The silence surrounding Omar Khadr

Omar Khadr was a Canadian kid caught in a firefight in Afghanistan in 2002. He was captured by the US and tortured at Bagram and Guantanamo for ten years. Eventually, he signed a plea deal admitting guilt in killing Special Forces Sergeant First Class Christopher Speer during the battle. He continues his legal saga in solitary confinement in Canada. 

Omar was not supposed to be in the compound on the day he was injured. A family acquaintance had taken 15 year old Omar with him as a translator as he was fluent in four languages. According to multiple sources close to him, Omar says he was the first person wounded in the attack on the compound he was in. He says the others carried him to shelter throughout the hours of fighting until he was shot twice in the back. He survived so long because he was not in the active fighting.

His story, the only firsthand account possible, still has not been heard by the Canadian public or Canadian courts. It can’t be heard at this point because if he says he didn’t throw the grenade the parole board will say he is not taking responsibility for his actions. If he talks about his captivity, the US military will call it recidivism as they have in the past when Guantanamo victims were released and spoke about their experiences.

At Guantanamo, his conversations with other captives, guards and even his lawyers were strictly controlled. His defence counsel Dennis Edney says he was repeatedly dragged off to a cell by guards simply for asking his client “What’s wrong?” Edney was accompanied to the washroom by guards and if he had been discovered smuggling news to Omar (which he did) he would have faced thirty years in a US prison himself. Omar’s counsel were even prevented from playing dominos and chess during counsel visits. “There was no attorney – client privilege,” says Edney.

Omar refused for eight years to sign a plea deal confessing his guilt to a crime he says he did not commit as he told Edney repeatedly, “What would Canadians think of me?” Edney says he did everything he could to convince Omar to take the plea deal for eight additional years as he was never going to get a fair trial. Omar’s previous US military counsel Colby Vokey said in 2007 he would encourage Khadr to plead guilty to the “JFK assassination,” if it meant he could go home.

Omar told Edney during the August 2010 Guantanamo commission trial, “We’re embarrassing ourselves by being here.” He boycotted the proceedings in July, saying “How can I ask for justice from a process that does not have it or offer it?” Videos of Omar’s interrogation in a documentary by the same name show him telling his captors, “You don’t like the truth.”

“The whole trial system is a sham. There was a complete lack of due process. It is disturbing and embarrassing what is going on down there,” said Colby.

“But let’s face it, this is all about politics,” said Former Chief Prosecutor Colonel Morris Davis. By Davis’s account Jim Haynes, the man who oversaw the tribunal process, told him, “Wait a minute, we can’t have acquittals. We’ve been holding these guys for years. How are we going to explain that? We can’t have acquittals. We’ve got to have convictions.”

“The compound could not be secured as there were other Taliban around”

When Omar was captured, we were first told he had killed a US ‘medic’ and he was the only one still alive to do so. This would have been a real war crime under the Geneva Conventions, if it had been done knowingly, the medic was wearing clear insignia and the medic was not active in combat. We know Christopher Speer was an elite commando and a member of the 19th Special Forces Group. The Guantanamo Commission witness known only as OC-1, a member of Speer’s unit, testified that training as a medic was a standard part of the training of the elite Special Forces unit which all members went through. They did not act as medics.

Edney described the testimony of OC-1 to me. “He told the judge, the firefight is what he would refer to as a clusterfuck. He enters the compound, shoots one man in the head, sees Omar with his back to him and facing a wall – Omar is screaming from his injuries from the bombing – and OC-1 shoots him twice in the back. OC-1 then exits the alley. In doing so he hears a grenade being thrown. He does not see who threw it. What is also significant is that he orders everyone to leave the compound as it could not be secured as there were other Taliban around – meaning other individuals could have thrown the grenade.”

