2011-05-20 Star witness for the crown against Toronto 18 on US suspect list

Image

Photo credit: CBC

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 said they 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.

 

2011-05-20 Moazzam Begg refused board on Air Canada #cdnpoli

Image

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.”

 

2011-05-19 Omar Khadr Part 2 of 4: Canada, the entire world is still watching

Image

“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 09OTTAWA298 In 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.”

Omar Khadr Part 1 of 4: “Omar Khadr is a lovely young man”
Omar Khadr Part 3 of 4: “The world doesn’t get it”
Omar Khadr Part 4 of 4: “Punitive post-conviction confinement”

 

2011-05-12 Harper brings the drug war to Canada #cdnpoli

On May 7, an estimated 30,000 – 50,000 people marched in downtown Toronto to call for decriminalization of marijuana in Canada. This cause in Canada is not just for marijuana users (despite being an obvious proponent of legalization, or at least decriminalization, this writer is not a smoker). The importance of Canada’s drug laws is not just the perceived object, but all that gets swept up under the umbrella of the ‘drug war’. Exactly as the ‘war on terror’ allowed a complete disregard of national and international law, ‘pre-emptive wars’ and excusable torture, and the new wars on copyright infringement and child pornography are being used to justify governments seizing control of the internet and denying citizens their right to privacy, so has the much older drug war allowed the US to override the sovereignty of American countries and impose their own laws on them.

The provincial courts have been calling Canada’s marijuana laws unconstitutional since 2000 and Canada was the first country to adopt a system regulating the medicinal use of marijuana. In 2002, Prime Minister Jean Chretien promised decriminalization, while his government also looked at amnesty for the 600,000 Canadians convicted of possessing marijuana. Both amnesty and legalization were recommended by a senate committee, and decriminalization was seen as a safe ‘middle ground’. Not middle enough for the Bush administration however, and their threatened reprisals caused the slow death of the plan. As reported earlier on WL Central, political activist Marc Emery was not only extradited to the US for something that is not a serious crime in Canada, contrary to even the one-sided Canada-US extradition agreement, but he was denied a transfer back to Canada after one year, contrary to the sentencing judge’s recommendations, because of “law enforcement concerns.” In other words, he would not be in jail in Canada for something he did in Canada, which is not a crime in Canada, so they kept him.

In his quest to make Canada unrecognizable, newly powerful Prime Minister Stephen Harper is hoping to change all that. He is not attempting to assert Canada’s authority to create and enforce its own laws, but he is trying to bring Canada’s drug laws and enforcement in line with that of the US. Ten days into his new majority, the Supreme Court of Canada is hearing a case Harper’s federal government is bringing against Vancouver supervised injection siteInsiteInsite is North America’s first legal supervised injection site. The BC Ministry of Health Services provides operational funding for Insite through Vancouver Coastal Health, which operates the facility in conjunction with PHS Community Services Society. Insite operates on a harm-reduction model, which means it strives to decrease the adverse health, social and economic consequences of drug use without requiring abstinence from drug use.

Vancouver has a drug problem. Anyone who has been to the emergency ward in any of the hospitals in Vancouver has seen how that drug problem affects Vancouver’s health services. The Ministry of Health is a provincial responsibility and the costs associated with running Insite are borne by the province, as are the costs of not running Insite. Some say that Insite is none of the federal government’s business. Those would be the people who supported its founding in 2003 and its exemption from Section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act ever since. Those people would not include Stephen Harper. In his quest to bring the drug war to Canada, to impose mandatory minimum sentencing and build huge new prisons to ‘keep our streets safe’, Harper does not have any sympathy with people preventing drug addicts from dying, no matter how much taxpayer money they save. He is, in fact, willing to spend tax dollars arguing his case all the way up to the Supreme Court.

These people would fill a lot of new prisons. Soon.

2011-05-06 Abdullah Khadr wins extradition appeal

Image

In December 2005, Abdullah Khadr, older brother of Omar, Abdurahman and Abdul Karim Khadr and younger brother of Zaynab, returned to his home in Toronto, Canada after fourteen months of being held in a Pakistan prison without charges. One week later he was arrested in Canada and held without bail, pending extradition to the US. The US had earlier obtained information from the Taliban which suggested to them Abdullah may have been the suicide bomber who killed a Canadian soldier in Kabul in January 2004. In an interview with CBC News on Feb. 25, 2004, Abdullah Khadr said, “If I was the suicide bomber, I wouldn’t be doing this interview with you right now.”

