The trials of Omar Khadr, Guantánamo’s “child soldier”


Omar KhadrOn July 27, 2002, so the story goes, a US Special Forces unit stationed in Khost, in south eastern Afghanistan, received a tip-off from an Afghan villager that a group of al-Qaeda terrorists was operating out of a compound near Ab Khail, a small town in the hills near the Pakistani border. Although they found nothing there, one member of the unit, Sgt. Layne Morris, decided to check another compound nearby. Taking five other soldiers with him, Morris spied, through a chink in the gate, five Arab men, all heavily armed. When they refused his call to surrender, he summoned reinforcements.

45 minutes later, when the reinforcements arrived and Pashtu translators began attempting to negotiate with the men, they responded by firing their guns and hurling grenades. Wounded in one eye, Morris was evacuated by helicopter, but the battle continued for four hours, and the five men refused to give up even as American planes bombed the compound relentlessly. When the shooting finally stopped, the remaining soldiers — Sgt. Christopher Speer and four others –- entered the shattered compound, intending to “collect arms and intelligence.” They were not expecting to find anyone alive, and were therefore caught off-guard when Omar Khadr, who was hidden between the remains of two buildings, apparently threw a grenade at them. Wounded in the head, Speer was also evacuated, but later died from his injuries at a military hospital in Germany.

“Within seconds,” said Capt. Mike Silver, who walked into the compound behind Sgt. Speer, “we had him [Omar] pinpointed and we opened fire.” Shot three times in the chest, Khadr dropped the pistol he was carrying, and when Capt. Silver approached him, called out, “Shoot me. Please, just shoot me.” Although a sergeant who was present noted later that “every US soldier who walked by Omar longed to put a bullet in his head,” the unit’s medic insisted on patching him up. It was an act of kindness that has rarely been repeated in the five years and four months since.

Transferred to a hospital at the US prison in Bagram airbase, north of Kabul, with chest wounds and shrapnel injuries to his head and one of his eyes, Khadr’s interrogation began as soon as he regained consciousness. According to his own account, reported by Amnesty International, he “asked for pain medication for his wounds but was refused,” said that “during interrogations a bag was placed over his head and US personnel brought military dogs into the room to frighten him,” and added that he was “not allowed to use the bathroom and was forced to urinate on himself.” Like many other prisoners, he was also hung from his wrists, and explained that “his hands were tied above a door frame and he was forced to stand in this position for hours.” An article in Rolling Stone, in August 2006, added further details, noting that he was “brought into interrogation rooms on stretchers, in great pain,” and was “ordered to clean floors on his hands and knees while his wounds were still wet.” The rationale, according to an unnamed official cited by Amnesty, was to secure intelligence at all costs. He claimed that captured prisoners were so scared of abuse by US soldiers that they would talk without prompting. The prisoners “sometimes think we are going to cut out their livers,” he said, citing Khadr as an example of a prisoner “singing like a bird.”

Ahmed KhadrIt is not known at which point the US authorities realized who Omar Khadr was –- the third of four sons of Ahmed Said Khadr, who had fought with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan in the 1980s, during the US-sponsored mujahideen resistance to the Soviet occupation. Based in Canada after emigrating from Egypt in 1977, Ahmed Khadr was reportedly a financier for al-Qaeda, and had taken his family to live in a compound with bin Laden’s family after the leader of al-Qaeda returned to Afghanistan in 1996. Once this information was registered, however, Omar’s fate –- as a significant “enemy combatant,” to be held beyond the reach of the law –- was sealed.

More crucially, it is not known at which point the US authorities realized that Omar, born on September 19, 1986, was only 15 years old when he was captured, although Rolling Stone reported that, when the Special Forces soldiers approached him after shooting him in Ab Khail, “they saw that he was just a boy. Fifteen years old and slightly built, he could have passed for thirteen.” For those prosecuting the “War on Terror,” however, Omar’s age was irrelevant. Dozens of children were held in Guantánamo, and, although few were treated as badly as Omar, only a handful –- three even younger Afghan children –- were ever segregated from the prison’s adult population (in a separate block, Camp Iguana), and treated with something close to appropriate care.

Amnesty International suggested that, “because the USA is one of only two states that have not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which recognizes that children need special safeguards and care, it feels free to trample on the human rights of juveniles in its ‘war on terror,”’ and this was confirmed by pronouncements from within the administration. At a press conference in April 2003, after the “child prisoners” story first surfaced, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld pointedly described the juvenile detainees as “not children,” and General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that they “may be juveniles, but they’re not on the Little League team anywhere. They’re on a major league team, and it’s a terrorist team, and they’re in Guantánamo for a very good reason –- for our safety, for your safety.”