From OC-1’s verbal account of not being able to secure the area, it is apparent there were far more people than just Omar still alive and capable of throwing grenades at that point. In 2008 the US military accidentally gave a room full of reporters the original report filed from OC-1 which, while leaving out the testimony of a grenade being thrown after Omar was shot, showed that the US military had falsified the official report and the other man beside him was still alive. There was also forensic wound analysis on US Special Forces Sergeant Speer that indicated friendly fire from a US grenade and OC-1’s report and testimony confirm the US was throwing grenades at the time Speer was killed.

OC-1 also testified that his actions in the compound were completed in under a minute. Quite a feat if he had been a medic.

OC-1 testified that Sergeant Layne Morris was injured by pebbles spitting back from the rock wall they were stationed behind. Morris himself said “I thought, dang, my rifle just exploded on me.” Morris successfully sued Omar’s father for damages of $102.6 million in 2006, along with Speer’s widow. He claimed he was partially blinded in one eye by shrapnel from the grenade which killed Speer even though he was airlifted out with a bleeding nose hours before Speer was killed. Morris retired at 40 and has since been a media favourite for providing testimony against Omar, a child and man he never met.

Omar’s cellmate Omar Deghayes had his eye gouged out by a Guantanamo guard during an interrogation, but has never received compensation. Neither has Omar ever received compensation for his ongoing injuries.

“Our definition of sexy was something like Khadr.”

Information on Omar’s case has been kept under intense lockdown since he was captured. He was not allowed to speak to his family for five years. He did not have even a US military lawyer for over two years. When he did talk to his family, a Foreign Affairs official had to be present and ensure “Absolutely NO ATTORNEYS can be present or the call will be refused.” The calls had to be in English despite other detainees being allowed to speak in Arabic. He was forbidden a pen in his room when other detainees were allowed them.

The leaked Guantanamo files showed us in the first line of Omar’s file that the primary interest the US had in him was they didn’t like his dad’s friend. Osama bin Laden was an acquaintance of Omar’s dad from back in the days when the US considered bin Laden a ‘good guy’, when al Qaeda were backed by the US to fight the Russians. Omar’s continued detention was recommended as “Detainee continues to provide valuable information on his father’s associates.”

In 2003, the year after Omar’s capture, Canada suddenly acquired a Ministry of Public Safety which appears to trump both the Canadian courts and the Ministry of Justice in issuing decrees over Omar’s future. We probably should ask how we are ensuring public safety now if not through justice.

This Orwellian Ministry was not much help when a Canadian murdered and ate someone, posted a video of it to our heavily surveilled Internet and then passed through four heavily surveilled international airports before being caught by a German citizen. The Ministry is however, interrupting our prison systems with an unprecedented order stopping Omar from speaking to reporters, overriding our parole boards with statements on Omar’s ineligibility for parole and vowing to fight ‘vigorously’ any attempt to move Omar from solitary confinement in federal prison. The Ministry has also made a statement that sounds very much like it would not recognize a successful appeal by Omar in a US appeal court, despite the fact that they recognized his conviction by a Guantanamo commission. In case the message wasn’t clear, Prime Minister Harper echoed the Minister’s warnings on the day of Omar’s hearing to be transferred to a provincial prison in what can only be seen as attempted political interference in the judicial system.

The Canadian government has appealed Omar’s right to see the evidence against him all the way up to the Supreme Court. They refused to allow his interrogation videos to be released because Canadians might have “paroxysms of moral outrage, a Canadian specialty.” The Minister of Public Safety demanded Omar’s psychiatrist interviews from the US but refused to release them. Someone leaked them for us. After all the legal battles we still have seen only about fourteen pages of the thousands Canada has in his interrogation file. Considering what has already been revealed, Canadians really need to see what else is in there.

Canada, unlike every other western country, refused to request repatriation or humane treatment of their citizen. They were offered the opportunity to try Omar in a Canadian court and they refused because they said he would never be convicted in a Canadian court. This we learned from the US state cables (thank you, Chelsea Manning).