This time he was indicted in the US on charges of supplying weapons to Al Qaeda in Pakistan. In August 2006, Khadr’s lawyer Dennis Edney filed an application to stay the extradition proceedings, arguing that the US government’s evidence against Khadr was inadmissible because it relied on information gathered under torture in Pakistan. Khadr was held in a detention centre for the next five years until his release last August when the stay was granted and the presiding judge called his treatment “both shocking and unjustifiable.”

The Attorney General of Canada brought the case to the Court of Appeal in April, arguing that the lower court judge did not properly balance the benefits of Khadr’s release with the seriousness of the charges. Today, Ontario’s Court of Appeal (the highest court in Ontario) agreed unanimously with the lower court’s decision and answered the appeal with a 33 page decision. The decision stated that to allow the extradition would amount to the Canadian courts being complacent with the torture.

“We must adhere to our democratic and legal values, even if that adherence serves in the short term to benefit those who oppose and seek to destroy those values, for if we do not, in the longer term, the enemies of democracy and the rule of law will have succeeded. They will have demonstrated that our faith in our legal order is unable to withstand their threats. … It surely can come as no surprise that in a country like Pakistan with a constitution guaranteeing fundamental rights and freedoms, it is illegal to accept a bounty or bribe from a foreign government, to abduct a foreign national from the street, to beat that individual until he agrees to co-operate, to deny him consular access, to hold him in a secret detention centre for eight months while his utility as an intelligence source is exhausted, and then to continue to hold him in secret detention for six more months at the request of a foreign power,” said the decision. They also pointed out that refusing the extradition does not prevent the Attorney General from bringing the case before Canadian courts.

Khadr’s father, a Canadian named Ahmed Said Khadr who ran orphanages and other charities in Pakistan and Afghanistan, was a friend of Osama Bin Laden and his family has been under constant threat from the US government. His brother Omar was tortured by the US military and kept in prison as a possible source of intelligence since he was 15 years old. He remains in Guantanamo today, now 24 years old.

Abdullah was abducted by Pakistani intelligence, who were paid a $500,000 bounty by the US government for him. (The Globe and Mail had to take the Canadian government to court in 2008 to be able to publish information about the bounty. The Canadian government held that publication would “threaten national security.”) He was beaten and denied access to Canadian consular services, and held for fourteen months without charges while being interrogated by Pakistani, Canadian and US authorities. US authorities requested that Canadian intelligence not push for consular access. Pakistani authorities told Canadian authorities in June 2005 that Khadr would be released without charges, but US intelligence persuaded Pakistan to continue to hold him until December while the FBI interrogated him and arranged for his extradition to the US from Canada.

Khadr’s lawyer, Dennis Edney, said his newly married client is looking forward to getting on with his life, and the decision shows the US, “When they come to the court, they are supposed to come with clean hands, meaning that the evidence they are relying on to extradite that person is legal, it’s not evidence that has been relied on through torture and abuse.”

The federal government has 60 days to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. In an earlierinterview with Dennis Edney, he told WL Central that he was very tired after eight years of fighting the Canadian government, but he had no choice but to continue. The US State cable #09OTTAWA629 discussing the case of Abdullah’s brother Omar shows that he was fighting more than the Canadian government:

“In a discussion with CDA on the eve of the decision, a senior official of the Prime Minister’s Office predicted that the government would appeal to the Supreme Court if it lost at the appellate level. 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. [bolding added] …. Comment: 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.

 

2011-05-19 Omar Khadr Part 1 of 4: “Omar Khadr is a lovely young man”

Image

Omar Khadr (centre in the picture at left) was born in Toronto, Canada on September 19, 1986. His father was an Egyptian born Canadian who ran charities to provide food and education for orphans, and was an old friend of Osama Bin Laden. His mother was a Canadian of Palestinian descent. Omar spoke four languages fluently. When he was 15, his family sent him to accompany a group as a translator. The US military identified that group as Al Qaeda.

