just been remiss in its duty towards Omar. On June 25, 2008, Justice Richard Mosley of the Federal Court of Canada ruled that a report from a visit to Khadr in March 2004 by Jim Gould of the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, which mentioned how Khadr had been subjected to prolonged sleep deprivation for three weeks before his visit, “in an effort to make him more amenable and willing to talk,” constituted a breach of the UN Convention against Torture and the Geneva Conventions. The Federal Court of Canada, the Federal Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court of Canada have all ruled in 2008, and again in 2010, that the participation of Canadian officials in Khadr’s interrogations at Guantanamo clearly violated his rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The Canadian government (with taxpayer money) has fought in court to avoid giving him access to his own file to use as his defense. In 2008 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously that the government had again acted illegally, contravening Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and ordered that the videotapes of the interrogation be released.
The Canadian government has lied to the Canadian people and said they had every reason to believe he was being treated well, when they were both told and shown evidence of the torture and abuse by Omar.
Contempt for Canadian opinion and laws
Besides freely spending tax dollars to fight every aspect of the case up to the Supreme Court, and ignoring all of the rulings that told the government to request Omar’s repatriation, US state cable 08OTTAWA918 shows CSIS Director Judd’s complete contempt of Canadians and their courts who he described as having an “Alice in Wonderland” worldview. He jeered at any potential Canadian concern for Omar as “paroxysms of moral outrage, a Canadian specialty.” Canadian government concern for public opinion in the US was much higher, with Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day asking in 08OTTAWA440 for clarification from the Attorney General on how the US government views the terrorist threat emanating from Canada. Periodically, he said, there is a media reaction in the United States to something like the Khadr case that leads to the image of large numbers of terrorists “prancing around” in Canada uncontrolled.
A special committee formed by the The House of Commons recommended Khadr’s repatriation in 2008, but was ignored by the government. Cable 08OTTAWA828 explains that Conservative members opposed Khadr’s repatriation on the grounds “that it was unlikely he would ever be convicted in Canada.” So, because Canadian law did not suit their worldview, they sent Canadian Omar to US justice instead. Cable 08OTTAWA878, says of Justice Mosley of the Federal Court of Canada “He also revealed that U.S. authorities had inquired whether Khadr might be tried in Canada and had provided details about the U.S. evidence against Khadr to Canadian officials for that purpose.”
The US state cables show the concern in the US over Canadian public opinion. Cable08OTTAWA990 is happy to announce “eight in ten Canadians who saw the interrogation footage did not subsequently change their views on Khadr. … The apparent hope of Khadr’s Canadian and U.S. lawyers that dramatic footage of Khadr’s tears and complaints about sleep deprivation in his meeting with CSIS officials would create a groundswell of more favorable public opinion and impel the government to reverse course seems to have failed. … competing joys of the all-too-brief Canadian summer essentially have kept any genuine pressure off the government.” The same concern is shown in 09OTTAWA298In addition, students constantly criticized the U.S. for its treatment of Omar Khadr, a Canadian detainee at Guantanamo, arguing that the U.S. should return him immediately to Canada and claiming he faced no possibility of a fair trial or humane treatment in the U.S. (The Canadian government has never requested his repatriation, indicating instead that it will await the outcome of ongoing judicial processes.)
The US concern for the opinions of Canadian people seems greater than that of the Canadian government. From 08OTTAWA960“The Conservatives are likely gauging public reaction to the images carefully, but no change in current official policy appears likely.”
While the details of all of the Harper government’s court cases against Omar Khadr are meticulously recorded, the US government has no illusions that Harper will obey the court orders. Cable 09OTTAWA313 states: The Conservatives have little if any political capital to lose from sticking to their position of allowing the U.S. military’s legal process against Khadr to take its course. The government is unlikely to rush to Washington with a formal repatriation request, despite the court ruling.
Cable 09OTTAWA629, states that the Crown had conceded in oral arguments that making such request would not damage Canada’s relations with the U.S., nor “pose a threat to Canada’s security.” The Court highlighted that, contrary to the Crown’s oral argument that there was “only a remote possibility that the United States would comply” with such a request, “the fact (is) that the United States has complied with requests from all other western countries for the return of their nationals from detention in the prison at Guantanamo Bay.” …
According to an official of the Privy Council Office on August 14, the government was still trying to “digest” the decision, but he took note our informal request for the government to consult privately with us before making public any possible request for repatriation.The vigorous dissent opinion should give the government some hope that an appeal to the Supreme Court could be successful, and could — not incidentally — also at least delay action until the next steps become clearer in the legal procedures against Mr. Khadr by the U.S. military authorities. Mr. Khadr’s family remains deeply unpopular in Canada, although there is some sympathy for him since he was only 15 years old at the time of his capture. There would be virtually no political blowback domestically for the Conservative Party if the government chooses to pursue an appeal, making this a strong likelihood.
Harper’s policy of exhausting his opponents in court with taxpayer money is reaffirmed in09OTTAWA423:The court labeled Abdelrazik “as much a victim of international terrorism as the innocent persons whose lives have been taken by recent barbaric acts of terrorists.” As in a similar ruling on the government’s responsibility to seek the repatriation of Canadian detainee at Guantanamo Bay Omar Khadr, the government is likely to appeal this unfavorable ruling.
Two things come up repeatedly in the cables for Khadr and all other cases related to the US “War on Terror”. One, the Canadian government’s complete contempt for the Canadian people and courts, and two, the idea that the Canadian government can do as it pleases because the Canadian people will not care.
From the Documentary You Don’t Like the Truth
The following two videos are the excerpts from the documentation that Khadr’s lawyers fought to the Supreme Court to obtain access to, of which the state cables said “The apparent hope of Khadr’s Canadian and U.S. lawyers that dramatic footage of Khadr’s tears and complaints about sleep deprivation in his meeting with CSIS officials would create a groundswell of more favorable public opinion and impel the government to reverse course seems to have failed. … competing joys of the all-too-brief Canadian summer essentially have kept any genuine pressure off the government.”