As a result, Omar’s torture continued with impunity in Guantánamo. On his arrival, in October 2002, just a few weeks after his 16th birthday, he was immediately subjected to a regime of humiliation, isolation and abuse –- including extreme temperature manipulation, forced nudity and sexual humiliation –- which had just been introduced in an attempt to increase the meager flow of “actionable intelligence” from the prison. He told his lawyers that he was “short-shackled by his hands and feet to a bolt in the floor and left for five to six hours,” and that “occasionally a US officer would enter the room to laugh at him.” He also said that he was “kept in extremely cold rooms,” “lifted up by the neck while shackled, and then dropped to the floor,” and “beaten by guards.” In one particularly notorious incident, the guards left him short-shackled until he urinated on himself, and then “poured a pine-scented cleaning fluid over him and used him as a ‘human mop’ to clean up the mess.” As if further humiliation was required, he added that he was “not provided with clean clothes for several days after this degradation.”

Confirming its disregard for the rights of children, the administration proceeded, in November 2005, to designate Omar as one of ten Guantánamo detainees to be tried by Military Commission. Under this new process, dreamt up by Dick Cheney and his senior counsel David Addington in November 2001, the detainees could be tried –- and even sentenced to death –- using secret evidence that would never be revealed to either the detainees or their government-appointed defense lawyers.

Omar’s age did, however, make a difference to lawyers and human rights groups, who have maintained, ever since his case first came to light, that he should have been treated as a juvenile from the moment he was seized by US forces. They have also pointed out that the Military Commissions, which are grotesquely unjust when applied to adults, are doubly so when applied to juveniles, whether the children in question are “soldiers” or not. It would, indeed, be hard to imagine a situation that reflected more badly on the reputation of the United States as a nation established and administered under the rule of law than to prosecute a juvenile in a system that, rather than functioning as a beacon of justice, bore more than a passing resemblance to the show trials of Stalinist Russia.

Omar’s lawyers, Muneer Ahmad and Rick Wilson, who run the International Human Rights Law Clinic at American University, first visited him in October 2004, following a crucial ruling in the Supreme Court in June 2004, when, in a landmark case, Rasul v. Bush, the Justices ruled by 6 to 3 that the detainees had the right to challenge the legal limbo in which they had been held for nearly two and half years, demolishing, along the way, the administration’s long-cherished belief that Guantánamo did not count as US territory.

Although the arrival at Guantánamo of Ahmad, Wilson, and dozens of other lawyers finally pierced the veil of total secrecy that had shrouded the prison since its inception, the administration’s other response to the Supreme Court’s ruling on the detainees’ habeas rights was shockingly underhand. Instead of opening up to the US court system, those in overall charge of Guantánamo instigated a tribunal system to confirm that the detainees were “enemy combatants,” and that they could therefore continue to hold them without charge or trial. To effect their aims, the tribunals –- the Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRTs) –- prevented detainees from being represented by lawyers, and, like the Commissions, relied on secret evidence obtained through torture, coercion or bribery.

Ahmad explained that he and Wilson took Omar’s case on legal principle but also “to remind the world that this kid is there, that he is alive, that his life has value and meaning and that he’s been thrown in a hole. It’s our collective responsibility to treat him with the dignity that he deserves.” He recalled that, when he finally met Omar, his first thought was, “He’s just a little kid.” As Rolling Stone described it, “Omar was gaunt and pale, in a state of everlasting exhaustion, his senses starved by solitude. He had large gunshot-wound scars on his back and chest, and smaller scars over most of his body, several parts of which still held shrapnel.” “You feel a general protectiveness toward these folks just because they’re kept without access to anyone,” Ahmad added. “And because of Omar’s age and lack of world experience, you feel that much more protective. You’re conscious of not infantilizing him, but when someone is that young, you would be wrong not to recognize this. Our contention is that children are deserving of special protection –- that’s been our legal approach, and it’s also been our ethos in our relationship with him.”

Securing Omar’s trust did not prove easy, primarily because suspicion and paranoia were built into the fabric of Guantánamo, and also because guards and interrogators did all they could to slander the lawyers –- as Arab-hating Jews or homosexuals, for instance –- or to suggest that cooperating with them would ensure that they remained in Guantánamo for life. Gradually, however, as Rolling Stone explained, “Omar revealed himself to be very shy and curious and, in most ways, still a child, with a child’s sweetness and credulous charm.” When the lawyers offered to get him something to read, “he asked for coloring books and car magazines and books with photographs of big animals,” and when, after a break during a meeting, they asked him what kind of juice he wanted them to bring back, he said, “Just something weird.”

More worrying, however, than these poignant demonstrations of the stunted growth of Omar’s adolescent mind, is the psychological impact of indefinite detention. A number of medical experts, who reviewed the results of mental status tests administered by his lawyers, stated that he had been severely traumatized by his experiences. Dr. Eric Trupin, who has conducted extensive research on the effects of incarceration on adolescents, explained, “The impact of these harsh interrogation techniques on an adolescent such as O.K. [Omar], who also has been isolated for almost three years, is potentially catastrophic to his future development. Long-term consequences of harsh interrogation techniques are both more pronounced for adolescents and more difficult to remediate or treat even after such interrogations are discontinued, particularly if the victim is uncertain as to whether they will resume. It is my opinion, to a reasonable scientific certainty, that O.K.’s continued subjection to the threat of physical and mental abuse places him at significant risk for future psychiatric deterioration, which may include irreversible psychiatric symptoms and disorders, such as a psychosis with treatment-resistant hallucinations, paranoid delusions and persistent self-harming attempts.”

