Growing Up and In Pain at Gitmo: Omar Khadr Hearings

Canadian Omar Khadr was 15 when captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan. The child of Jihad was blinded in one eye and shot three times by U.S. soldiers. A very gruesome picture of him laying injured on the ground is here. Then he was questioned. He has vision problems in his other eye, and is in pain from the leftover shrapnel remaining in his eyes. Guantanamo doesn't have an opthamologist. Treatment, consisting of eye drops, is dispensed by an optometrist.

He was abused and subjected to torture during his confinement. He was used as a "human mop." He was threatened with rape and extradition to Egypt.

The U.S. is trying him in a military commission proceeding. This week, hearings are underway to determine if his post-capture statements were obtained via impermissible coercive techniques.

The hearings were delayed when Omar refused to come to court yesterday, because he wouldn't wear sensory-deprivation eye-goggles that increased his eye pain on the short ride from his cell to the court. Today, he complained about a "waistband search" that according to testimony, involves a guard inserting a "digit" (finger) into the waist of his pants. Is this a sanitized description of a strip-search? Sure sounds like it, but maybe I'm too cynical.

From my earlier post which I quote a Toronto Star article, the link for which isn't working today." These incidents were revealed in an official report, according to the Star.

An hour or two later they came back, checked the tautness of his chains and pushed him over on his stomach. Transfixed in his bonds, Omar toppled like a figurine. Again they left. Many hours had passed since Omar had been taken from his cell. He urinated on himself and on the floor. The MPs returned, mocked him for a while and then poured pine-oil solvent all over his body. Without altering his chains, they began dragging him by his feet through the mixture of urine and pine oil. Because his body had been so tightened, the new motion racked it. The MPs swung him around and around, the piss and solvent washing up into his face. The idea was to use him as a human mop. When the MPs felt they'd successfully pretended to soak up the liquid with his body, they uncuffed him and carried him back to his cell. He was not allowed a change of clothes for two days.

The Toronto Star is also reporting prosecutors offered Omar a five year deal but he turned it down.

Obama's new rulebook for military commission proceedings arrived this week at Gitmo, hours before Omar's hearings were about to begin. (Full copy here.) The hearings will resume this afternoon after lawyers have a chance to review the manual. A few rules seem like nothing's changed since Bush.

For one thing, there's no credit for pre-trial confinement:

``The physical custody of alien enemy belligerents captured during hostilities does not constitute pretrial confinement for purposes of sentencing and the military judge shall not grant credit for pretrial detention.''

It also authorizes indefinite detention. Amnesty International says:

Like its predecessor – released by the Bush administration in 2007 – the new Manual for Military Commissions confirms that the current US administration, like its predecessor, reserves the right to continue to detain individuals indefinitely even if they have been acquitted by a military commission. Continuing to hold such a detainee after acquittal, the rules note, “may be authorized by statute, such as the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, as informed by the laws of war”.Thus the Obama administration has chosen to follow the Bush administration in invoking a concept of “global war”, essentially claiming that US counter-terrorism laws, policies, and practices in this area need be measured only against the law of war (and even then, only by vague analogy), to the exclusion of international human rights obligations.This flies in the face of judgments of the International Court of Justice and authoritative legal conclusions stated by the UN Human Rights Committee.

All of our coverage of Omar Khadr, dating back to 2005, is available here. I recommend starting with Life of an al-Qaida Wife. A Who's Who of his family is here. As a blogger named Jeanne D'Arc wrote about his family back then (no longer online):

Omar Khadr is as much a victim of these people as a member of the family. He's eighteen years old. When he was captured in Afghanistan, he was fifteen -- a child turned into a soldier by parents from hell. And our government's response to this victim of child abuse was to abuse him further.

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    Something relating (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by jondee on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 12:48:51 PM EST
    to the phrase "barely penetrable thicket of legalize" seems to apply here..

    Like a suicide note (one can always hope) from David Addington.

    Is it just me... (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by kdog on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 12:52:43 PM EST
    or is there something extremely unsavory about digging through lawbooks for loopholes to somehow claim the treatment of this kid has been "legal".

    is or should be illegal?

    For me, all the pee and Pine-Sol type abuse is clearly illegal and immoral, however holding him accountable for his actions is not.


