Khadr complains of abuse in first public statement since detention
by Steven Edwards
March 17, 2008
NEW YORK - Omar Khadr, in his first public words since U.S. forces seized him on an Afghan battlefield in 2002, details allegations of serious mistreatment by his American captors, and effective indifference by Canadian officials who visited him at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre in Cuba.
The Toronto-born accused terrorist, who was 15 when the U.S. government says he lobbed a hand grenade that fatally injured a U.S. special forces soldier, says he told a Canadian delegation in 2003 that the Americans "would torture" him - so he told them "whatever they wanted" to hear.
"The Canadians called me a liar, and I began to sob," Khadr, now 21, says. "They screamed at me and told me they could not do anything for me."
Some months later, Khadr says two other men identifying themselves as Canadians turned up.
"These two men yelled at me and accused me of not telling the truth," he says.
He also repeats something he told one of his civilian lawyers back in 2005 - that "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 that the Canadian government could do against the power of the U.S."
The first-person allegations are contained in eight typed pages of an affidavit Khadr swore for submission to a war crimes commission the United States established to try terror suspects in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
In preparation for public release, U.S. censors have blacked out certain portions, citing concern that terrorists could discover - and presumably prepare to resist - specific interrogation techniques.
The version intelligence parlance calls "redacted" hides many of the details Khadr appears to have given of coercive measures used against him.
In one untouched passage, Khadr recalls how, at age 16, he was used as a mop after he'd been cuffed in various contorted positions for at least an hour, and urinated on himself and the floor.
"Military police poured pine oil on the floor and on me," Khadr says, "and then, with me lying on my stomach with my hands and feet cuffed together behind me, the military police dragged me back and forth through the mixture of urine and pine oil on the floor."
He says he was refused a shower before being returned to his cell, and denied a change of clothing for two days. The same thing happened again "a few weeks later," he adds.
In another unredacted passage, he speaks of his alleged treatment beyond the interrogation rooms.
"Guards would grab me by pressure points behind my ears, under the jaw and on my neck," Khadr says of a time he went on hunger strike after being transferred into the maximum security Camp 5 at the Guantanamo U.S. naval base.
"On a scale of one to 10, I would say the pain was an 11."
He also speaks of being kneed "repeatedly in the thighs."
Other western countries have concluded deals with the United States leading to the repatriation of their nationals from Guantanamo, but both the current Conservative administration and the Liberals before them have resisted doing the same for Khadr, making him the only western detainee in Guantanamo.
His family's history of extensive terrorism links has worked against efforts to build public support for the Khadr's repatriation, but Lt.-Cmdr. Bill Kuebler, his U.S. military lawyer, is calling on people to focus only on the plight of Khadr himself.
"If everything the U.S. government says about Omar's father and family is true, then Omar is a victim of his family," Kuebler said in an interview. "It's not a question of giving Omar a 'second chance' - he's never had a first chance. The Canadian government shouldn't be allowed to hide behind the family's unpopularity as an excuse for its indifference to the plight of a Canadian boy any longer."
As recently as Friday, the Conservative government said it had "sought and received assurances that Mr. Khadr is being treated humanely."
The affidavit accompanies a series of defence motions aimed in part at uncovering the interrogation techniques used to extract statements from Khadr that the prosecution may use against him at an eventual trial.
Khadr gives his account of what has happened to him since his capture July 27, 2002, following the firefight in which he is accused of murdering Sgt. Chris Speer - the victim of the grenade attack.
U.S. medics treated him at the scene for life-threatening injuries, which Khadr lists as two shots in "in the back," shrapnel to his left eye, and wounds to his "left thigh, knee ankle and foot."
U.S. forces flew both Speer and Khadr to a hospital in Bagram, near the Afghan capital of Kabul, for treatment, but Speer later died.
Khadr says his interrogations began while he was still in hospital in Afghanistan and still in so much pain that was all he "could focus on."
"I was unconscious for about one week after being captured . . . " he says. "During the day, I was guarded by a young blond soldier who . . . had paper and took notes."
In one blacked-out section, Khadr appears to be describing something that is done to him.
"Due to my injuries, this caused me great pain," he adds.
He says he recalls at least two interrogations in the three days after he regained consciousness.
"I was unable to even stand at this time . . . " he says. "I could tell that this treatment was for punishment and to make me answer questions and give them the answers they wanted."
In another partially censored passage, Khadr says that a Hispanic MP accompanying the blond soldier during the day "would often (blacked out). He would tell nurses not to (blacked out) since he said that I had killed an American soldier. He would also (blacked out) me quite often."
It emerged last week that one of Khadr's main interrogators at the Bagram centre had been involved in the interrogation of another detainee who died there less than five months after the Canadian's arrival. The interrogator - identified as Sgt. Joshua Claus of military intelligence - was later charged along with 14 other U.S. soldiers at Bagram in connection prisoner abuse, and after pleading guilty to maltreatment and assault, he was sentenced to five months in jail in 2006.
Also last week, at a commission hearing in Guantanamo, Kuebler made reference to a paragraph in Khadr's affidavit that appears to suggest interrogators were doing something that aggravated his eye injuries.
"Sometimes they would (blacked out) particularly since both my eyes were badly injured," Khadr says.
Khadr says he "cried several times" during the first interrogation at the Bagram centre as a result of the "treatment and pain."
Khadr recalls he was held with adult detainees at the centre.
was still on a stretcher, and still had holes in my body and stitching
. . . " he says. "For about the first two weeks to a month . . . I
would be brought into the interrogation room on a stretcher."
Khadr says believes he faced 42 interrogations during three months at Bagram, before being transferred to Guantanamo.
Khadr says he and other detainees being transferred to Guantanamo were denied food and drink for two nights and a day "so that we would not have to use the bathroom on the plane."
Upon arrival at the U.S. naval base in southeast Cuba, he says he recalls one military official saying: "Welcome to Israel."
"They half-dragged, half-carried us so quickly off the plane that everyone had cuts on their ankles from the shackles," he says. "They would smack you with a stick if you made any wrong moves."
"I did not want to expose myself to any more harm . . . " he says. "I knew what answers made interrogators happy."
Khadr says Canadian officials have visited him on "numerous occasions" - including four visits over four days from March 27, 2003.
Canadian Foreign Affairs official Jim Gould and an official from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) visited him in early 2003, it has long been reported.
Khadr speaks of three people turning up on the first visit, and says the meeting took place in a conference room that was "more comfortable" that the interrogation room.
"They stated that they knew my mother and grandmother in Scarborough . . . " he says. "Rather than ask me how I was, the visitors had a lot of questions for me."
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