On Thursday, at Guantánamo, Omar Khadr, the Canadian citizen who accepted a plea deal on Monday in his trial by Military Commission, and is now facing sentencing hearings so that a military jury can deliver a sentence in his case, made a statement that, as the Globe and Mail described it, was “the first time [he] has spoken more than a few words publicly since he was captured and gravely wounded after a firefight in Afghanistan in July 2002,” at the age of 15. Khadr’s statement concluded with an apology to Tabitha Speer, the widow of Delta Force Sgt. Christopher Speer, who died in the firefight, and is reproduced below in the edited form made available to the media. For a more detailed analysis of the circumstances in which this statement was made, see the accompanying article, “In Omar Khadr’s Sentencing Phase, US Government Introduces Islamophobic ‘Expert’ and Irrelevant Testimony.”
Omar Khadr’s statement
My name is Omar Khadr. I’m 24 years old. I finished 8th Grade. My hobbies are sports and reading. I decided to plead guilty to take responsibility for the acts I’ve done …
Firstly, I lost my sight in my left eye. And my right eye was severely wounded. I still experience problems with my right eye. I have a cataract and shrapnel. I’ve been notified by medical staff that I might lose my vision from my injuries. I was shot twice in my back. Once in my left shoulder, another in my back and they both exited from my chest …
Oh, that’s my biggest dream and biggest wish, to get out of this place. Because, being in this place, I’ve really known and understood the wonders and beauties of life I haven’t experienced before. I would really like to have a chance to experience these things.
The first thing is school and knowledge, have the chance to have true relationships, an experience I’ve never had in my life. And almost everything else in life. Education is knowledge and I have a fascination with knowledge. I just feel it’s something beautiful to understand and know and have a sense of everything in life …
The most important thing that I wish for is being a doctor of medicine. That’s because, me personally, I’ve experienced from my injuries physical pain and I’ve experienced like emotional pains. I know what pain means. I’d really love to relieve a person who is suffering from such pain.
During my time here, as Nelson Mandela says, in prison, the most thing you have is time to think about things. I’ve had a lot of time to think about things. I came to a conclusion that hate, first thing is, you’re not going to gain anything with hate. Second thing, it’s more destructive than it’s constructive. Third thing: I came to a conclusion that love and forgiveness are more constructive and will bring people together and will give them understanding and will solve a lot of problems …
[Standing, to Tabitha Speer]:
I’m really really sorry for the pain I’ve caused you and your family. I wish I could do something that would take this pain away from you. This is all I can say.
Note: The courtroom sketch above is by Janet Hamlin, and is reproduced courtesy of Janet Hamlin Illustration.
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, currently on tour in the UK, and available on DVD here), and my definitive Guantánamo habeas list, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Andy Worthington, Elie Levasseur. Elie Levasseur said: ProJ @GuantanamoAndy, 645flw: Omar Khadr’s Statement at Guantanamo, October 28, 2010 – Remorse, hope for the futur… http://bit.ly/cFk1vQ […]
On Facebook, Dave Brown wrote:
So the years of incarceration in solitary confinement had nothing to do with his confession?
At 15 the supposed crimes were committed. Amazing how a 15 year old could stave off fessing up, and now he freely admits the crime.
Was he tried as a juvenile or as an adult?
Robin Laurain wrote:
At 15 his brain isn’t even developed yet. He still thinks like a child. He will be damaged forever. No child should ever have to go through what he has.
[…] Khadr to plead guilty, serve most of terror sentence in Canada Omar Khadr’s Statement at Guant On Thursday, at Guantánamo, Omar Khadr, the Canadian citizen who accepted a plea deal on […]
Rowland S. Whittet wrote:
There is a cultural divide here in that Muslims accused of crimes often confess regardless of guilt or innocence because they believe the accusation itself is a case of ” inshallah ” testing their faith.
Thanks for the comments, Dave, Robin and Rowland.
As for your question, Dave, Donald Rumsfeld famously stated in 2003, when the story first broke that juvenile prisoners were held at Guantanamo, “these are not children,” and as the Obama administration decided last year not only to revive the Military Commissions, but also to refile the charges against Omar Khadr, it’s clear that it was Rumsfeld’s opinion that drove that decision, and not the government’s obligations under the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, which was ratified in December 2002, and which requires signatories to rehabilitate juvenile prisoners, rather than putting them on trial on invented war crimes charges.
Henry W. Peters wrote:
”Rumsfeld famously stated in 2003, when the story first broke that juvenile prisoners were held at Guantanamo, “these are not children,”
Yet we invaded (this) country, basically on the (often) unspoken premise that “they” are “children” (i.e., cannot take care of “their” most basic needs).
AniTa Hernan wrote:
They have tortured him enough. I don’t understand… why can’t he be released? Hasn’t he paid a high price? Whether or not he hurt anyone is irrelevant… he was defending his territory and US were the invaders. Why didn’t he have the right to defend himself? I don’t understand any of it.
Robin Laurain wrote:
And what can be done about this…nothing?
The question I ask is what can we do to prevent this from happening or how do concerned citizens of the world help this child?
Robin also wrote:
I predict he will be a great leader someday. Does anyone know how to write to him — send him books or whatever they can have? My group sends books to kids in the Mich. Prisons. I was wondering what they consider Gitmo? Is it military or is it classified as a Federal prison?
I am going to have to do some research as I know little about the facility.
Thanks for the comments, Robin, Henry and AniTa.
And Robin, what we can do about this is to support organizations opposed to the Military Commisisons, who want federal court trials for prisoners at Guantanamo accused of terrorist offences — like the ACLU, Human Rights First, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and others.
Lawmakers, sadly, are useless on any of this, and even the few that care have become paralyzed by the extent of the opposition to anything positive relating to Guantanamo.
As for sending anything to the men, Guantanamo is not only a military prison, but an exceptional place in every sad way, and any books that you send won’t get to them. The best you can do is to send them a brief note wishing them well. Instructions are here: http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2010/06/23/write-to-the-forgotten-prisoners-in-guantanamo/
With a weapon or with a grenade in his hands, a child continues being a victim of the war and not a soldier. This child was Omar Khadar . The exact truth is that this child could never choose take part freely in this war, he made it forced by the powerful influence of his father and of his Islamic culture, therefore this child never had really another alternative. It is a juridical aberration the fact that a Military Court judges a child, as if he was an adult and a soldier.This is unproceeding, is a tremendous violation to the most basic human rights, is absurd and ilegal. It is a coward and hysterical measure, and an insult to the intelligence of every decent MAN. It is the protitución of the Law and of the Justice to support a child and now to the young person prisoner of hostage to obtain information of him. If the authorities want to order a hard message to the terrorism: with the whole violence of the war that this child has suffered in his body and in his spirit, more his adolescence and youth ruined by the privation of the freedom and the humiliations of nine years of prison, it is more than sufficient. We gain nothing, not neither for our reason, nor for our safety, and not by no means at all in favour of the peace, with the revenge of demonstrating to the Islamic ones that we can be sadistic and cruel with a child or a young person.
Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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