In July 2002, US Special Forces attacked the camp where he was staying. When US military entered the site, Omar was buried face down under rubble, blinded by shrapnel and crippled. Another man was beside him. US military documents say a US militant stood on top of Omar’s body before realizing that someone was buried beneath. The first US fighter to arrive on the scene shot the man beside Omar dead and then shot Omar twice in the back, leaving two large exit wounds in his chest and chunks of his chest and shoulder … blown out. He was somehow identified as being the son of his father, either before or after a second US militant prevented the first from shooting him again. He was consequently captured instead.

During the attack on the camp, a US special forces soldier was wounded and later died. There is evidence from forensic analysis of his wounds that he was killed by a US grenade, which the camp did not have, and US military was throwing grenades into the compound at the time of his injury. The US military rewrote the initial report of Omar’s capture to make it look as though he had thrown the grenade, possibly to defend their actions in shooting a shrapnel wounded and buried fifteen year old in the back.

From Lawyers Rights Watch CanadaFebruary also saw the accidental release of a five-page “OC-1” witness report to reporters, which revealed that Omar had not been the only survivor in the compound, as previously claimed, and that nobody had seen him throw the grenade. Officials insisted that the reporters all had to return their copies of the document or face expulsion from the hearings, but after a 90-minute standoff between reporters and military officials, it was agreed that they could retain their copies of the report, but had to redact three names from the report. In March, Kuebler insisted that “Lt. Col. W.” had initially written in his report the day after the firefight that “the person who threw a grenade that killed Sgt. 1st Class Christopher J. Speer also died in the firefight”, implying that the grenade had indeed been thrown by the surviving Mujahideen, and not by Omar. The report was rewritten months later to say that the grenade thrower had been “engaged”, rather than “killed”, changing the wording that exonerated Omar.

Omar Khadr was found buried under the rubble in photograph one. His body was highlighted in photograph two with the rubble cleared off. Photograph one is the position from which he is being accused of throwing the grenade.

Image

He was taken to Bagram torture camp where he was unconscious for about one week. “Interrogations” began as soon as he regained consciousness, and while he was on on a stretcher for the first two weeks to a month. According to his affidavit statement, of February 22, 2008, he was “not right and was out of my wits for about three days. I was in extreme pain and my pain was all I could focus on. … During the first three days, they would shackle my feet and hands out to my sides with handcuffs when they did not like the answers I was giving to the questions. Due to my injuries, this caused me great pain. At least two of the interrogations during these first three days occurred when I was shackled by my hands and feet and in pain. I was unable to even stand at this time, so I was not a threat, and I could tell that this treatment was for punishment and to make me answer questions and give them the answers they wanted. … During the interrogations, the pain was taking my thoughts away. After I regained consciousness after being unconscious for a week, the first soldier told me that I had killed an American with a hand grenade. They would only give me pain medication at nighttime but the interrogations occurred during the daytime.”

A torturer present at all of his Bagram ‘interrogations’ was a man named Joshua Klaus, who was convicted of his role in killing two other prisoners at Bagram, Dilawar and Mullah Habibullah in December of 2002. Omar wrote that Klaus “would often scream at me if I did not give him the answers he wanted. Several times, he forced me to sit up on my stretcher, which caused me great pain due to my injuries. He did this several times to get me to answer his questions and give him the answers he wanted. It was clear that he was making me sit up because he knew that it hurt and he wanted me to answer questions. I cried several times during the interrogation as a result of this treatment and pain. During this interrogation, the more I answered the questions and the more I gave him the answers he wanted, the less pain was inflicted on me. 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 such pain.”

Also from his affidavit:

