Canada implicated in torture at Guantanamo

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The Canadian government is once again being accused of breaking international human rights laws, including the Geneva Convention. Newly released documents and DVD footage reveal that the Canadian government knew, as far back as 2003, that American interrogators had tortured Canadian prisoner Omar Khadr at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Despite this, the Canadian government has never made any effort to secure Khadr’s return to Canada.

U.S. officials told visiting Canadian Security Intelligence Services (CSIS) officials that they moved Khadr, a Canadian born citizen, every three hours over 21 days to “make him more amenable and willing to talk,” according to a Canadian government document marked “Canadian eyes only.” Federal Court judge Richard Mosley recently ordered the Canadian government to release the documents and DVDs to the media and Khadr’s legal defense team.

The documents contain written summaries of video recorded interviews by CSIS officials with Khadr in 2003 and 2004. The documents also reveals that U.S. officials told the Canadian agents that Khadr, then 17, would be placed in solitary confinement for three weeks prior to the second interview. As a result, Canada “became implicated in the violation” of international law, including the Geneva Convention, by the way its officials went ahead with its interrogation of Khadr in 2003, as well as the way in which they treated him, according to Mosley.

The DVDs, which contain seven hours of video footage, show that Khadr was initially happy to see the CSIS agents, believing that they came to rescue him. Khadr burst into tears, retracting statements he made to U.S. interrogators earlier on, claiming that he made them under torture. He is seen complaining about wounds to his chest, eyes and shoulder, which was seeping blood. U.S. marines shot Khadr in the neck, shoulder and chest during a July 2002 battle between marines and Taliban fighters in Afghanistan where he was captured. The bleeding, six months after his capture, suggests that U.S. officials had not provided Khadr with adequate medical care.

Later during the interview, Khadr realizes that the CSIS is not there to help him but to get a confession and he cracks. A CSIS agent makes jokes, ridicules his complaints that he was tortured, and tells Khadr that he can’t help him.

The U.S. military alleges that Khadr, then 15, killed a U.S. marine medic during the July 2002 battle in Afghanistan with a hand grenade. Khadr was found with a group of dead Taliban fighters in a compound. The teenager, son of a dead Al Qaeda leader, denies killing the marine. He has been interned in Guantanamo for the last 6 years and like all other prisoners there, has still not been tried for any crime.

The document and DVDs contradict ongoing Canadian government claims that it has been receiving assurances from US officials that Khadr is being treated humanely. The materials are further evidence that Canadian governments have been aware that the U.S. tortures prisoners.

In January 2008, Amnesty International obtained a Canadian Foreign Affairs document through legal action that identifies the U.S. as practicing torture. The document, a power point presentation to Canadian diplomats on how to recognize torture cases abroad, lists Guantanamo as a place where torture is practiced. It lists U.S. torture techniques such as waterboarding, blindfolding or hooding, forced nudity, isolation and sleep deprivation.

Judge Mosley also revealed that the U.S. expressed interest in having Khadr tried in Canada and provided detailed evidence against him to Canadian officials. According to Khadr’s lawyer, the government refused to allow his return.

Despite evidence of U.S. torture, Prime Minister Steven Harper has said that he will leave Khadr, now 21, to be tried by the U.S. legal system.

Amnesty International is calling on Harper to repatriate Khadr back to Canada. “The treatment (that Khadr was subjected to), which included extensive use of sleep deprivation and use of disorienting ‘frequent flyer’ practice, amounts to torture and ill-treatment, both of which are clearly banned under international human rights law,” according to an open letter to Harper. “Your government’s position that such a request is premature and that justice must run its course in the U.S. is quite simply untenable.”

tpelzer @shaw.ca