Gitmo and the American Way

by Chase Madar

Graffiti by Banksy

When I was down in Guantánamo a few months ago, a veteran German journalist let it slip that she didn’t much care for the place.  “This,” she confided in me, and many of the other journalists there as well, “is the worst place I have ever visited in my entire career.”

It’s not hard to see why my superlative-loving friend felt this way: we were covering the case of Omar Khadr, a 15-year-old Canadian captured after a firefight with U.S. forces outside Kabul in July 2002, tortured and interrogated for a few months at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, then transported to Guantánamo.  He just reached a plea agreement that will avoid a trial before a military commission at Gitmo for five “war crimes.”  Four of them, freshly invented for the occasion, are not recognized as war crimes in any other court on the planet.  (Khadr pled guilty to all charges and will get at least one year more at Gitmo — in solitary — then perhaps be transferred to Canada for a remaining seven years.)

Aside from Khadr and about 130 other prisoners who may one day see a trial, Guantánamo also holds 47 more War on Terror prisoners who are expected to be “detained” indefinitely without being tried at all.  This was one of the radical policies of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney that is now cheerfully defended by the human rights grandees in Barack Obama’s State Department.

Gitmo and all other places without habeas corpus rights are indeed dismal places — and there is certainly something disgusting about the first conviction of a child soldier since World War II.  All the same, I couldn’t help but wonder if my vehement Kollegin had ever visited a homegrown federal prison like the one in Terre Haute, Indiana (whose maximum security wing was copied down to the smallest detail at Gitmo’s Camp 5), or even your run-of-the-mill overcrowded state lock-up, the kind you pass on the highway without even noticing that you’ve done so, or one of the crumbling youth detention facilities in New York State which, as we lawyers who have represented youth offenders know, are hellish.

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Spend 4 days inside Guantánamo

YOU DON’T LIKE THE TRUTH – 4 days inside Guantánamo is a documentary based on security camera footage from the Guantánamo Bay prison.

This encounter between a team of Canadian intelligence agents and a child detainee [Omar Khadr] in Guantánamo has never before been seen. Based on seven hours of video footage recently declassified by the Canadian courts this documentary delves into the unfolding high-stakes game of cat and mouse between captor and captive over a four day period. Maintaining the surveillance camera style this film analyzes the political, legal and scientific aspects of a forced dialogue.

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Omar Khadr has lost one third of his Life in US Custody

by Andy Worthington

Omar Khadr, the only Canadian citizen in Guantánamo, was seized in Afghanistan on July 27, 2002, when he was just 15 years old. On September 19 he turned 24, and has grown, physically, into a man during the eight years and two months he has spent in US custody, first at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, and, since October 2002, at Guantánamo. At heart, however, he remains a child, whose youth has been stolen from him by the US authorities responsible for detaining him, and by the Canadian government, which has refused to demand his return.

I don’t want you to reflect, however, particularly on the abuse to which he has been subjected throughout his detention, or on the US government’s shameful refusal to rehabilitate him, rather than punishing him, as required by its obligations under the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, which includes the agreement that all States Parties who ratify the Protocol “[r]ecogniz[e] the special needs of those children who are particularly vulnerable to recruitment or use in hostilities,” and are “[c]onvinced of the need [for] the physical and psychosocial rehabilitation and social reintegration of children who are victims of armed conflict.”

I don’t want you to reflect particularly on the Canadian government’s shameful refusal to demand his return to his homeland, despite severe criticism by the Canadian courts, or on the Obama administration’s shameful refusal to cancel his scheduled trial by Military Commission, on war crimes charges that — even if the allegations are true — are not war crimes at all, as Lt. Col. David Frakt, the military defense attorney for another former child at Guantánamo, Mohamed Jawad (who was released last August), has explained.

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