  • Bandage changes were used as an excuse for more abuse.
  • His “interrogations” included barking dogs, bagging his head so tightly he choked, cold water thrown on him, hands pulled above his head and chained to the ceiling (with bullet wounds in his chest) for hours at a time, and making him sit up when he was on a stretcher to create pain.
  • Guards made him scrub floors all night, lift and stack heavy crates and carry five gallon buckets of water to cause pain from his chest wounds. (His lawyers have documents that state his “wounds were wet” at the time.)
  • Extremely bright LED lights were shone in his shrapnel wounded eyes to cause discomfort and destroy his vision (he is now blind in one eye and has poor vision in the other due to being denied medical treatment for shrapnel wounds).
  • Torturers repeatedly threatened to have him raped or send him to other countries where he would be raped.
  • During questioning he was frequently not allowed to use the bathroom, but forced to urinate on himself instead.
  • He was told he could go free if he told them something that would help them capture someone important.
  • Guards and torturers made him pick up garbage, then emptied it and made him pick it up again repeatedly, farted in his face, spit in his face and interrogated him approximately 42 times in 90 days.
  • Before being transferred to Guantanamo in October 2002, the prisoners were given no food for two nights and one day, had their heads and beards shaved, and were put in mouth and nose masks, goggles and earphones and shackled to the floor for the entire trip.
  • They were dragged off the plane, stripped naked and cavity searched.
  • After an initial two days in hospital where he was interrogated for six hours each day, Omar was put into isolation.
  • The torture continued as before, including forcing him to urinate on himself then using him as a human mop to scrub urine and pine oil off the floor and leaving him in those clothes for days.

The picture below shows the condition Omar was in when he arrived at Bagram.

Image

Not only was Omar given no consideration for his age, he was “treated worse than anyone else” according to cellmate Moazzem Begg. Australian prisoner David Hicks wrote“On one occasion, I saw US soldiers dragging Omar from his cage to a room used for interrogation just opposite from mine. For at least an hour, I heard him scream and yell in pain as they abused him. Omar was yelling, ‘Why are you doing this? … Please stop. … Somebody help me!’ There seemed to be no point to this brutality except to hurt him and break his will.” He was alsoreportedly drugged, subjected to extreme temperatures for long periods, and refused basic medical treatment including the removal of shrapnel from his wounds.

Besides being in contravention of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, which both Canada and the United States have signed and ratified, Omar’s treatment is completely contrary to the US government’s ownrecommendations for the treatment of minors at Guantanamo, on every single point.

Here is Omar’s story as explained by Dennis Edney of his Canadian defense team. He explains not just the circumstances of Omar’s abduction and imprisonment, but also who Omar is today. Although the quote in the title of this article is from the video below, it is echoed by similar statements from almost everyone who has spoken to Omar throughout his confinement, defense attorneys (both currently employed and fired), psychiatrists, cellmates, and guards.


Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Resources for information on Omar Khadr

  • Previous WL Central coverage of Omar Khadr here.
  • If you only have a few minutes to click on one link, this is it. Defense attorney Dennis Edney.
  • Orwellian Circus Khadr’s trial.
  • Michelle Shephard is a Canadian journalist who has covered Omar extensively and wrote a book, Guantanamo’s Child about his detention.
  • Videos from Michelle Shephard’s website.
  • Documentary from CBC, The U.S. vs Omar Khadr.
  • Khadr timeline from CBC.
  • Khadr in the US state cables
  • Documentary You Don’t Like The Truth
  • Moazzam Begg: Who Cares For This Boy?
  • University of Toronto Faculty of Law archive on Khadr’s case
  • Lt. Cmdr. William C. Kuebler and Rebecca S. Snyder, U.S. Department of Defence attorneysreport on Khadr’s case on March 26, 2008
  • Defense attorney Dennis Edney at the human rights film festival
  • Amnesty Canada Omar Khadr Sentencing Concludes: One Last Injustice

 

Omar Khadr Part 2 of 4: Canada, the entire world is still watching
Omar Khadr Part 3 of 4: “The world doesn’t get it”
Omar Khadr Part 4 of 4: “Punitive post-conviction confinement”

 

2011-05-05 In defense of Canadian voters

Image

The recent Canadian election has been the topic of much foreign news coverage, with pundits trying to explain why liberal-minded Canada has given a majority to the most right leaning party in its history, what exactly the New Democratic Party is, and why on earth Canada turned its back so firmly on its ‘traditional ruling party’, headed by a man described in the Guardian as “known to the British as a fine writer, historian and BBC talking head, who had returned to Canada to lead the Liberals”. Embassy Magazine wrote an astoundingly condescending piece about Canada’s lack of interest in foreign policy which contained the following:

Given Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff’s background, many had expected him to campaign on foreign policy. And at the start of the campaign he did try to frame the election around the question of ethics, especially the tenor of Conservative foreign policy. … But … Mr. Ignatieff failed to inspire with this foreign policy-tinged message. In fact, the more he talked about it, the less traction he seemed to be getting with centrist or progressive voters. … At one point, the Liberal leader’s frustration became quite evident, with Mr. Ignatieff wondering why Canadians were not latching onto the many controversies that had dogged the Conservatives before the election. Mr. Ignatieff’s plea that Canada should regain its international standing was a version of this idea that the country should be undergoing some soul-searching prior to voting. But with his historic low, it appears Canadians weren’t up for that sort of deep think.

