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Last week, while the UK Court of Appeal was shining a spotlight on the case of Binyam Mohamed, ordering details of his torture by US agents to be revealed to the public, Binyam himself — a British resident, subjected to “extraordinary rendition” and torture, who was released from Guantánamo last February — was thinking about someone else.
Binyam was thinking about Omar Khadr, the Canadian citizen, who was just 15 years old when he was seized after a firefight in Afghanistan in July 2002, and who now faces a trial in the much-criticized Military Commission trial system that was ill-advisedly resuscitated and revived by the Obama administration and Congress last summer. I have written extensively about Khadr’s case (and would be delighted if you checked out one of my favorite articles here), and was dismayed when Attorney General Eric Holder announced in November that Omar Khadr would face a trial by Military Commission.
Recently, following a toothless ruling by Canada’s Supreme Court, I spoke about Omar with the progressive radio host Jeff Farias, but I have not, of course, had the opportunity to meet Omar, whereas Binyam Mohamed has. And so, after Binyam got in touch with me to ask if I’d like to reproduce the following article, I was delighted to accept. It was first published on the website of the Guantánamo Justice Centre, an organization founded by ex-prisoners to raise awareness about Guantánamo and to assist other former prisoners to rebuild their lives, and also on Binyam’s own newly established website, The Political Hostage.
Omar Khadr is a scapegoat for a failed “war on terror”
By Binyam Mohamed
I was and continue to be astonished by the fate of Omar Khadr, a 15-year-old child who has grown into a man in an illegal prison. Locked away in neighbouring cages, we spent a lot of time trading torture and abuse stories. We were psychologists treating each other. By listening to each other we beat an exploitative system established to break us and drive us insane.
Commissioning [being put forward for trial by Military Commission] brought peace to us. It meant the end of “enhanced interrogations” (otherwise known to the common man as torture) and offered our only opportunity to break our silence and attempt to refute falsehood with truth. Due to the public nature of the first ten commissions [in 2004-05, before the Supreme Court struck down their first incarnation], we few emerged from the hundreds of forgotten prisoners, our testimony exposing America’s injustices.
I am amazed how US officials, driven by the desire to justify their illegal acts, have turned this Palestinian-Canadian child into a hero in the eyes of the Muslim youths around the world. And I am more amazed at how America keeps hiding exculpatory evidence in his case, claiming secrets of national security. Yet we all know the facts.
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.
The American government is guaranteed a conviction in an illegal system they call “military commissions.” And what a great victory it must be for them: America versus a juvenile, imprisoned and tortured for eight long years. Yet the question greater than this is, “where is justice, equality and a fair trial?” I am enraged to hear these baseless allegations against a juvenile for the interests of oppressive politics. Omar could refute all of these charges in a regular court established under the pretext of justice, fairness and equality, but after the recent case against Aafia Siddiqui, convicted without any evidence, we know that justice will not be upheld, as the American government will never admit to its wrongdoing, and will continue to seek to justify these illegal practices.
This child’s case has pushed America to break all laws, go against her constitution, and to violate everything that she preaches.
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009, details about my film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (launched in October 2009), and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.