    No (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by squeaky on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 01:46:34 PM EST
    No one here has suggested that Omar Khadr is above the law. What is a grave problem is that he has been held without any due process for 8 years.

    Oh, and the people who tortured him, and their superiors who oversaw the torture, should also be held accountable.


    His capture itself?... (none / 0) (#23)
    by kdog on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 01:58:09 PM EST
    No, if you're tossing grenades at occupying forces ya gotta expect occupying forces to lock him up or shoot him...putting any legal arguments of the occupation itself aside for the moment, whether that's legal or not.

    But once captured? Well, I ain't buying none of this "doesn't qualify for Geneva rights or Habeus Corpus rights" bullsh*t...I'll tell ya that.  I'd give those rights to all combatants, and anything less should be illegal.


    That's certainly a fair position to take. (none / 0) (#24)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 02:00:52 PM EST
    Thanks for the clarifiction.

    Always a pleasure... (none / 0) (#26)
    by kdog on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 02:21:24 PM EST
    to converse with you my man, and disagreeing with civility and decency, when we do disagree.

    Maybe it'll rub off:)


    This makes me sick. (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by esmense on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 01:01:39 PM EST
    I'm so deeply ashamed as an American. This has nothing to do with the demands of war and security. It is sadism pure and simple sanctioned, protected and approved by our government, and, unfortunately, society at large. Those who wield power in this country; political power, military power, financial power and the power and control of the mass media, are no longer capable of shame.

    I have not commented (5.00 / 1) (#34)
    by Capt Howdy on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 04:10:51 PM EST
    in this or most other thread dealing with this because I honestly dont know what to say except how is it possible that the people who did this

    Without altering his chains, they began dragging him by his feet through the mixture of urine and pine oil. Because his body had been so tightened, the new motion racked it.

    are not being rounded up.
    thank you for covering this.  and as awful as it is to say I see who hardly anyone else is.  this is the kind of thing we dont want to look at.
    I think the perps in this case are counting on that.

    Probaly because a newspaper article is (none / 0) (#39)
    by jimakaPPJ on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 05:03:47 PM EST
    usually considered an allegation...

    pee and Pine-Sol (none / 0) (#44)
    by Molly Pitcher on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 08:05:54 PM EST
    I have been trying all day NOT to make the following statement:  Maybe we could drop those Gitmo guards into terrorist territory.

    don't the Geneva Conventions (none / 0) (#1)
    by jeffinalabama on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 11:18:11 AM EST
    state that 15 is too young to be held accountable for wartime actions?

    Silly Jeff... (none / 0) (#2)
    by kdog on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 11:31:15 AM EST
    get with the new world order man...Geneva went in the shredder with every other glorious document or agreement mankind ever came up with.

    The new rule of law is the old rule of law...whatever bossman say the rule is on any given day, up to and including throwing 15 year olds in the meat grinder.


    Dunno, but it's a moot point. (none / 0) (#3)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 11:39:28 AM EST
    Mr. Khadr is not covered by the GC's.

    Important to remember about (none / 0) (#4)
    by jeffinalabama on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 11:41:39 AM EST
    transformational change and the rule of law, though. Call me the weak, annoying voice from the wilderness. the Bush policies-- I mean Obama policies-- what a wonderful change.

    Obama Difference From BushCo (none / 0) (#6)
    by squeaky on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 12:10:09 PM EST
    Ok, so why doesn't it apply to Omar then? (none / 0) (#27)
    by observed on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 03:16:18 PM EST
    You Will Have to Ask (none / 0) (#29)
    by squeaky on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 03:26:51 PM EST
    Michael Joo, David Addington, Dick Cheney and GW Bush, because they claimed that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to Enemy Combatants picked up in the WOT.

    It is not clear that at this point in time, the Geneva Convention is being violated. But if you know more about it than me please discuss.


    not at all. I'm just trying to get some (none / 0) (#31)
    by observed on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 03:45:36 PM EST
    information. I thought you were claiming the Obama administration would be different on this question.
    The whole case is so horrifying I hate reading about  it. So what if the GC doesn't apply?

    The Obama Admin (5.00 / 1) (#32)
    by squeaky on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 03:56:38 PM EST
    Has said that they believe that the GC is applicable to all POWs.

    They have also said that the war is without bounds of a country, so anyplace can be considered a combat Zone.