So according to this report (and many others, since Ignatieff started campaigning) a public that did not vote for Michael Ignatieff is anti-intellectual, anti-US, and even a nation full of uncaring or stupid people. While it would be excessive to imply that all of the Liberal Party’s current woes can be set at the feet of Michael Ignatieff, or that Canadians feel a great deal of interest in foreign policy, the election result does not prove the writer’s point but rather the opposite.

It is an uncontested fact that public support for the Liberal Party under Michael Ignatieff plummeted, even compared to the disastrous prior leadership of Stéphane Dion. Contrary to much foreign opinion, the Liberal and Conservative parties of Canada are both strong corporatist parties, neither is socialist leaning like the NDP. And labour issues were not a big topic during the election and could not be said to have been a strong influence in turning Liberal voters to NDP. There are, historically, two things that matter very much to Canadian Liberals: a liberal philosophy towards laws and citizen rights, including a dislike of military involvement outside of strict peacekeeping missions and a strong support of human rights, and Canadian federalist sovereignty.

Michael Ignatieff was hilariously brought in by the Liberal Party of Canada, to be the ‘next Pierre Trudeau’, referring to a strong federalist former prime minister who suffered his biggest backlash from his own Liberal party when he invoked the War Measures Act, which allowed the police to arrest and detain without trial, during the October Crisis of 1970. He also received some of his biggest support for standing up to the US. Michael Ignatieff, has advocated torture (which he does not call torture, but others do, more anon), ‘pre-emptive wars’, and indefinite detention without trial. He was a supporter of the Iraq war for far too long. He has openly preached the manifest destiny of the United States for years and self identified as nothing but an American, also for many years. In 2003 he wrote Empire Lite: Nation-Building in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan, which argued that the US had a responsibility to create a “humanitarian empire” through nation-building and, if necessary, military force, and when he talks of Canada’s “leadership in the world” it is always in reference to an expanded military.

He campaigned on an insult to the Canadian system of multi-party governance, decreeingfrom day one that Canadians had but two choices. I am saying as clearly as I can to the Canadian people, looking them straight in the eye”—here he focused his gaze into the TV camera directly in front of him, so it would seem to a television viewer that Ignatieff really was looking him in the eye—“if you want to replace the Harper government, you’ve got to vote Liberal.” Which, if believed, left the Canadian people with two options for prime minister, both strongly disapproving of everything Canada is.

Ignatieff in the past

Here are a few things from Michael Ignatieff’s background that Canadians may have been subjecting to that “deep think” they supposedly were not having about foreign policy. His writings and interviews are many and diverse, but the parts that mattered the most to Canadians were neatly summed up in a New Humanist article by Laurie Taylor at the point where he resigned from the advisory board of the Index on Censorship and requested that all syndication of an article referencing him be withheld. Everything in this article is easily verifiable from Ignatieff’s own writings, but whenever the Conservative party used these facts in their ads, the Canadian people were told that the Conservatives were bad people and were trying to destroy Ignatieff’s reputation. Maclean’s magazine quotes a Conservative staff member as saying, “Michael Ignatieff, in our narrative, is a political opportunist who is calculating, who will do and say anything to get elected.” In Maclean’s narrative, and in that of much of the Canadian media, this constitutes a political attack on Ignatieff. Of course it is. But that does not make the facts any less true or mean that Canadians should not be listening to them. It means Canadians should have been asking why they had to hear this material primarily from Conservative attack ads instead of their own media.

So what are these facts? Given the volume of his writing, it is perhaps most helpful to look at comments from his peers.