In the three years since Ahmad and Wilson first met Omar, his isolation –- and the perils to his young mind –- have not diminished, and, although singled out for trial by Military Commission, he remains, like every other detainee, held in what appears to be an unending legal limbo, as the Commissions have stumbled from one legal setback to another. In April 2006, when he was briefly hauled up before his first trial, Omar read out a note that read, “Excuse me, Mr. Judge, I’m being punished for exercising my right and being co-operative in participating in this military commission. For that, I say with my respect to you and everybody else here, that I’m boycotting these procedures until I be treated humanely and fair.”

Omar did not have long to wait until his first trial collapsed. In June 2006, the Supreme Court ruled that the Commissions were illegal under US law and the Geneva Conventions, and highlighted the relevance of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which forbids “cruel treatment and torture” and “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.” Justice Anthony Kennedy even went so far as to warn the administration that “violations of Common Article 3 are considered ‘war crimes,’ punishable as federal offences, when committed by or against United States nationals and military personnel.”

Scurrying back to its bunker, the administration seized on a comment made by one of the judges, Justice Stephen Breyer, who had said, “Nothing prevents the President from returning to Congress to seek the authority he believes necessary,” and responded by drafting the Military Commissions Act (MCA). Passed by a comatose Congress last fall, this despicable piece of legislation reintroduced the Commissions and, for good measure, removed the detainees’ habeas corpus rights that had been demanded by the Supreme Court in June 2004.

Duly revived in March this year, the Commissions skirted their first challenge, when the Australian detainee David Hicks accepted a plea bargain and dropped his well-documented allegations of torture at the hands of US forces in exchange for a nine-month sentence to be served in his homeland, but collapsed again in June, when Omar’s case, and that of Salim Hamdan, a Yemeni who had worked as a driver for Osama bin Laden, were dismissed by the Commissions’ military judges. In separate decisions, both Army Colonel Peter Brownback (for Khadr) and Navy Captain Keith Allred (for Hamdan) pointed out that the MCA had mandated them to try “unlawful enemy combatants,” whereas the tribunals that had made them eligible for trial –- the Combatant Status Review Tribunals –- had only declared that they were “enemy combatants.”

Omar Khadr during his Military Commission in June 2007

Omar Khadr (far left) during his aborted Military Commission in June 2007 (©AFP/Getty Images).

After a petulant hiatus, in which the administration’s language-shredding officials declared that the distinction was merely one of semantics (which it was not), the government declared that it would appeal the decisions, and was once more ridiculed when it was revealed that the appeals court in question –- the Court of Military Commission Review, which was also mandated by the MCA –- had not yet been established. Convened in August, in what the New York Times described as “a borrowed courtroom half a block from the White House,” the appeals court duly decided that the Commissions’ judges had the right to sweep away these inconvenient distinctions, and Omar’s trial was rescheduled for November 8.

And so, last Thursday morning, as the sun rose over Guantánamo Bay, journalists, human rights activists, and, for the first time, a few hand-picked administration cheerleaders from organizations including the Heritage Foundation, crowded into a makeshift military courtroom to witness the government’s latest attempt to fulfil a six-year old dream: securing the successful conviction of a “war criminal” in a court designed primarily by Dick Cheney and David Addington, which bears no resemblance to any court recognized in domestic or international law.

The courthouse at Guantanamo

The courthouse at Guantánamo (©Greg Savoy, Reuters).

Omar’s third trial began with the kind of unpredictable challenges that observers of the ad-hoc legal system have come to recognize from previous attempts to rewrite the law. His tenacious military lawyer, Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler, who has traveled to Canada to publicize his client’s plight, and, in the last few months, has described the Commissions as rigged, ridiculous, unjust, farcical, and a sham, tore into the judge, challenging Col. Brownback’s independence, and arguing that he was too involved in the system to make impartial decisions. Referring to a comment that Brownback had made, in which he admitted taking “a lot of heat” over his decision in June, Kuebler forced the judge to fight back, admitting that he made the comments, but denying that anyone in authority had put pressure on him.

After a two hour hearing, the much-vaunted trial turned out to be nothing more than an arraignment. To the dismay of the prosecutors, who had hoped to show a video, retrieved from the Ab Khail compound, that purportedly showed Omar making and planting roadside explosives, Col. Brownback refused to allow the video to be shown, and postponed the trial to allow time for the defense to examine the new evidence.