The US was left with the task of inventing a court and some crimes to apply retroactively. They destroyed evidence, disallowed defence witnesses, used evidence obtained under torture and hired the best discredited witness money could buy. All of this to get Omar labeled with a guilty verdict and out of Guantanamo as the only person charged with murder despite the 6,735 US military killed in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Five years after Omar’s capture, the first incarnation of the Guantanamo trials began. Omar was selected, out of all the possible contenders, to represent the so-called ‘worst of the worst’ at Guantanamo and stand trial. There was no question his case would have appeal, Chief Prosecutor Colonel Morris Davis said. “Our definition of sexy was something like Khadr. People understand murder.”

Most people didn’t understand it wasn’t a real murder charge, which would have been tried in a civilian court. Murder is unlawful killing; in war it is legal, protected as “combatant’s privilege.” Most people’s sex lives don’t involve trying a tortured child on a trumped up charge that carried the death penalty either.

Khadr’s case appeared personal for some members of the US military and not just from loyalty to their own. The persistent rumours (and evidence) of Speer’s death by friendly fire may have contributed to the need for deflection, but the highly sympathetic presence of his widow was another definite factor. She had spent the trial period in close social contact with all members of the jury, a fact mentioned by most in attendance but not reported in the news. She also gave lengthy testimony at his trial on the impact of Speer’s death on her family, referring to Omar as forever a murderer and “someone who is so unworthy”. Most observers described the testimony as “heart wrenching” or similar and it received extensive media coverage.

There was also lengthy victim impact testimony from members of the US military, referred to by Canada’s media as “warrior brothers of the U.S. soldier killed by Mr. Khadr.” In the end, the jury sentenced Omar to forty years on top of the eight he had already served without knowing he had signed a plea deal. For a sentence greater than ten years, six of the seven jurors must have agreed to it. Speer’s widow gave a fist pumping cheer when she heard the sentence, which was fifteen years more than the prosecution had asked for. The Speer family have been the beneficiaries of several fundraising campaigns since the trial.

“Serious legal consequences”

In 2011, Edney, Omar’s most outspoken advocate and legal counsel, was planning on bringing a challenge to Omar’s verdict. In April 2011 we had a taped conversation which we agreed to resume when he returned from seeing Omar at Guantanamo. Edney was concerned that if the full information in the interview was printed at that time, he would not be allowed on the plane to Guantanamo as had happened in the past. When he returned from Guantanamo he was fired by Omar, who told several sources he was given misinformation to encourage him to do so. Omar’s new counsel had a gag order on Edney.

Those new lawyers took five and a half months past the date Omar was eligible for transfer to file an application for Ottawa to transfer him and another three months to ask for a review of the delay in transferring. On July 3, 2012, two of my full taped conversations with Edney were leaked to the online website Cryptome. Within minutes of Cryptome posting the link on Twitter, I received an email asking me to phone Omar’s new counsel. This efficiency and speed from the firm that brought Omar home eleven months late was breathtaking.

When I spoke to counsel Brydie Bethell she demanded repeatedly to know who had authorized the leak, apparently not being familiar with the nature of leaks. She stated that both Edney and I could face “serious legal consequences”, presumably for having a conversation about Omar over a year earlier, long before Edney’s gag order. She said it would “hurt Omar’s cause” if I were to speak of his case, and that I “certainly wasn’t entitled” to know how it could.

This has been a typical reaction from many officially mandated to help Omar’s case. With a few notable exceptions, the advice is for all concerned to sit down, shut up, and let ‘justice’ run its tedious course. Most of our politicians, media and NGO’s have obediently complied for over eleven years.

Omar went on a hunger strike in Guantanamo to protest the lack of progress in his transfer, according to several sources close to him. If he hadn’t, and the US had not continued to pressure Canada, there is no reason to believe he would be in Canada today. He re-hired Edney when he was brought home.