Conor Gearty, Professor of Human Rights Law at the LSE, wrote in the February 2005 edition of the Index on Censorship that Ignatieff was “probably the most important figure to fall into this category of hand-wringing, apologetic apologists for human rights abuses.” for his support of the Iraq invasion and more. “The trick… is to take the ‘human’ out of ‘human rights’. This is done by stressing the unprecedented nature of the threat that is currently posed by Islamic terrorism, by insisting that it is ‘a kind of violence that not only kills but would destroy our human rights culture as well if it had a chance’. In these extraordinary circumstances, ‘who can blame even the human rights advocate for taking his or her eye off each individual’s puny plight, for allowing just a little brutality, a beating-up perhaps, or a touch of sensory deprivation?’. But once intellectuals do open this door then scores of Rumsfeldians pour past shouting ‘me too’ and (to the intellectual’s plaintive cries of protest) ‘what do you know about national security – go back to your class work and the New York Review of Books’.” … Ignatieff is the best exemplar of this type of intellectual because of his apparently total commitment to the idea that we are now faced with ‘evil’ people and that unless we fight evil with evil we will succumb. It is precisely because we are democratic and special that, in Ignatieff’s words “necessity may require us to take actions in defence of democracy which will stray from democracy’s own foundational commitments to dignity.” … If Abu Ghraib was wrong then that wrongness consisted not in stepping across the line into evil behaviour but rather allowing a ‘necessary evil’ (as framed by the squeamish intellectuals) to stray into ‘unnecessary evil’ (as practised by the not-so-squeamish Rumsfeldians).”

Michael Neumann, Professor of Philosophy at Trent University in Ontario, called Ignatieff’s Empire Lite (2003) “a web of foolishness, error and confusion” and described Ignatieff’s argument as: “The US should, having first consulted its own interest, occupy ‘failed states’ and suppress disorder. Then, over what Ignatieff repeatedly emphasises is a long period of time, Americans are to teach these little folks abut judicial procedure, democracy and human rights. Then Americans will help their apt pupils to create sustainably democratic institutions.”

Mariano Aguirre, in a 2005 article called ‘Exporting Democracy, Revising Torture: The Complex Missions of Michael Ignatieff’ calls Ignatieff’s arguments ‘and yet and yet’. “Ignatieff considers himself a liberal, so sometimes he criticizes the Bush administration. And he is an intellectual, so he has doubts about almost everything and airs them with the liberal readers of the New York Times. But in the end he shares the US government’s vision of the violent and compulsory promotion of democracy, the war against terrorism and the use of instruments, for example torture, which are apparently in need of revisionist treatment. … he has established a sort of rational framework for democratisation by force and also for the revision of our understanding of human rights. … His proposal (quoting Alan Dershowitz to cover his back) is that “the issue then becomes not whether torture can be prevented, but whether it can be regulated”. He goes even further, and seems to like the idea that when the police need to torture a suspect they could apply to a judge for a “torture warrant” that would specify the individual being tortured and set limits to the type and duration of pain allowed … In this book he plainly says that “actions which violate foundational commitments to justice and dignity … should be beyond the pale”. But next he indicates: “The problem is to protect them in practice, to maintain the limits, case by case, where reasonable people may disagree as to what constitutes torture, what detentions are illegal, which killings depart from lawful norms, or which pre-emptive actions constitute aggression.” According to Aguirre, Ignatieff also feels George W Bush could be recognized in the future as “a plain-speaker visionary”. When the WMD did not appear in Iraq, he wrote: “I never thought that the key question was what weapons Hussein actually possessed, but rather what intentions he had.”

International relations professor, Ronald Steel, wrote in the New York Times in July 2004: “Michael Ignatieff tells us how to do terrible things for a righteous cause and come away feeling good about it … but is it really true that an evil act becomes lesser simply because it is problematic? Does suffering a twinge of bad conscience justify what we do in a righteous cause? It is comforting to think so, but saying ‘this hurts me as much as it does you’ is neither true nor considered an excuse.”

In 2004, Ignatieff wrote several articles in New York Times Magazine defending both the Iraq war and Bush. On 2 May 2004 he wrote: “Permissible duress might include forms of sleep deprivation that do not result in lasting harm to mental health or physical health, together with disinformation and disorientation (like keeping prisoners in hoods) that would produce stress.” (The Abu Ghraib photos of hooded prisoners were released on April 28.) Michael Ignattieff was also interviewed by Charlie Rose on April 28, 2004, the day the Abu Ghraib photos were released. In the interview he is still clearly in support of the Iraq war. In late 2004, Ignattieff was interviewed on CNN about the US role in the war on terror, where he spoke of its duty to “support the right regimes”, etc. And in 2004 the Liberal Party of Canada began talks with Ignatieff asking him to come back and enter the leadership race for the Liberal Party.