The real reason that Col. Brownback postponed the trial –- without, in the end, ruling that Omar was indeed an “unlawful enemy combatant” –- was only revealed after the arraignment, when deputy chief defense counsel Mike Berrigan announced that, just 36 hours before the trial began, the lead prosecutor, Marine Corps Major Jeff Groharing, had informed Khadr’s defense team of the existence of “potentially exculpatory evidence” from a “US government employee,” who was an eye-witness to the gunfight in Afghanistan that led to Khadr’s capture. As Carol Williams described it more bluntly in the Los Angeles Times, “The eye-witness’ account contradicts the government version of events and could exonerate Khadr of the war crimes with which he is charged: murder, attempted murder, conspiracy, spying and material support for terrorism.”

“It’s an eye-witness the government has always known about,” Lt. Cmdr. Kuebler explained to the press, adding that the disclosure was symptomatic of the underlying problem with a system that was “designed to produce convictions.” He also asked, “How much other exculpatory evidence is out there behind the black curtain that we cannot see?” and Mike Berrigan added, “How we can be on the eve of a hearing to determine his status –- and how we can have newly discovered evidence –- is beyond me.”

Further criticism came from Jennifer Daskal, senior counter-terrorism counsel at Human Rights Watch, who explained, “It is totally outrageous that the prosecution would try to push ahead with a hearing on whether or not Khadr was an unlawful enemy combatant, while all the time withholding from the defense potentially exculpatory information. Anyone who has ever gone to law school knows the fundamental legal and ethical rule –- the prosecution cannot withhold exculpatory information from the defense.”

Jennifer Daskal was correct to highlight the “fundamental legal and ethical rule” about exculpatory evidence, but its omission for five years in Omar’s case is typical of the rigged and unjust system that Lt. Cmdr. Kuebler and other principled military lawyers –- including Michael Mori, who defended David Hicks, and Charlie Swift, who lost his job for defending Salim Hamdan –- have spent so long railing against. It is, moreover, not a problem that applies exclusively to the Military Commissions.

Just five weeks ago, an Army Major, who served on 49 tribunals at Guantánamo, made a sworn statement –- included in an affidavit filed on behalf of another Guantánamo detainee, a Sudanese hospital administrator named Adel Hamad –- in which he criticized the absence of exculpatory evidence in the tribunals. Noting that any exculpatory evidence, which might have exonerated the detainees, was supposed to be presented separately, “as required in the CSRT rules,” he explained that no exculpatory evidence whatsoever was presented in any of his 49 tribunals, and added that the only time he ever encountered exculpatory evidence was “by accident,” when “some of the evidence presented by the recorder [whose role was “to generate the evidence“ to present to the tribunals] would contradict the allegations made against the detainee.”

In the legal netherworld of Guantánamo, beyond US criminal law and the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the failure to disclose potentially exculpatory evidence for five years is, of course, no surprise. The administration’s many shields –- designed to prevent all mention of torture and ill-treatment, while securing convictions at all costs –- rely, specifically, on the right to withhold classified evidence from the detainees and their lawyers, and, moreover, to impose protective orders shielding the identities of witnesses, interrogators and informants. Though little reported, the imposition of protective orders –- described as “draconian” by Lt. Cmdr. Kuebler –- has led to a situation whereby, as Carol Williams reported, “Affidavits sworn by bounty hunters in Pakistan who turned over more than 200 of Guantanamo’s detainees in exchange for sums upwards of $5,000 are among the classified documents that neither defendants nor trial observers are allowed to see.”

In such an environment, Omar is lucky that the exculpatory evidence was presented at all. As he returns to enforced solitary confinement once more, it’s hard not to wonder whether finally, after 64 months of hideous imprisonment, his long journey to some sort of justice is finally near. But then I recall some of the most chilling words ever uttered by the administration: that, even if detainees are eventually acquitted in their military trials, they might be held indefinitely in Guantánamo anyway.

Andy’s book The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison, was published last week, on the day of Omar’s arraignment. Parts of this article are drawn from passages in the book. The book is published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed.

As published on Nth Position and CounterPunch.