“A right-wing terrorist group”

Most people consider Sun media and the Toronto Star to be the extreme ends of the spectrum of Canadian media coverage on Omar with everyone else falling between. If that were true (and it largely is) a decade long faux debate over Omar’s return is being used to drum the identical very narrow negative message about Omar from every outlet. Even the debate itself is interesting, with outlets from the Sun to state media CBC inferring that media polls are the method we use to decide citizenship rights in Canada.

I have started a spreadsheet charting media coverage of Omar Khadr for the last eleven years. The spreadsheet so far includes all of the Star coverage since the trial week, beginning in October 25, 2010.

I wrote in July 2012: “The ‘trial’ was held with the most widely derided court and procedures since the Salem witch trials and a newly created ‘military commission’ instead of either of the two legitimate US courts (civilian or military), but the word ‘convicted’ occurs uncontested 34 times in 24 articles. The crimes Omar Khadr was charged with include ones which the US calls war crimes. None of the rest of the world, including Canada, recognize the impossible ‘murder in violation of the laws of war’ as a war crime in Khadr’s case or any of the others as war crimes, and they could not be legitimately applied to Khadr’s case anyway since they were invented in 2006 and he was captured in 2002. Nevertheless, the words ‘war crime(s)/criminal’ occur 40 times in 24 articles as factual detail of the case.“

“The highly suspect plea deal which Omar signed after eight years of torture as his only path out of a legal black hole has been rubbed in his face by the Star 40 times, in the words ‘pleaded guilty/admitted/confessed’, presented without qualifiers. Despite there being absolutely no evidence to point to Khadr killing anyone, and a great deal of evidence that shows it would have been impossible for him to throw the grenade, the words ‘murder/killer’ are used against him 50 times, more than two times per article. In 24 articles, the word ‘jihad’ was worked in eight times, ‘al Qaeda’ 25, and ‘terrorist’ or ‘terrorism’ (the word terror was not included in the count) 30 times.”

Most other outlets over the years have had a very similar message. While articles like this and reports on Speer’s widow and children are constant, there has not been one mainstream Canadian media article about Omar’s medical condition in over eleven years except a dry mention when it delayed a court hearing. While a random al Qaeda story was mined salaciously by the Star for a remote link with Khadrs, no article was written regarding the United Nations Committee Against Torture criticizing the Canadian government for delaying Omar’s return to Canada and recommending that Canada (presumably including the largest circulation newspaper) raise awareness of the Convention against Torture requirements amongst judges and members of the public.

Sun Media, established in 1996, takes the same message and drums for a variety of extreme and illegal remedies. The appeal it makes to mentally unstable elements of the population cannot be ignored, particularly when it posts the address of Omar’s grandparents and tells its viewers that they may soon be housing ‘the little terrorist Omar Khadr’ as he is constantly referred to by Sun commentators. To say their coverage of Omar over the years has been an attempt to instigate violence is a gross understatement but they continue unchallenged. As of last June, Canada no longer has a   provision against hate speech in our Human Rights Act. The Star as well posted this article (since modified) originally with a picture of Omar’s sister’s door bell with name and apartment number.

Canadian media also makes a point of reporting, and in the case of Sun Media promoting, a group presented as average Canadian citizens against Omar Khadr’s return. Despite this opposition being openly created by the Jewish Defense League who have a “multi faith coalition” with the Hindu Advocacy Group, and the Christian Heritage Party, they are never mentioned by name except by Sun media. Tom Flanagan, former advisor to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, traces the roots of the current Conservative Party in power in Canada to the Christian Heritage Party.

The JDL is the Canadian chapter of a US group which is on the FBI terrorist watch list. In 1994, a US member killed 29 Palestinians at prayer, and in 2011 the RCMP launched an investigation against at least nine members of the Canadian JDL with regard to an anonymous tip that they were plotting to bomb the Palestine House in Mississauga. They are supporters of the English Defence League and the wannabe Canadian Defence League, which appears to be made up of the same people. On September 11, 2012, community activists gathered at the home of Omar’s family after JDL bikers promised to assemble there and “send a message” to the Khadr family, instigated by Sun media who had earlier published the address. The bikers eventually rode away after they met the crowd at the door.

