At Omar Khadr’s military tribunal, one of his interrogators testified to threatening the boy with rape—adding to never-ending tragic story of the U.S. government war of terror.
A Canadian-born teenage detainee of the U.S. was threatened with rape upon his kidnapping in Afghanistan, a former U.S. Army interrogator testified Thursday.
Omar Khadr, now 23-years old, was kidnapped by the U.S. military in Afghanistan when he was 15. He was held captive at the U.S. detention center at Bagram Air Base before being renditioned to the center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. He has confessed to killing a U.S. soldier with a grenade, but the torture he experienced makes the confession highly questionable; the illegality of its admission into evidence during his military tribunal should make it non-existent.
The U.S. claims Mr. Khadr was not tortured and that its interrogation techniques were legal because of the White House’s interpretation of the law. The Bush and Obama Adminsitrations, consistently, ignore the international treaties against unlawful uses of torture. Both administrations have routinely played the war card for just about every abuse of the law—except applies wartime exemptions from its own treatment of detainees that violate the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Convention Against Torture. The U.S. asserts its torture, rendition, indefinite detention, extrajudicial assassinations, etc. are byproducts of circumstance, but nonetheless, charges Mr. Khadr with war crimes.
Mr. Khadr was injured at the time of his kidnapping. A medic testified Monday, as reported by Carol Rosenberg at the Miami Herald:
A former U.S. Army combat medic testified Monday that he once found Canadian teen captive Omar Khadr chained by the arms to the door of a 5-foot-square cage at a U.S. lockup in Afghanistan, hooded and weeping.
The medic, identified in court only as Mr. M, said Khadr’s wrists were chained just above eye-level, but were slack enough to allow Khadr’s feet to touch the floor. He could not remember whether Khadr’s feet were also shackled….
Pentagon prosecutors called M, who treated Khadr’s injuries twice daily in Afghanistan until Khadr was transferred to Guantánamo, to defend Khadr’s treatment as humane. M’s testimony, however, was the first by a government witness to corroborate a portion of an affidavit Khadr drew up describing abusive treatment.
One of Khadr’s lawyers, Barry Coburn, called M’s testimony “critically important validation” of “Omar’s affidavit.”
“Had this been an American soldier in North Korea,” said another defense lawyer, Kobie Flowers, “people would be outraged. Here we have a 15-year-old individual who was nearly killed with bullets in his back who was left up there to hang as punishment.”
M said he didn’t object to Khadr’s treatment because chaining was an approved form of punishment at the Bagram Air Base detention center, adding that he didn’t know the reason for the punishment or how long Khadr had been chained….
The U.S. military moved Khadr to Guantánamo soon after his 16th birthday.
Ms. Rosenberg reports today at McClatchy:
To get teen terror suspect Omar Khadr to cooperate, a former U.S. Army interrogator testified Thursday, he told the wounded Canadian a “fictitious” tale of an Afghan youth who was gang-raped in an American prison and died.“We’d tell him about this Afghan gets sent to an American prison and there’s a bunch of big black guys and big Nazis,” said the former interrogator who was since convicted of detainee abuse and was identified in court only as Interrogator No. 1….
Interrogator No. 1 said he told Khadr that the Afghan—“a poor little kid … away from home, kind of isolated”—had been sent to a U.S. prison because Interrgator No. 1 was disappointed with his truthfulness. When patriotic American prisoners discovered the Afghan was a Muslim, praying five times a day, they raped him in their rage over the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, Interrogator No. 1 said he told Khadr, who was 15 and badly wounded at the time.
Khadr’s attorneys called Interrogator No. 1 to bolster Khadr’s claim that he was abused while in U.S. custody and their motion before a military judge that any confessions he made during his captivity should be considered coerced and not admissible….
According to court testimony, Interrogator No. 1 was attached to the 519th MP Battalion, which guarded prisoners at Bagram air base in Afghanistan in 2002. Three years later, Interrogator No. 1 pleaded guilty to three acts of detainee abuse on another captive at Bagram in December 2002….
U.S. troops captured Khadr two weeks before his first formal interrogation, near dead and shot twice through the back during a Special Forces raid on a suspected al Qaida stronghold near Khost, Afghanistan.
Another former interrogator, who was acquitted by a court martial of detainee abuse charges, testified Wednesday that Khadr was first questioned just two days after he was wounded at the field hospital at Bagram. That interrogator, Damien Corsetti, said Khadr was tethered to a heart monitor. Soldiers held a tin of chewing tobacco to his gaping chest wound and saw that it could fit inside.
Defense attorneys argue that the military mistreated Khadr and created a coercive environment that should disqualify the truthfulness and reliability of his later confessions that he threw a hand grenade that killed U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer, 28.