    So in theory anyone can be determined a POW, after a fair hearing, and be held, until the indefinite war is over, which, by my reckoning is never. Of course the Geneva Conventions must apply to the treatment of the POW.

    The forever part, and the anywhere part, is deeply troubling to me.


    Right. Suppose you establish a separate (none / 0) (#33)
    by observed on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 03:58:38 PM EST
    status for "terrorists". Fine. They still should be released at some point, depending on the severity of their actions.

    Yes (none / 0) (#35)
    by squeaky on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 04:11:08 PM EST
    Well that is where I get really confused about the indefinite detention part. Some of the POW's were tried during BushCo, served time and were released, only to commit more crimes.

    For me the idea that we are in a perpetual war, clouds the whole issue between criminal action and going through the criminal justice system, and being locked up indefinitely because the "war" is everywhere and forever.

    It would be like saying that people can be held forever if after a "fair" tribunal is held determining someone is a criminal, because as long as crime exists, the government can hold criminals. Therefore all criminals have life sentences.


    I don't suppose it ever occurred to any (none / 0) (#36)
    by observed on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 04:14:55 PM EST
    of these knuckleheads that if we treat our prisoners justly, word will get out---just as word has gotten out about the torture and murder of prisoners in US custody.
    Good analogy with criminals.

    Obama did away with the designation (none / 0) (#47)
    by FoxholeAtheist on Sun May 02, 2010 at 03:44:43 PM EST
    "enemy combatant".

    Question is, what is Omar Khadr now called? And if Obama has restored the GCs as you indicated, do they now apply to Omar Khadr who is, presumably, no longer called an "enemy combatant"?


    I see you've answered in comment #19. (none / 0) (#49)
    by FoxholeAtheist on Sun May 02, 2010 at 04:19:34 PM EST
    Reasonable people have always known that certain portions of the GCs apply to everybody within the realm of any kind of armed conflict - including "enemy combatants" - or whatever other name we assign to them.

    I still find it curious that Obama dispensed with the "enemy combatant" label without saying what it would be replaced by - especially since "enemy combatants" are expressly named within the GCs and protected in specific ways.


    Why's That (none / 0) (#5)
    by squeaky on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 12:08:10 PM EST
    Because BushCo war criminals decided that the GC's don't apply to US actions?

    Oh. Says who? Care to explain how and (none / 0) (#46)
    by FoxholeAtheist on Sun May 02, 2010 at 03:39:46 PM EST
    why the Geneva Conventions don't cover Omar Khadr?

    In other words, what portions of the GCs expressly do not apply to him?


    Says a bunch of people who know (none / 0) (#50)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Sun May 02, 2010 at 08:24:31 PM EST
    a lot more than you and me. And actually have some power over his situation.

    You've got nothing - say no more. (none / 0) (#51)
    by FoxholeAtheist on Fri May 07, 2010 at 02:43:09 PM EST
    They also state that prisoners can be (none / 0) (#38)
    by jimakaPPJ on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 04:52:33 PM EST
    held until the end of hostilities.

    Take your pick.


    They do (none / 0) (#43)
    by Socraticsilence on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 06:46:32 PM EST
    but addendum to the UN conventions on the Rights of the child, would allow for detention as a POW as long as he's treated humanely and possibly educated.

    thanks for the info. nt (none / 0) (#9)
    by jeffinalabama on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 12:45:36 PM EST

    the comment you were replying to (none / 0) (#13)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 01:05:25 PM EST
    was deleted for reprinting huge portions of an article. This space is for comments. You may quote a paragraph or two but not reprint them. Include a link if you want people to read more.

    I can't link (none / 0) (#15)
    by jbindc on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 01:17:50 PM EST
    But I won't double paste.  Here's a smaller section arguing why the GC doesn't apply to Kadr from The Jurist - a site fro
    the University of Pittsburgh Law School from April 13, 2010:

    "Much of the attention on Khadr's case has focused on his age - according to his defense counsel he was 15 years and 10 months at the time of his alleged offenses. Much of the attendant criticism which flows from Khadr's age when detained, and the authority to hold him criminally responsible, is misdirected if not misplaced. Such critiques overlook well established international norms which provide not only for restricting Khadr's liberty but also for holding him accountable for any crimes he may have committed. These norms are extant both in the lex specialis, the law of armed conflict (LOAC), and in more general international law writ large. The discussion about child soldiers could, and should, be broader.