See the following for a sequence of articles dealing with the stumbling progress of the Military Commissions: The reviled Military Commissions collapse (June 2007), A bad week at Guantánamo (Commissions revived, September 2007), The curse of the Military Commissions strikes the prosecutors (September 2007), A good week at Guantánamo (chief prosecutor resigns, October 2007), The story of Mohamed Jawad (October 2007), Guantánamo trials: where are the terrorists? (February 2008), Six in Guantánamo charged with 9/11 attacks: why now, and what about the torture? (February 2008), Guantánamo’s shambolic trials (ex-prosecutor turns, February 2008), Torture allegations dog Guantánamo trials (March 2008), African embassy bombing suspect charged (March 2008), The US military’s shameless propaganda over 9/11 trials (April 2008), Betrayals, backsliding and boycotts (May 2008), Fact Sheet: The 16 prisoners charged (May 2008), Four more charged, including Binyam Mohamed (June 2008), Afghan fantasist to face trial (June 2008), 9/11 trial defendants cry torture (June 2008), USS Cole bombing suspect charged (July 2008), Folly and injustice (Salim Hamdan’s trial approved, July 2008), A critical overview of Salim Hamdan’s Guantánamo trial and the dubious verdict (August 2008), Salim Hamdan’s sentence signals the end of Guantánamo (August 2008), High Court rules against UK and US in case of Binyam Mohamed (August 2008), Controversy still plagues Guantánamo’s Military Commissions (September 2008), Another Insignificant Afghan Charged (September 2008), Seized at 15, Omar Khadr Turns 22 in Guantánamo (September 2008), Is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Running the 9/11 Trials? (September 2008), two articles exploring the Commissions’ corrupt command structure (The Dark Heart of the Guantánamo Trials, and New Evidence of Systemic Bias in Guantánamo Trials, October 2008), Meltdown at the Guantánamo Trials (five trials dropped, October 2008), The collapse of Omar Khadr’s Guantánamo trial (October 2008), Corruption at Guantánamo (legal adviser faces military investigations, October 2008), An empty trial at Guantánamo (Ali Hamza al-Bahlul, October 2008), Life sentence for al-Qaeda propagandist fails to justify Guantánamo trials (al-Bahlul, November 2008), Guilt by Torture: Binyam Mohamed’s Transatlantic Quest for Justice (November 2008), 20 Reasons To Shut Down The Guantánamo Trials (profiles of all the prisoners charged, November 2008), How Guantánamo Can Be Closed: Advice for Barack Obama (November 2008), More Dubious Charges in the Guantánamo Trials (two Kuwaitis, November 2008), The End of Guantánamo (Salim Hamdan repatriated, November 2008), Torture, Preventive Detention and the Terror Trials at Guantánamo (December 2008), Is the 9/11 trial confession an al-Qaeda coup? (December 2008), The Dying Days of the Guantánamo Trials (January 2009), Former Guantánamo Prosecutor Condemns Chaotic Trials (Lt. Col. Vandeveld on Mohamed Jawad, January 2009), Torture taints the case of Mohamed Jawad (January 2009), Bush Era Ends with Guantánamo Trial Chief’s Torture Confession (Susan Crawford on Mohammed al-Qahtani, January 2009), Chaos and Lies: Why Obama Was Right to Halt The Guantánamo Trials (January 2009), Binyam Mohamed’s Plea Bargain: Trading Torture For Freedom (March 2009).

And for a sequence of articles dealing with the Obama administration’s response to the Military Commissions, see: Don’t Forget Guantánamo (February 2009), Who’s Running Guantánamo? (February 2009), The Talking Dog interviews Darrel Vandeveld, former Guantánamo prosecutor (February 2009), Obama’s First 100 Days: A Start On Guantánamo, But Not Enough (May 2009), Obama Returns To Bush Era On Guantánamo (May 2009), New Chief Prosecutor Appointed For Military Commissions At Guantánamo (May 2009), Pain At Guantánamo And Paralysis In Government (May 2009), My Message To Obama: Great Speech, But No Military Commissions and No “Preventive Detention” (May 2009), Guantánamo And The Many Failures Of US Politicians (May 2009), A Child At Guantánamo: The Unending Torment of Mohamed Jawad (June 2009), A Broken Circus: Guantánamo Trials Convene For One Day Of Chaos (June 2009), Obama Proposes Swift Execution of Alleged 9/11 Conspirators (June 2009), Obama’s Confusion Over Guantánamo Terror Trials (June 2009).

For a sequence of articles dealing with the use of torture by the CIA, on “high-value detainees,” and in the secret prisons, see: Guantánamo’s tangled web: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Majid Khan, dubious US convictions, and a dying man (July 2007), Jane Mayer on the CIA’s “black sites,” condemnation by the Red Cross, and Guantánamo’s “high-value” detainees (including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed) (August 2007), Waterboarding: two questions for Michael Hayden about three “high-value” detainees now in Guantánamo (February 2008), The Insignificance and Insanity of Abu Zubaydah: Ex-Guantánamo Prisoner Confirms FBI’s Doubts (April 2008), Secret Prison on Diego Garcia Confirmed: Six “High-Value” Guantánamo Prisoners Held, Plus “Ghost Prisoner” Mustafa Setmariam Nasar (August 2008), Will the Bush administration be held accountable for war crimes? (December 2008), The Ten Lies of Dick Cheney (Part One) and The Ten Lies of Dick Cheney (Part Two) (December 2008), Prosecuting the Bush Administration’s Torturers (March 2009), Abu Zubaydah: The Futility Of Torture and A Trail of Broken Lives (March 2009), Ten Terrible Truths About The CIA Torture Memos (Part One), Ten Terrible Truths About The CIA Torture Memos (Part Two), 9/11 Commission Director Philip Zelikow Condemns Bush Torture Program, Who Authorized The Torture of Abu Zubaydah?, CIA Torture Began In Afghanistan 8 Months before DoJ Approval, Even In Cheney’s Bleak World, The Al-Qaeda-Iraq Torture Story Is A New Low (all April 2009), Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi Has Died In A Libyan Prison, Dick Cheney And The Death Of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, The “Suicide” Of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi: Why The Media Silence?, Two Experts Cast Doubt On Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi’s “Suicide”, Lawrence Wilkerson Nails Cheney On Use Of Torture To Invade Iraq, In the Guardian: Death in Libya, betrayal by the West (in the Guardian here) (all May 2009), Lawrence Wilkerson Nails Cheney’s Iraq Lies Again (And Rumsfeld And The CIA), and WORLD EXCLUSIVE: New Revelations About The Torture Of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi (June 2009).