It is hard to imagine Golden Dawn or neo-Nazis in Europe lobbying against a Muslim man and harassing his family and the media not pointing out that the harassers are members of far right extremist groups, especially in the case of the JDL, classified “a right-wing terrorist group” by the FBI in 2001. The Toronto Star pointed out JDL’s terrorist designation recently,  and JDL protested what they called the paper’s “anti-Israeli bias” in 2010, but the Toronto Star consistently reports anti-Khadr protesters without mentioning the affiliation.

Any articles about Khadr in Canadian media are very quickly flooded with negative comments which are voted up. The Harper government is no stranger to astroturfing and manipulation of public perception of the Khadr case has preoccupied this government as shown in the US state cables. Media manipulation is also a primary goal of the JDL.

“You killed yours; we starved ours to death.”

There are real, internationally recognized war crimes in Omar Khadr’s case. Shooting a blinded child twice in the back is one. Torture of a prisoner of war is another, in which Canada was complicit. The investigations into Canada’s actions in this case have been blocked for more than eleven years.

Omar completely lost the sight in one eye in the firefight. He has since come close to losing the vision remaining in the second eye. Faced with his one remaining eye containing shrapnel, the US military chose to shine bright lights into it while interrogating him. Canada simply refused to give him sunglasses for eight years while he sat first in the Cuban sun then in 24 hours a day of fluorescent lighting. The US forced him through a corrupt show trial; Canada has locked him in solitary and refuses to allow him to be interviewed.

There is an apocryphal story in which a US diplomat said to Canada’s former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, “You treated your Indians a lot better than we treated ours.”

Trudeau replied, “Yes, you killed yours; we starved ours to death.”

Apocryphal or not, it is hard not to remember in the case of Omar Khadr.

2011-01-11 TVOntario: The Agenda: Livestream interview with Birgitta Jónsdóttir

Birgitta Jónsdóttir, member of the Icelandic parliament and former WikiLeaks volunteer, in Toronto to speak at the first Samara/Massey journalism seminar, will be interviewed by Steve Paikin of Television Ontario’s The Agenda at 2 p.m. EST today. The interview will be livestreamed and will be archived on the program’s website.

From Samara:

Birgitta Jónsdóttir, now a member of Iceland’s Parliament, has led a movement in her country to take the most far-reaching steps towards advancing free speech, freedom of the press and transparency in government of any country in the world. This initiative, the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI) aims to bring together transparency laws from multiple jurisdictions to create the strongest media freedom laws in the world, with the goal of improving democracy and Iceland’s standing in the international community.

In her talk, Birgitta Jónsdóttir will describe how and why she decided to help transform Iceland into the world’s safe haven for transparency, and what the impact has been to date, including her reflections on WikiLeaks’ ongoing revelations.

2011-11-23 Omar Khadr Part 4 of 4: “Punitive post-conviction confinement”

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This article is in lieu of the long delayed fourth part of the Omar Khadr series written on WL Central last May. The original fourth part consisted of hours of interviews regarding the astoundingly corrupt and illegal military process which culminated in a verdict which allows the Canadian press to refer to Omar Khadr as a ‘convicted terrorist’. One day the information in those interviews will be widely known, but today we are still prevented from publishing any of it for fear of retribution to those we do not wish to harm.

Today, Omar should be at home in Canada, as promised by the Canadian government as a term of his acceptance of a plea deal. Today, he is still in Guantanamo Bay serving what the US military terms “punitive post-conviction confinement.”. A little known fact regarding the Guantanamo sentences is that time served before sentencing is not considered ‘punitive’ and therefore does not count as time served towards his sentence. Omar’s sentence is to be carried out in a solitary confinement ‘enhanced interrogation’ environment, and at the end of his sentence he can be placed back in ‘Prisoner Of War’ status in the Guantanamo cells he has spent his life in since he was 15 years old. Without repatriation to Canada, his eight year plea deal is just an eight year sentence to solitary confinement in the middle of a lifetime sentence in Guantanamo.

Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg writes, But 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.

I spoke last summer to Omar’s former defense attorney Dennis Edney about his current condition. “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.”

In this isolated and unsupported environment, “He is never allowed mail from other than family which rarely arrives.” As part of his ‘plea deal’ he is not allowed to have legal counsel present during his interrogations.

Thanks to Canadian Prime Minister Harper’s appeals, all levels of court in Canada have 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 by interrogating him at the Guantanamo Bay facility in 2003 and 2004 and by sharing information from those interviews with U.S. authorities despite knowing that in 2004 U.S. authorities had subjected him to illegal interrogation methods, including sleep deprivation. It further found that his status as a minor, his detention without counsel, and his interrogators’ awareness that he had been subjected to sleep deprivation were“not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.”

Omar was sentenced in October of last year. In a diplomatic exchange with the United States which formed part of Omar’s plea deal, the Canadian government wrote “The Government of Canada therefore wishes to convey that, as requested by the United States, the Government of Canada is inclined to favourably consider Mr. Khadr’s application to be transferred to Canada to serve the remainder of his sentence, or such portion of the remainder of his sentence as the National Parole Board determines” after his first year of post-trial incarceration.

Omar’s defense counsel filed the paperwork for his return in October. Now we are told:Corrections officials have received the request for transfer and now have to determine if Khadr is eligible to return to Canada to finish out his sentence. Once Canadian officials determine that, they send an official request to American officials. If U.S. officials agree, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has the final say. He has the option of refusing the transfer if he decides Khadr is a risk to public safety. The process is expected to take about 18 months. A spokesman for Toews said he doesn’t comment on individual cases.

In addition to this, the United States now must certify Canada as a fit place to send a convicted terrorist, a nation not likely to permit him to attack the United States, and one that has control of its prisons. That certification must be delivered to Congress signed by U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta with “the concurrence of” U.S. State Secretary Hillary Clinton.

It is well documented in the US State cables released by Wikileaks that Canadian indifference and hostility have had everything to do with the torture and unlawful confinement of a child and the continuing suffering of the only western citizen left in Guantanamo Bay. “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.” reports one cable.

December 10 is World Human Rights Day, the day the world celebrates the 63rd birthday of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, written first by Canadian John Humphrey. If Canadians are ever again to hold their heads up on this day, we must remove this human rights blight from our actions by finally repatriating the man we have victimized since he was a child.

WL Central calls for immediate action to defend the rights of this Canadian citizen.

Previous WL Central coverage on Omar Khadr here.

Omar Khadr Part 1 of 4: “Omar Khadr is a lovely young man”
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”

 

2011-10-30 The value of street protests in the Occupy movement

Speakers in order of appearance:

Heather Marsh.

       As 

Georgie

       she has been writing about the revolution since before the beginning, starting with 

A Stateless War

       in September 2010. As editor/administrator of WL Central, she has created a community for activists around the world to provide a new hard news organization, covering only the news people require in order to govern themselves and working towards the Wikileaks model of scientific journalism. This is an ongoing project that is about to get a lot bigger, building off of everything learned in the last year.

A Canadian activist, she created Take the Square Canada and works with activists around the world to encourage and facilitate connection and communication for the revolution, both in Canada and around the world. She has been active in human rights and freedom of information for years.

Zak Yahya is a blogger at Lebanon Spring blog, where he writes about current affairs in Lebanon and Middle East. He writes in Wikileaks Central matters related to the Wikileaks cables, democracy and human rights issues. He focuses on the matters originating from the Levant – Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Palestine and Iran. You can contact him on the Lebanon Spring blog or on twitter @TheZako

Naomi Colvin is a UK activist with UK Friends of Bradley Manning and the Occupy Londonmovement. . Her website is here.