Earlier this week, Andy Worthington, leading journalist on U.S. kidnappings during its war of terror wrote:
A Canadian citizen, Khadr was just 15 years old when he was seized by U.S. forces after a firefight in Afghanistan in July 2002, in which he allegedly threw a grenade that killed a U.S. soldier, Sgt. Christopher Speer, and was taken first to the U.S. prison at Bagram airbase, and then to Guantánamo, where he remains to this day. I have been covering his case since June 2007, when his first pre-trial hearing took place in the Commissions’ first reincarnation, after the Supreme Court ruled in June 2006 that the original version, the brainchild of Dick Cheney and his legal counsel David Addington, was illegal….
Firstly, and most importantly, Khadr was a child when seized. This meant nothing to the Bush administration, but it is clear that it also means nothing to the Obama administration either. Back in May 2003, when the story first broke that juvenile prisoners were being held at Guantánamo (and research indicates that at least 22 juveniles were held in total), defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld impatiently told a press conference, “This constant refrain of ‘the juveniles,’ as though there’s a hundred children in there—these are not children,” and General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, added 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.”…
It would be difficult to find a more appropriate case of a child who was “particularly vulnerable to recruitment or use in hostilities” than Omar Khadr, who spent much of his childhood in Afghanistan, taken there by his father, an alleged fundraiser for Osama bin Laden, and yet, as I demonstrated in an article in October 2008, entitled, “Omar Khadr: The Guantánamo Files,” Khadr has never received “physical and psychosocial rehabilitation and social reintegration,” because a detailed plan submitted by four doctors to the Defense Department in January 2003, entitled, “Recommended Course of Action for Reception and Detention of Individuals Under 18 Years of Age,” was completely ignored….
In the courtroom, meanwhile, discussions focused on the reliability of the evidence gathered by the government during Khadr’s interrogations. Khadr’s defense team has long maintained that Khadr, who was badly wounded at the time of his capture, having been shot twice in the back, was subjected to brutal treatment in the U.S. prison at Bagram, and later at Guantánamo, which rule out any self-incriminating statements he may have made as the “fruits of torture.” As I explained in a major review of Khadr’s case in November 2007:
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 U.S. 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.”
Most of the above seems to have taken place in Bagram, where brutality was so commonplace at the time of Khadr’s stay there that at least two prisoners died of wounds inflicted by their guards just months after his departure. However, the abuse continued in Guantánamo, where, it should be noted, he arrived around the time that a regime of humiliation, isolation and abuse, including extreme temperature manipulation, forced nudity and sexual humiliation, had just been introduced, by reverse-engineering torture techniques used in a military program designed to train U.S. personnel to resist interrogation if captured, in an attempt to increase the meager flow of “actionable intelligence” from the prison. As I explained in 2007:
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 U.S. 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.”
In contrast to Khadr’s claims, the government has proposed that he was treated humanely, and that he offered up self-incriminating information voluntarily.
Mr. Worthington wrote, upon interviewing Mr. Khadr, that the highly questionable events that led to his detention:
There is a contradiction in the “evidence” tortured out of this man, and the facts hidden. I can’t comprehend nor can I write of the torture and abuse suffered by Omar. The scars seen say it all. Those who witness them swell up with tears and are embarrassed at sharing their own experiences of oppression, as the evidence also classified as secret in the interest of national embarrassment shows.
As we sat in the recreation yard in Camp 5, Guantánamo Bay, Omar recounted to me what happened: the one who threw the grenade at the Americans was shot and killed, the American soldier who Omar is accused of killing with a hand grenade died of a gun shot wound, and not of grenade shrapnel as the American government claims. As the American soldiers came in, they shot Omar in the back, and he fell amongst the other people killed. They shot at one man who was still standing, defending himself from the American onslaught. Once the soldiers had killed him, they walked over and stepped on Omar, thinking him to be dead. I have not only seen the bullet holes on his back, but I have touched them. He has lost his eyesight in one eye and partially in the other, due to the grenade thrown at him by the Americans in the ensuing gunfire.
At a 2008 pre-trial hearing, his attorney, Navy Lieutenant Commander William Kuebler, alleged a U.S. military commander “altered a report” on the grenade incident that would exonerate Mr. Khadr. Michael Melia reported at the Associated Press:
The attorney, Navy Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler, made the allegation at a pretrial hearing as he argued for access to the officer, identified only as “Col. W,” as well as details about interrogations that he said might help clear his client of war-crimes charges….
The military commander’s official report the day after the raid originally said the assailant who threw the grenade was killed, which would rule out Khadr as the suspect. But the report was revised months later, under the same date, to say a U.S. fighter had only “engaged” the assailant, according to Kuebler, who said the later version was presented to him by prosecutors as an “updated” document.
Kuebler told reporters after the hearing that it appears “the government manufactured evidence to make it look like Omar was guilty.”
Prosecutors did not contest Kuebler’s account in court and did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Over 15 months after President Barack Obama’s executive order to close Guantánamo Bay in a year, 181 remain in captivity at the detention center.