Ignatieff in opposition

From the US state cables, a few points about Ignatieff’s time as the leader of the opposition in Canada:

In cable 09OTTAWA341 the Liberals were the first party Canadians tried to turn to as their ‘Not Harper’ party of choice: “some noted specifically that Ignatieff’s leadership and/or anger over Prime Minister Harper’s performance had motivated them to join the party.” The pro-US stance was apparent from the beginning. “A number of delegates cited in private conversations “synergy” between the new U.S. administration and a future Liberal government. An enthusiastic crowd cheered five images of Ignatieff with President Obama during his visit to Ottawa in February as part of a video backdrop to Ignatieff’s keynote speech to the Convention.” Traditionally, free trade and one-America type policy has been the realm of the Conservative Party, not the Liberals.

Differentiating between the parties was difficult in many cases. In 09OTTAWA377 “The efforts nonetheless put greater ideological light between the Conservatives and the Liberals under Michael Ignatieff, who has as of yet publicly identified few clear policy differences with the Conservatives.” Cable 09OTTAWA954 tells of “the New Democratic Party – which previously had boasted of voting against the government on more than 70 consecutive votes and ridiculed the Liberals for failing to act like a genuine opposition party”.

Opponents of torture and tough on crime legislation had no voice in parliament. Cable09OTTAWA452 writes: “Under new leader Michael Ignatieff, the Liberals have been careful quietly to support the robust Conservative anti-crime agenda in order to deprive the Conservatives of a wedge issue in the next election. Similarly, they are unlikely in principle to oppose, or substantially modify, the anti-terrorism bills.” Cable 10OTTAWA84 describes: “The Truth in Sentencing bill spent just over two months in the House of Commons and passed without amendment on June 8. … Reportedly, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff insisted privately that the party not be seen as “soft on crime,” prompting some Liberal Senators to absent themselves from the vote.” Cable 09OTTAWA198 “noted that Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff was “flexible” and has a record in his life before politics of supporting robust anti-terrorism measures,” regarding the government’s reintroduced bill to amend the 2001 Anti-terrorism Act.

On the issue of Afghan detainees being handed over by Canadian forces without ensuring their safety from torture, 09OTTAWA906 states: “The opposition parties, together with Amnesty International Canada, insist that the only way to clear up the contradictions in the two versions of the story is for the government to call a public inquiry. … The detainee issue has consumed the daily parliamentary Question Period, but both PM Harper and Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff have largely absented themselves from the debate.” [Bolding added.] When Harper prorogued parliament, outlined in cable 09OTTAWA909, “Opposition Members of Parliament quickly howled in protest, with Liberal house leader Ralph Goodale calling the move “beyond arrogant, almost despotic” and a “shocking insult to democracy.”(Liberal leader Ignatieff has yet to make a public comment.) [Bolding added.] New Democratic Party house leader Libby Davies called prorogation a “political scam.” There has been widespread speculation in the media and among MPs that the Conservatives’ key goal was to block additional committee hearings on allegations of the abuse of Afghan prisoners whom the Canadian Forces had transferred to Afghan authorities.”

Cable 09OTTAWA944 opines “As in the case of post-2011 Canadian plans for Afghanistan (reftels), public interest is extremely limited, and confidence levels in the PM and the Conservatives remain relatively high.” The cable may feel that public interest was low, but Liberal voters were taking note. As is apparent.

On extending Canada’s involvement in the Afghanistan war, cable 08OTTAWA124 writes “Currently all Liberal MPs are publicly onside to end the combat mission in 2009, but doubts remain over the position of deputy leader Michael Ignatieff and other Liberals who supported a continued combat role in 2006, and probably still do today.”

