May 19, 2011
“There would be virtually no political blowback domestically for the Conservative Party if the government chooses to pursue an appeal, making this a strong likelihood.”
The above statement from US State cable #09OTTAWA629 sums up the last decade of Omar Khadr’s life. The Canadian government, under the last three prime ministers, two Liberal and one Conservative, have done nothing about the plight of a tortured fifteen year old Canadian boy imprisoned with no trial in the world’s most notorious torture camps. They have contributed nothing to his education, nor to his emotional or psychological welfare. They have expressed no concern for his well being. They have not requested his repatriation, nor have they requested that the illegal and amoral conditions of his confinement be improved. (Read a summary of the conditions here.) US State cable 09STATE11937 describes a February 5, 2009 meeting between French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and US Secretary of State Clinton, where the French Foreign Minister requested that the US review his case, but there is no similar suggestion from the country with a legal obligation to defend him.
In Omar’s affidavit statement, of February 22, 2008 he wrote of visits “on numerous occasions” from people claiming to be from the Canadian government who came to interview him in a special “more comfortable” room than the usual interrogation room. These people, however, did not ask how he was or offer him assistance or offer to deliver a message to his family. Instead they asked him about people, such as his father and Maher Arar, or asked him to identify people in photographs they presented.
“I was very hopeful that they would help me. I showed them my injuries and told them that what I had told the Americans was not right and not true. I said that I told the Americans whatever they wanted me to say because they would torture me. The Canadians called me a liar and I began to sob. They screamed at me and told me that they could not do anything for me. I tried to cooperate so that they would take me back to Canada. I told them that I was scared and that I had been tortured. …”
“After the Canadians left and I told the Americans that my previous statements were untrue, life got much worse for me. They took away all of my things except for a mattress. I had no Koran and no blanket. They would shackle me during interrogations and leave me in harsh and painful positions for hours at a time. One navy interrogator would pull my hair and spit in my face.”
Approximately one month before Ramadan in 2003, two different men came to visit me. They told me that they were Canadian. One of the men was in his 20s and the other in his 30s. These two men yelled at me and accused me of not telling the truth. One of the Canadian men stated, “The U.S. and Canada are like an elephant and an ant sleeping in the same bed,” and that there was nothing the Canadian government could do against the power of the U.S.
“One of the men returned alone approximately one month after the Eid al-Adha holiday. The visitor showed me his Canadian passport, the outside of which was red in color. The Canadian visitor stated, “I’m not here to help you. I’m not here to do anything for you. I’m just here to get information.” The man then asked me questions about my brother, Abdullah.”
“Within a day of my last visit from the Canadians, my security level was changed from Level 1 to Level 4 minus, with isolation. Everything was taken away from me, and I spent a month in isolation. The room in which I was confined was kept very cold. It was like a refrigerator.”
Complicity, lies and endless lawsuits
The Canadian government has not just been remiss in its duty towards Omar. On June 25, 2008, Justice Richard Mosley of the Federal Court of Canada ruled that a report from a visit to Khadr in March 2004 by Jim Gould of the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, which mentioned how Khadr had been subjected to prolonged sleep deprivation for three weeks before his visit, “in an effort to make him more amenable and willing to talk,” constituted a breach of the UN Convention against Torture and the Geneva Conventions. The Federal Court of Canada, the Federal Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court of Canada have all ruled in 2008, and again in 2010, that the participation of Canadian officials in Khadr’s interrogations at Guantanamo clearly violated his rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The Canadian government (with taxpayer money) has fought in court to avoid giving him access to his own file to use as his defense. In 2008 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously that the government had again acted illegally, contravening Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and ordered that the videotapes of the interrogation be released.
The Canadian government has lied to the Canadian people and said they had every reason to believe he was being treated well, when they were both told and shown evidence of the torture and abuse by Omar.
Contempt for Canadian opinion and laws
Besides freely spending tax dollars to fight every aspect of the case up to the Supreme Court, and ignoring all of the rulings that told the government to request Omar’s repatriation, US state cable 08OTTAWA918 shows CSIS Director Judd’s complete contempt of Canadians and their courts who he described as having an “Alice in Wonderland” worldview. He jeered at any potential Canadian concern for Omar as “paroxysms of moral outrage, a Canadian specialty.” Canadian government concern for public opinion in the US was much higher, with Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day asking in 08OTTAWA440 for clarification from the Attorney General on how the US government views the terrorist threat emanating from Canada. Periodically, he said, there is a media reaction in the United States to something like the Khadr case that leads to the image of large numbers of terrorists “prancing around” in Canada uncontrolled.
