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Detained like me: The Guantanamo Ordeal of Omar Khadr

Jurist Hotline
by Moazzam Begg
March 17, 2008

In January this year, a training document produced by the Canadian foreign ministry, which referred to Guantanamo Bay, listed the United States as a country known to practice torture. Despite this assertion, the only Westerner remaining in the world's most infamous prison at Guantanamo Bay is the Canadian, Omar Khadr.

Omar is one of the youngest people to have been captured and detained by US authorities since the invasion of Afghanistan. He had only just turned fifteen when he was first brought into the Bagram Airbase detention facility, horribly wounded. That is where I first met him.

Chunks of his chest and shoulder had been blown out - or so I'd assumed; he was also unable to see through one of his eyes because of the injuries sustained in an attack by US troops. His chest looked like he'd just had a post mortem operation performed on him - alive. He was emaciated, fragile and silent. But the rumour spread around about him claimed that he'd launched a grenade-attack on unsuspecting soldiers. Consequently, the military police units guarding us all treated Omar with open contempt and hostility. He was sometimes screamed at all night long; made to stack up crates of water bottles which were thrown down again; a hood placed over his head whilst his wrists were shackled to the ceiling. The soldiers used to call him 'Buckshot Bob' but I never really understood why as his wounds didn't seem like those from a shotgun. Only now, three years after my release have I understood the logic behind this name - after having seen newly released photos of Omar when he was captured: the missing chunks of flesh were exit wounds. It is now clear that Omar had been shot in the back.

Many weeks passed during which I managed to have some whispered conversations with Omar but, just like me, he knew his ordeal had only begun. (I witnessed two separate killings in Bagram by American soldiers before I too was sent to Guantanamo. These killings are the subject of this year's Oscar-winning documentary, Taxi to the Dark Side).

Omar was later accused of causing the death of a US Special Forces operative with a grenade. Yet a report given by the soldier who shot him says that not only was Mr. Khadr alive there, an adult man was also alive at the time he, the U.S. soldier, rushed in shooting. This contradicts the testimony of another solider who said that only Mr. Khadr was alive at the time.

Whatever the case may be, Omar will soon be approaching the seventh year of his detention in Guantanamo. And his government, which accepts that abuses faced by others at such places are very real, will do nothing for its own citizen, who was bought there in chains as a child.


Opinions expressed in JURIST's Hotline are the sole responsibility of their authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of JURIST's editors, staff, or the University of Pittsburgh.

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CSHRA Note

(Caution) A graphic picture of Omar Khadr's severe wounds was released by the Toronto Star. It can be seen here.



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