For other stories discussing the use of torture in secret prisons, see: An unreported story from Guantánamo: the tale of Sanad al-Kazimi (August 2007), Rendered to Egypt for torture, Mohammed Saad Iqbal Madni is released from Guantánamo (September 2008), A History of Music Torture in the “War on Terror” (December 2008), Seven Years of Torture: Binyam Mohamed Tells His Story (March 2009), and also see the extensive Binyam Mohamed archive. And for other stories discussing torture at Guantánamo and/or in “conventional” US prisons in Afghanistan, see: The testimony of Guantánamo detainee Omar Deghayes: includes allegations of previously unreported murders in the US prison at Bagram airbase (August 2007), Guantánamo Transcripts: “Ghost” Prisoners Speak After Five And A Half Years, And “9/11 hijacker” Recants His Tortured Confession (September 2007), Former US interrogator Damien Corsetti recalls the torture of prisoners in Bagram and Abu Ghraib (December 2007), Sami al-Haj: the banned torture pictures of a journalist in Guantánamo (April 2008), Judge Orders Release of Guantánamo’s Forgotten Child (Mohammed El-Gharani, January 2009), Forgotten in Guantánamo: British Resident Shaker Aamer (March 2009).

45 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    After this article was published on CounterPunch, I received the following comment from Vincent Mulier:

    “Thank you, Mr. Worthington, for your excellent article about the case of Omar Khadr. It made me shake and cry and want to vomit from the horror. I am an attorney in Oregon, USA. If you know of anything I can do to assist the prisoners at Guantánamo, please tell me.”

    After I replied, asking for permission to post Vincent’s comments here, he sent another message:

    “Sure, Andy, you can always post my comment. I can’t say it’s anything special, though. I force myself to read every account of Guantánamo, because as an American citizen I feel partially responsible. Yours isn’t the first account which has provoked horror in me. Being in legal no man’s land, being incarcerated and tortured for reasons which are not even disclosed, strikes me viscerally as a close approximation of hell. As close as anything on this planet can be. Those prisoners (Khadr and all the others) are being permanently ruined. They are being turned into broken people forever. This eats at me. My government is doing this; rational humans are doing this. They are doing it deliberately, calculatingly, with a great deal of planning. This sickens me. Spontaneous brutality is one thing. That is bad enough. But calculated, carefully planned brutality is of a totally different order.”

    This, succinctly, is what it’s all about. Thanks, Vincent.

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  3. paul siemering says...

    I totally agree Omar should be sent home because he was a child when he was detained by u.s.

    But I really wonder how anybody can be prosecuted for shooting back at invading troops. Is that some new violation of Geneva? Is that what enemy combatant means? We can invade, shoot, bomb, and if you resist we try you as a common criminal? Our country appears even more deranged than ever.

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  5. john syracopoulos says...

    thank you for publishing this. I am a us citizen currently living abroad. (I dont want my tax dollars going to those filthy wars). I have cried, and cried over this. This is a shame and a mockery to universal justice, as well as Christianity. If there is anything that I can do, eventhough I am really no one of any modern day deemed importance, please let me know. If this is America, than I do not want anything to do with it. I would rather have the child harm me than myself take the life of a child. This is truly disgusting, and if this is what the US soldiers are doing over there in Guantanamo, “off of the battle field”, then I do NOT respect them, and I do NOT support them. Period. What happened to human rights? What if this was an American child? Do you think G-d will forgive US for this? So much horror on 9/11 and the only solution was to add to it? How is this peace making?

  6. java says...

    […] first defendant to face pre-trial hearings was Omar Khadr, who is accused of murder in violation of the rules of war, attempted murder in violation of the […]

  7. UmmTayyab says...

    Omar was not shot in the chest, nor was he seen with a pistol in his hand. The witness’s afidavit stated that he found 2 people alive in that compound after the last grenade was thrown and Omar had his back to the direction it was lobbed. In fact, Morris never laid eyes on Omar, he testified to the fact he never actually saw Omar at all, he had already been injuredin one eye, all he knew was what he was told by others.