    Under the LOAC, the Fourth Geneva Convention on civilians discusses the detention of individuals who, like Khadr, don't qualify as either members of a regular or irregular armed force and thus are not considered prisoners of war under the Third Geneva Convention. Additionally (and more specifically), regardless of whether you characterize the armed conflict in Afghanistan in 2002 as international (IAC) or non-international (NIAC) in nature, the Additional Protocols (AP) to the Geneva Convention clearly envision the detention of "children" who directly participate in hostilities. While the United States has not ratified either of the APs, and one can argue about the applicability of the various Geneva Conventions to the current conflicts, through Department of Defense Directive 2311.01E, the United States policy is to apply the law of war during all armed conflicts, regardless of how such conflicts are characterized. Perhaps more relevant to this discussion, the majority of the world has ratified the APs and detention of individuals like Khadr is consistent with those widely subscribed instruments."


    Ah, but you can link. And you must. (none / 0) (#16)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 01:25:19 PM EST
    squeaky has an even easier method than I, but here's mine:

    To link, with apologies if it's too basic:

    -highlight the URL of the web-page that you want to link to.

    -copy the URL ("edit" then "copy").

    -come back to TL and write something in the "Comment:" box. (not the "Subject" box)

    -highlight the word(s) in that comment that you want to be the link.

    -click the "URL" button above the "Comment:" box, it's the button that has an icon that looks like links of a chain. That brings up a link box, and your cursor is automatically in it.

    -hold down the "Ctrl" button on your computer's keyboard and then type "v". That pastes the url you previously copied into the link box.

    -click "OK."

    -click the "Preview" button below the "Comments:" box.

    -if the preview looks good - ie., the word(s) you selected to be the link are a different color from the rest of the text - click the "Post" button below the "Comments:" box.


    Another way if you can't use the link button (none / 0) (#17)
    by ruffian on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 01:31:35 PM EST
    in your browser, as I can't.

    Follow above directions until the Click URL button step. Instead of that, in the comment box type:
    then paste the URL you copied
    then leave a space and add the words you want to be clicked on as the link. Like 'here'. then

    For example,
    [httpsomething here]

    Preview to make sure it worked right, and post!


    Thanks (none / 0) (#20)
    by jbindc on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 01:43:44 PM EST
    But I'm on an iPod and can't use the blockquote link.  I also can't usually see nor get to the entire address link from the page I'm linking to.

    But thanks for the help!


    More To the Point (none / 0) (#19)
    by squeaky on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 01:42:30 PM EST
    The classification of Omar Khadr as a POW is evidentially debatable:

    On June 12, 2007 Lawyers Against the War (Canada) wrote a letter to PM Halpern et al.

    Is Omar Khadr a prisoner of war?:

    Omar Khadr is presumed, by operation of Article 102 of the Third Geneva Convention, to be a prisoner of war (POW) unless and until a competent tribunal decides otherwise. No tribunal has ever considered his POW status and therefore the presumption has not been displaced. The CSRTs, an extra-legal administrative procedure that stripped detainees of due process rights and allowed for determinations made on the basis of secret evidence extracted through torture, were not mandated to consider POW status and not competent to displace the presumptive POW status. The CSRT designation as an enemy combatant in fact confirms the presumptive POW status, as this is one category of person who is a POW.[bolding mine]

    But every one of his rights have been violated:

    Evidence indicates that U.S. authorities have, during the past four years and 11 months, violated essentially all Omar Khadr's fundamental rights, namely his rights to: liberty, iii due process, iv freedom from torture, v freedom from arbitrary imprisonment, vi freedom from prosecution for ex post facto crimes and the right to equality before the law and equal access to the protection of the law. vii Many of these violations are themselves crimes.

    Canada has also abrogated its duty here, evidentially due to a BushCo type of Unitary Executive..

    Canadian authorities should take note that Article 13 of the Third Geneva Convention provides that any act or omission that seriously endangers the health of a prisoner of war is itself a grave breach--i.e., a war crime.

    On the recent Canadian SC decision regarding Omar Khadr:

    The decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Omar Khadr [1] case, which implies that remedies to prevent torture and punish perpetrators are a privilege to be granted or withheld at the pleasure of the Prime Minister, is wrong.