A special committee formed by the The House of Commons recommended Khadr’s repatriation in 2008, but was ignored by the government. Cable 08OTTAWA828 explains that Conservative members opposed Khadr’s repatriation on the grounds “that it was unlikely he would ever be convicted in Canada.” So, because Canadian law did not suit their worldview, they sent Canadian Omar to US justice instead. Cable 08OTTAWA878, says of Justice Mosley of the Federal Court of Canada “He also revealed that U.S. authorities had inquired whether Khadr might be tried in Canada and had provided details about the U.S. evidence against Khadr to Canadian officials for that purpose.”
The US state cables show the concern in the US over Canadian public opinion. Cable 08OTTAWA990 is happy to announce “eight in ten Canadians who saw the interrogation footage did not subsequently change their views on Khadr. … The apparent hope of Khadr’s Canadian and U.S. lawyers that dramatic footage of Khadr’s tears and complaints about sleep deprivation in his meeting with CSIS officials would create a groundswell of more favorable public opinion and impel the government to reverse course seems to have failed. … competing joys of the all-too-brief Canadian summer essentially have kept any genuine pressure off the government.” The same concern is shown in 09OTTAWA298 In addition, students constantly criticized the U.S. for its treatment of Omar Khadr, a Canadian detainee at Guantanamo, arguing that the U.S. should return him immediately to Canada and claiming he faced no possibility of a fair trial or humane treatment in the U.S. (The Canadian government has never requested his repatriation, indicating instead that it will await the outcome of ongoing judicial processes.)
The US concern for the opinions of Canadian people seems greater than that of the Canadian government. From 08OTTAWA960 “The Conservatives are likely gauging public reaction to the images carefully, but no change in current official policy appears likely.”
While the details of all of the Harper government’s court cases against Omar Khadr are meticulously recorded, the US government has no illusions that Harper will obey the court orders. Cable 09OTTAWA313 states: The Conservatives have little if any political capital to lose from sticking to their position of allowing the U.S. military’s legal process against Khadr to take its course. The government is unlikely to rush to Washington with a formal repatriation request, despite the court ruling.
Cable 09OTTAWA629, states that the Crown had conceded in oral arguments that making such request would not damage Canada’s relations with the U.S., nor “pose a threat to Canada’s security.” The Court highlighted that, contrary to the Crown’s oral argument that there was “only a remote possibility that the United States would comply” with such a request, “the fact (is) that the United States has complied with requests from all other western countries for the return of their nationals from detention in the prison at Guantanamo Bay.” …
According to an official of the Privy Council Office on August 14, the government was still trying to “digest” the decision, but he took note our informal request for the government to consult privately with us before making public any possible request for repatriation. The vigorous dissent opinion should give the government some hope that an appeal to the Supreme Court could be successful, and could — not incidentally — also at least delay action until the next steps become clearer in the legal procedures against Mr. Khadr by the U.S. military authorities. Mr. Khadr’s family remains deeply unpopular in Canada, although there is some sympathy for him since he was only 15 years old at the time of his capture. There would be virtually no political blowback domestically for the Conservative Party if the government chooses to pursue an appeal, making this a strong likelihood.
Harper’s policy of exhausting his opponents in court with taxpayer money is reaffirmed in 09OTTAWA423: The court labeled Abdelrazik “as much a victim of international terrorism as the innocent persons whose lives have been taken by recent barbaric acts of terrorists.” As in a similar ruling on the government’s responsibility to seek the repatriation of Canadian detainee at Guantanamo Bay Omar Khadr, the government is likely to appeal this unfavorable ruling.
Two things come up repeatedly in the cables for Khadr and all other cases related to the US “War on Terror”. One, the Canadian government’s complete contempt for the Canadian people and courts, and two, the idea that the Canadian government can do as it pleases because the Canadian people will not care.
From the Documentary You Don’t Like the Truth
The following two videos are the excerpts from the documentation that Khadr’s lawyers fought to the Supreme Court to obtain access to, of which the state cables said “The apparent hope of Khadr’s Canadian and U.S. lawyers that dramatic footage of Khadr’s tears and complaints about sleep deprivation in his meeting with CSIS officials would create a groundswell of more favorable public opinion and impel the government to reverse course seems to have failed. … competing joys of the all-too-brief Canadian summer essentially have kept any genuine pressure off the government.”