    Omar was shot in the back! See his exit wounds:

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    […] who was on the verge of securing a dubious place in the history books by ruling that the trial of Omar Khadr — the only prisoner to date who has not boycotted his hearings — would go ahead in […]

  9. Afghan Fantasist to Face Trial at Guantanamo | says...

    […] the other cases put forward for trial by Military Commission, such as those of the Canadian child Omar Khadr and the British resident Binyam Mohamed (charged last week), who was flown around the world to have […]

  10. DhafirTrial » Omar Khadr’s Canadian Interrogation at Guantánamo says...

    […] footage (highlights available here in a 10-minute version) from interrogations of Canadian citizen Omar Khadr, who was just 15 years old when he was seized after a firefight with U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan […]

  11. Andy Worthington: Guantanamo trials: another insignificant Afghan charged | Cross Party Lines says...

    […] all of these cases, and in others attention has also focused on the prisoners’ age: two, Omar Khadr and Mohamed Jawad, were under 18 when captured, and should, according to the United States’ […]

  12. exotraxx division says...

    […] I have discussed at length before, several factors have conspired to keep Omar in Guantánamo; in particular, US allegations (only […]

  13. » Shake-Up at Gitmo: A Prosecutor Resigns, Citing ‘Ethical Qualms’ Over Suppressed Evidence says...

    […] 4 — and he also escaped censure the following month, when, during a pre-trial hearing for Omar Khadr (the Canadian who was just 15 years old when he was captured in July 2002), Khadr’s defense […]

  14. The Guantánamo Files: 9/11 Interview, Aafia Siddiqui Protest and Other Events | Dr Aafia - The Prisoner 650 says...

    […] put forward for trial by Military Commission, with a particular focus, at Linda’s request, on Omar Khadr and Mohamed Jawad, the two prisoners, of the 24 charged to date, who were juveniles when they were […]

  15. Omar Khadr: The Guantánamo Files | says...

    […] is a child not a child? Apparently, when he is Omar Khadr, a 15-year-old Canadian who was shot in the back after a firefight in Afghanistan in July 2002. […]

  16. Alex Jones' Prison Planet: The truth will set you free! says...

    […] it was only holding two prisoners who were juveniles at the time of their capture: the Canadian Omar Khadr and the Afghan Mohamed Jawad, who are both facing a trial by Military Commission. The […]

  17. The Animal Farm Radio Show says...

    […] it was only holding two prisoners who were juveniles at the time of their capture: the Canadian Omar Khadr and the Afghan Mohamed Jawad, who are both facing a trial by Military Commission. The […]

  18. Psyche, Science, and Society » the ever rising number of child soldiers at Guantanamo says...

    […] it was only holding two prisoners who were juveniles at the time of their capture: the Canadian Omar Khadr and the Afghan Mohamed Jawad, who are both facing a trial by Military Commission. The […]

  19. Number of juveniles held at Guantanamo almost twice official Pentagon figure « Big Bear Observation Post says...

    […] it was only holding two prisoners who were juveniles at the time of their capture: the Canadian Omar Khadr and the Afghan Mohamed Jawad, who are both facing a trial by Military Commission. The […]

  20. Report: 22 Kids Have Been Held at Gitmo - The WebZappr says...

    […] it was only holding two prisoners who were juveniles at the time of their capture: the Canadian Omar Khadr and the Afghan Mohamed Jawad, who are both facing a trial by Military Commission. The […]

  21. Number of juveniles held at Guantanamo almost twice official Pentagon figure says...

    […] it was only holding two prisoners who were juveniles at the time of their capture: the Canadian Omar Khadr and the Afghan Mohamed Jawad, who are both facing a trial by Military Commission. The […]

  22. » Number of juveniles held at Guantanamo almost twice official Pentagon figure says...

    […] it was only holding two prisoners who were juveniles at the time of their capture: the Canadian Omar Khadr and the Afghan Mohamed Jawad, who are both facing a trial by Military Commission. The […]

  23. Andy Worthington: The Ten Lies of Dick Cheney (Part Two) | My 2 Cents Worth says...

    […] problems include the fact that two prisoners who were juveniles when seized (Omar Khadr and Mohamed Jawad) have been put forward for trials, despite the fact that no juvenile has been put […]

  24. Andy Worthington: The Dying Days of the Guantanamo Trials | World Tweets says...

    […] widely reported — and there was also sporadic interest in the baleful saga of the Canadian Omar Khadr, the other juvenile facing a trial by Military Commission — the media as a whole (with the […]

  25. the Shackle Report » Blog Archive » tortured policy says...