05OTTAWA696 reminds us: “Ignatieff is best known for his recent writings on political ethics in an age of terror, which lays out a middle course between the requirement for aggressive actions to protect liberal societies against sub-national mega-threats, and the need for Western Civilization to retain its ethical soul in the process. …

“Ignatieff opened by paying tribute to the four RCMP officers killed in the line of duty earlier in the day, reminding the audience that this brutal killing of members of a force that is the very symbol of Canada ought to invoke not only sorrow but anger among Canadians. Ignatieff’s belief in the measured and prepared use of force while also consistently trumpeting the social roots of Canadian liberalism, was a common theme. …

“… Ignatieff suggested, but need our own military, our own intelligence service, and we need to be real players in the global war on terror. He reminded the audience that Canada is next door to the main target of terrorism and must ensure it is not used as a staging ground for terrorists. He then spoke of the larger war on terror, suggesting that the central problem in failed states is security, and if Canada is going to be active working in the failed states that are the breeding ground for terrorism, its military & must be able to fire back. …With regards to missile defense Ignatieff sounded a note of caution over the party’s rejection of the BMD program. He said he understood that the government had listened to the party and the party had listened to the country. But he suggested that it was necessary to balance fear of weapons in space, with the protection of Canada’s own sovereignty.”

While Ignatieff was loudly or quietly refusing to stand up for anything Liberal voters traditionally expect their candidates to stand up for, the NDP’s Jack Layton was hard at work. Cable 10OTTAWA12 tells us “The Liberals’ muted response to PM Harper’s late December prorogation of Parliament (ref b) suggests a lack of energy and hands-on leadership (Michael Ignatieff reportedly remains on vacation in France) … Ignatieff personally trailed PM Harper on indices of trust, competence, vision and leadership, even ranking behind New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Jack Layton on overall leadership and trust.” From cable 09OTTAWA766“Despite its pledge to work with the government on EI, the NDP is increasingly positioning itself as the party trying to get results for Canada’s unemployed, while the other parties only fight each other for partisan advantage and seek another expensive federal election. New NDP ads feature Layton with rolled-up sleeves, ready to “get to work.””

While the “leadership role in the world” espoused by Ignatieff consistently revolved around a greatly expanded military, Layton was, in cable 06OTTAWA3423 providing leadership of a different kind. “Jack Layton leveraged a meeting with Prime Minister Harper by threatening to bring down the Conservative minority government on a confidence vote unless Harper agreed to meet with him to discuss the Clean Air Act. … the government surprised many observers by agreeing to Layton’s proposal to send its draft legislation (C-30) directly to a “legislative committee”. … Front runner Michael Ignatieff is no Kyoto fan, whereas second-place Bob Rae is more supportive. … Federal Liberal MP John Godfrey, Bloc Quebecois MP Bernard Bigras, Quebec’s Environment Minister Claude Bechard, and Canadian environmentalists openly mocked Ambrose and derided the government’s climate change stance as “scandalous,” “idiotic,” and “ridiculous.” Bechard, whose comments were less vitriolic, said he hoped Ambrose would acknowledge Quebec’s Kyoto plan at the Conference this week. “We can’t say that Kyoto is impossible in Canada when one of the provinces, Quebec, has a plan to meet Kyoto with minimum participation from the federal government”.

The future in Canada.

Yes, Stephen Harper is a Bad Man, found in contempt of parliament and many other things, who was elected by 23% of the eligible voters, including many who were “holding their noses” and voting Anyone But NDP. Yes, he will enact policies that very few Canadians agree with, disrespect all parliamentary and legal restrictions, and, as he has promised so many times, make Canada unrecognizable in four years. But Canada is a democracy, and in four years there will be another election. If 1993 is anything to base guesses on, the Conservative party will be wiped off the political map at that point, after 4 years of unfettered, unpopular policy making. In four years the NDP will be a strong, experienced socialist leaning opposition party. In four years, some form of proportional representation may be implemented which will guarantee at least some seats for the Green, Pirate, Marijuana, etc. parties. And in four years, the Liberal Party of Canada will hopefully have woken up to the fact that Canada is a multi party democracy, the people have choice, and if they are not given a leader they can stomach they will not vote Liberal. The new leader will probably be this guy or this guy. Neither are internationally acclaimed (or reviled) intellectuals. But neither would dream of suggesting torture and pre-emptive wars to the Canadian public as Liberal ideas.

Canadians have not destroyed their home, they are just spring cleaning. This is the point where they have emptied all the closets into the middle of the room and it looks awful. But in four years, it should be much better than ever, and all credit will be to the bravery of the voters who refused to be told by any media or politicians, national or international, that they did not have a choice.