Alexa O’Brien. In February of this year she founded usdayofrage.org, where alongside her friends, she pushed the edge of digital social media for scalable organization of civil disobedience and non-violent protest. usdayofrage.org was instrumental in the traditional and digital organization of the original September 17 action in 5 American cities, including Austin, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Oregon, and New York, and built trusted networks that spread #occupywallstreet virally across the United States.

Since January 2011, she has covered the WikiLeaks release of US State Department Cables, JTTF memoranda known as the ‘GTMO files’, and revolutions across Egypt, Bahrain, Iran, and Yemen. She has interviewed preeminent US foreign policy expert on the Cambodia cables, and published hours of interview with former GTMO guards, detainees, defense lawyers, and human rights activists, as well as WikiLeaks media partners, including Andy Worthington, GTMO historian and author, and Atanas Tchobanov, Balkanleaks’ spokesman and co-editor of Bivol.bg.

Listen to the conversation here.

2011-07-29 Canadian government determined to send Abdullah Khadr to the US

In a completely predictable move, the Canadian government has appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada to fight their earlier two losses in a bid to extradite Abdullah Khadr to the US. Abdullah Khadr was captured and tortured by Pakistani forces who were paid $500,000 by the US for their efforts. He was held for fourteen months in a Pakistan prison without charges, and arrested again within a week of his return to Canada. He was then held without bail, pending extradition to the US, from December 2005 until his release last August 2010. In response to the application brought by Khadr’s lawyer Dennis Edney, arguing that the US government’s evidence against Khadr was inadmissible because it relied on information gathered under torture in Pakistan, the Ontario Superior Court’s presiding judge called his treatment “both shocking and unjustifiable.”

Canada’s government predictably appealed and in May, the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld the verdict unanimously. The 33 page 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.

The government disagrees, stating in their appeal application that the decision will “inevitably lengthen” extradition hearings and make it more difficult for Canada to comply with its international legal obligations. The US has, since the 1999 Extradition Act, enjoyed anunequal extradition treaty with Canada: “The new Act effectively reduces extradition in Canada from a traditionally judicial process (as it remains in the United States) to an essentially administrative process.”

Khadr’s lawyer, Dennis Edney earlier stated that 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 Canadian government argues that the torture used to obtain evidence was not directly relevant to the extradition decision.

Edney expressed no surprise at the appeal, telling Postmedia News “The government has been consistent in appealing each and every strong ruling by the federal courts in both the Abdullah Khadr and Omar Khadr cases, only to be overruled once again at the Supreme Court level, and all at the expense of the public purse.”

The role of public apathy and encouragement of the US in these appeals has been well revealed in the US State cables released by Wikileaks. Regarding Abdullah’s brother Omar the cables said “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.”

Previous WL Central coverage of Abdullah Khadr and his brother Omar Khadr.

2011-06-06 Omar Deghayes on Omar Khadr

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Omar Deghayes is a UK citizen who was imprisoned in Guantánamo in January 2002 and freed from there on December 18, 2007. Details of his treatment in Guantánamo can be read here. He speaks to PressTV about his experiences here.

Omar Khadr is a Canadian citizen who was captured at fifteen after the compound he was living in in Afghanistan was bombed by US military. He was tortured at Bagram prison and Guantánamo, and has spent the last nine years of his life imprisoned by the US. WL Central coverage on Omar Khadr is here.

Omar Deghayes spoke to WL Central on June 5. The following is an excerpt from that interview.

Did you have any contact with Omar Khadr?

OD: Yes definitely. I know him very well. He was locked up in Camp 5 for a long time, and I saw him in the other camp also before for a short period of time. But in Camp 5 I was locked up with him for a long time.

Do you think that Omar Khadr would be a threat to society if and when he is released to Canada?

OD: No. Definitely not. Even the guard and the interrogators in Guantanamo I think used to like him a lot … for his personality. He is an open, kind person. I don’t think he would be a threat to society. No.