    Then your issue (none / 0) (#22)
    by jbindc on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 01:52:36 PM EST
    Is with the Obama and Harper administrations.

    Really? (none / 0) (#28)
    by squeaky on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 03:19:47 PM EST
    Actually my issue is in response to your comment which appears to be questionable in its accuracy.

    Again (none / 0) (#37)
    by jbindc on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 04:35:31 PM EST
    Since the Canadian government is refusing to repatriate him, and the US government is prosecuting him, it's not MY comments.  There is always an argument to be made, but as your response only contained comments from lawyers speaking to the press, well, that statement means nothing.

    But according to all involved, he did not wear a uniform and is not bring called an enemy combatant And the GC does not apply.  His lawyers will argue differently.

    Despite what bloggers and talking heads say, however, many of these cases are not as cut and dried as they would have you believe.  A lot of the things they are doing are really hit on technical areas of the law that are unchartered and there is no precedent- and it could be on very minor points on the reading of the entire texts of the laws- but it makes a big difference on how things are interpreted.


    No (none / 0) (#40)
    by squeaky on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 05:30:39 PM EST
    But according to all involved, he did not wear a uniform and is not bring called an enemy combatant And the GC does not apply.

    That is not my understanding. The Canadian Lawyers did not dispute that he was a POW, or whatever they are called these days.

    What they did dispute is that none of the rules of due process were followed, and that every human right was abused... etc.

    This is why I disagreed with your comment.


    Excellent link Squeaky...thanks. (none / 0) (#48)
    by FoxholeAtheist on Sun May 02, 2010 at 03:49:29 PM EST

    A Horror Story (none / 0) (#14)
    by squeaky on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 01:12:06 PM EST
    With an "indefinite" number of future sequels. At this point, I would be surprised if Omar has not been driven insane by 8 years of abuse by the US.

    Sickening! (none / 0) (#25)
    by canuck eh on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 02:09:51 PM EST
    Mr. Khadr is a Canadian citizen and a child soldier; he should be rehabilited the same way the child soldiers of Siera Leone are. It is indefensible that he has been held under the 'enemy combatant' label at all, never mind the deplorable treatment he has received.

    Don't mistake this for an anti-American rant- the Canadian government is just as bad in this case (worse actually as it is our citizen they are alllowing to be treated this way). Our Supreme Court recently found that the governemt is violating Mr. Khadr's rights by not fighting for his release and return to Canada; our Conservative government has refused to act on their decision and is appealing- disgusting!

    I find it very interesting that both the Canadian and American governments fund the rehabilitation of child soldiers abroad yet allow one of their citizens to be subjected to these horrors.

    If you think Omar had the option of walking out of that building without being shot in the head by his own Father, I have a bridge in NY that you might be interested in buying

    Thanks as always to TL for highlighting the plight of this poor young man, I rarely comment here but have so much respect and appreciation for what you guys do.

    I totally agree--15 yr olds are not adults (none / 0) (#30)
    by klassicheart on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 03:39:35 PM EST
    and should never be treated the same as adults...

    And the sad thing is that very few programs exist for rehabilitating minors...generally...And it is shocking.  

    Isn't it interesting that Saudi Arabia has a program for rehabilitating adult terrorists...and we have a program for torturing them...Aside from the fact that torture is not a successful strategy ...On a cost benefit basis, we are also following an unsuccessful strategy as it applies to minors.  There is no question that they are victims too.  It breaks my heart.  But where is the outrage?  Where are the academics?  Instead, our intellectuals spent far too much time uncritically supporting  Obama.


    I was not prepared for the photo of the injured (none / 0) (#41)
    by jawbone on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 05:51:09 PM EST
    boy. Then, the details of his treatment. Who will forgive us?

    The phrase "not in my name" came to mind, but, of course, it is being done in my name, in all our names.

    The same God who will forgive him (none / 0) (#45)
    by jimakaPPJ on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 09:29:15 PM EST
    for kill the US soldier.

    I was not prepared for the photo of the injured (none / 0) (#42)
    by jawbone on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 05:54:33 PM EST
    boy. Then, the details of his treatment. Who will forgive us?

    The phrase "not in my name" came to mind, but, of course, it is being done in my name, in all our names.