    […] Five And A Half Years, And “9/11 hijacker” Recants His Tortured Confession (September 2007), The Trials of Omar Khadr, Guantánamo’s “child soldier” (November 2007), Former US interrogator Damien Corsetti recalls the torture of prisoners in Bagram […]

  26. Political » Andy Worthington: Obama’s First 100 Days: A Start On Guantanamo, But Not Enough says...

    […] this, the Commissions went quiet, but on Wednesday Col. Patrick Parrish, the judge in the case of Omar Khadr, the Canadian who was just 15 years old when he was seized, half-dead, after a firefight in […]

  27. Obama’s First 100 Days: A Start On Guantánamo, But Not Enough by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    […] this, the Commissions went quiet, but on Wednesday Col. Patrick Parrish, the judge in the case of Omar Khadr, the Canadian who was just 15 years old when he was seized, half-dead, after a firefight in […]

  28. New Chief Prosecutor Appointed For Military Commissions At Guantánamo by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    […] by this failure, Capt. Murphy recently surfaced as part of the prosecution team in the case of Omar Khadr, the Canadian who was just 15 years old when he was seized after a firefight in Afghanistan in July […]

  29. A Child At Guantánamo: The Unending Torment of Mohamed Jawad by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    […] prisoners include Omar Khadr, a Canadian who was just 15 years old when he allegedly threw a grenade that killed a US soldier […]

  30. A Broken Circus: Guantánamo Trials Convene For One Day Of Chaos by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    […] immediately into chaos, as long-running disagreements between members of the defense team for Omar Khadr — the Canadian prisoner who was just 15 years old when he was seized by US forces after a […]

  31. Uighur Protest In Guantánamo: Photos by Andy Worthington + Bob Dylan: Subterranean Homesick Blues « Dandelion Salad says...

    […] the Toronto Star — who had made the trip to watch a military judge commend the Canadian prisoner Omar Khadr for being “well-spoken” and “professional,” while criticizing his lawyers for their […]

  32. Predictable Chaos As Guantánamo Trials Resume by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    […] Wednesday afternoon, Omar Khadr, the Canadian who was just 15 when he was seized in 2002, returned to the court to resume the […]

  33. Andy Worthington: 9/11 Trial At Guantanamo Delayed Again: Can We Have Federal Court Trials Now, Please? | says...

    […] observed proceedings in the cases of Omar Khadr (the Canadian who was just 15 years old when he was seized) and Mohammed Kamin (at best, a minor […]

  34. Military Commissions Revived: Don’t Do It, Mr. President! by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    […] limit on those who can be charged (an omission which may have been included specifically to target Omar Khadr, the Canadian who was just 15 years old when he was seized in 2002); the fact that, despite […]

  35. Military Commissions Revived: Don’t Do It, Mr. President! « says...

    […] limit on those who can be charged (an omission which may have been included specifically to target Omar Khadr, the Canadian who was just 15 years old when he was seized in 2002); the fact that, despite […]

  36. Canadian teenager held at Gitmo eight years-Andy Worthington « FACT – Freedom Against Censorship Thailand says...

    […] statements he may have made as the “fruits of torture.” As I explained in a major review of Khadr’s case in November […]

  37. A Letter from Omar Khadr in Guantánamo | Free the Truth says...

    […] Post has just made available a letter from Guantánamo (PDF), written by Omar Khadr, the Canadian citizen who was just 15 years old when he was seized in Afghanistan in July 2002. The […]


    […] under President Obama — fulfilled the deepest wishes of the Bush administration, and persuaded Omar Khadr, the Canadian citizen who was just 15 years old when he was seized after a firefight in Afghanistan […]

  39. WikiLeaks And The 22 Children Of Guantanamo says...

    […] Khadr (ISN 766, Canada) Born 19 September 1986, seized 19 July 2002 (aged 15). After well-chronicledabuse in Bagram and Guantánamo, Khadr, seized after a firefight in Afghanistan, accepted a plea deal in his trial by Military […]

  40. No End To The Shameful Treatment Of Omar Khadr - Analysis says...

    […] week, Omar Khadr, the Canadian citizen and former child prisoner, was supposed to leave Guantánamo after nine years […]

  41. No End To The Shameful Treatment Of Omar Khadr - OpEd says...

    […] week, Omar Khadr, the Canadian citizen and former child prisoner, was supposed to leave Guantánamo after nine years […]

  42. No End to the Shameful Treatment of Omar Khadr | Islamic News Daily says...

    […] week, Omar Khadr, the Canadian citizen and former child prisoner, was supposed to leave Guantánamo after nine years […]

  43. Canada’s Shameful Scapegoating of Omar Khadr by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    […] week, the Canadian government received a formal request for the return of Omar Khadr from Guantánamo Bay. Julie Carmichael, an aide to Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, told the Globe […]

  44. Finally, Omar Khadr Leaves Guantánamo and Returns to Canada « says...

    […] government has finally signed the paperwork authorizing the return to Canada from Guantánamo of Omar Khadr. A Canadian citizen, he was just 15 years old when he was seized, in July 2002, after a firefight […]

  45. Col. Morris Davis Criticizes Obama on Guantánamo by Andy Worthington | Dandelion Salad says...

    […] and raise the shades to let the sunlight shine on Guantánamo. Conducting hearings this week in the [Omar] Khadr case before the administration has even published the rules for the military commissions does not aid […]

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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