Canadian Authorities Torturing a Child!
To feel with our hearts the atrocities that engender infamies, we have to sacrifice our lives until the very end.
- Nadir Siguencia
Omar Khadr’s Untold Story
Canada Should Let Media Interview Ex-Guantánamo Detainee
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD AUG. 3, 2014
The Canadian government has denied a request from a Toronto newspaper to conduct an on-camera interview with a former child soldier and detainee at Guantánamo Bay, Omar Khadr. Mr. Khadr, a 27-year-old Canadian, was captured in Afghanistan in 2002, when he was just 15, and accused of throwing a grenade during a firefight that killed an American soldier.
Under a 2010 plea deal that ended his prosecution under Guantánamo’s grievously flawed military commission system, Mr. Khadr admitted to throwing the grenade and planting roadside bombs. In exchange, his sentence was capped at eight years on top of eight years already served in one of the world’s most infamous hellholes, and he was allowed, after bureaucratic delays, to transfer from Guantánamo in Cuba to Canada, where he is still incarcerated.
The Toronto Star thinks he should be allowed to tell his side of the story and respond to questions from one of its reporters, Michelle Shephard, who has been following his case for years. The Canadian government, in a rebuff to press freedoms and the public’s right to know, will not let him do so — a form of censorship that brings to mind the way in which both the Bush and Obama administrations have quashed all civil cases brought by victims of torture without allowing them to describe their experiences in court or hold those responsible accountable.
Mr. Khadr was badly abused in custody. He was hooded and handcuffed to his cell with his arms extended painfully above his head, according to testimony at a pretrial hearing, and was included in the so-called frequent-flier program that used sleep deprivation to get prisoners to talk. Incriminating statements obtained by coercion were the main evidence against him; moreover, before he pleaded guilty it was made clear that unless he did so he would likely face life in prison. His treatment was hardly unique in the annals of Guantánamo or Afghanistan’s Bagram Prison, where he was first taken, but his history as a child soldier has given his case special resonance, and his treatment has drawn harsh condemnation from United Nation officials, civil liberties and human rights groups and Canadian courts.
Whether Mr. Khadr actually threw the fatal grenade may never be known. He has recanted his admission of guilt, saying he tendered it only to win release from Guantánamo and return to Canada. He has agreed to be interviewed in prison, but officials have rebuffed Ms. Shephard’s repeated efforts to arrange the taping on grounds, so far unexplained, that the interview could cause “disruption” in the jail. The Canadian media, including Ms. Shephard, suspect high-level government interference. The Toronto Star and two other media outlets involved in the issue filed a request for judicial review last month in federal court. The Canadian government should allow the interview and let Mr. Khadr, now an adult, share his perspective on his ordeal. The public has been kept waiting long enough.