What do you think the effects of nine years of being detained at Guantanamo and in other places, including black sites, starting at age fifteen would have on someone like Omar?

OD: Definitely gross destruction to his psychology and personality as a child.

He was a child when he was brought. I remember him when he was brought first to the prisons. And I saw him afterwards in Camp 5 where he had grown in prison, and where he started to have a beard and a moustache. Before he didn’t.

To grow inside prison, and inside very abnormal circumstances like those, where people threaten, physically beaten, sometimes … He was very ill, because I think he had lots of injuries and wounds. And he wasn’t treated for those wounds … and they were used against him by interrogators and doctors.

And to grow in an environment like that … I am sure it will have a devastating effect on him in the future.

I remember him receiving letters from his family. Some of them…you were able to see that some of them were censored. And even the letters were even more disturbing for him … because I think some of his family were describing problems that they were facing outside in Canada.

I remember talking to him about some of those … a few times in the showers. They were very very disturbing … imagine a child growing up with adult men in a lock up like that.

Even he is not on the same level of … you do not find the same level of companionship … it must be very difficult for him. I am sure it will have lasting effect on him.

The whole condition … isolation. Even because of his age, he wasn’t spared the isolation and lock ups. I mean they treated him like just another … like anyone else. Even … if not worse sometimes.

So, I think it must be very devastating for somebody at a tender young age like his. If other people like myself and other men … more grown ups … we might have had some experience in life … and we might have been able to cope and be patient with some things … and try to make sense of things. For a child of his age … I think it must be very destructive.

Do you have a sense of what kind of support Omar would need if he were to be released?

OD: I am sure he would need support. Yes.

Like something like what I had. We had family to understand…and family contacts … and then we had lots of friends who were here working, who were very sympathetic to conditions…and we were always surrounded by those friends…and they tried to help and sometimes explain … even in normal things in life.

Like we needed some help in going to medical assistance, and they might have be able to contact people or they knew other friends that might help … and things like that.

Even normal things like that … and try to adjust to normal life again.

He will definitely need lots of help from people. Maybe even medical doctors. Family and friends and sympathetic society.

If society … I don’t know how things are in Canada. If they are hostile … it might just cause more damage and more resentment and fear and he would lock himself inside in isolation…like I have seen with other people who have sensed that society are hostile against them.

But I think with freedom and family support I am sure … he is a very intelligent young boy … young man.

And I think he is a very sociable, and very talented, and very intelligent.

I think if he was to be free, I think he would make a good future I am sure, and turn his experiences into positive experience.

I told him when he gets released … I asked him to contact me that I can help him with marriage, or something like that. Cause I know his father died when he was in prison, and it must have affected him.

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. They have fought against co-operating with or helping him at all levels of Canada’s judicial system, in both 2008 and 2010, and both years the Canadian government was found, in every court, to have violated Omar Khadr’s rights as a Canadian citizen. The Federal Court of Canada has also ruled that the activities of the Canadian government in this case constituted a breach of the UN Convention against Torture and the Geneva Conventions.

Omar Khadr signed a plea bargain last fall that would see him home to Canada in November 2011, if the Canadian government upholds its promise to him. Recently, the Canadian High Commission refused board on an Air Canada direct flight to internationally acclaimed human rights activist Moazzem Begg. Begg was invited by Omar Khadr’s defense lawyer to speak in Canada about Islamophobia, Guantanamo, and, of course, his former cell mate Omar Khadr.

2011-05-29 Prism Magazine: Livestream discussion on the Canadian and American “No-Fly Lists”

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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.

Moazzam Begg was refused board on a direct Air Canada flight from London to Toronto last week, preventing him from speaking at a Conference on Islamophobia and The Politics of Fear at the Islamic Society of York Region, Toronto Canada, on May 21, as well as two other speaking engagements in Canada.

The livestream will be available at both the following sites:

http://www.livestream.com/prismmagazine

and

http://www.prism-magazine.com/prism-tv/

Infographic credit: JESS3.