Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Omar Khadr footage

Riveting footage of a series of CSIS interrogations of the teenage Omar Khadr in Guantanamo Bay was released today. You can see it here.

For those who don't know, Khadr is a Canadian citizen of Pakistani ethnicity who was captured in Afghanistan in late 2002 after a battle with US troops. His father was a member of Al Qaeda, and Khadr was sort of conscripted (and indoctrinated) into the fight. He is accused of killing an American soldier with a hand grenade. He was only 16 at the time, and he has been held at Guantanamo for nearly 6 years.

The video shows an increasingly agitated and distraught Khadr who quickly realizes the CSIS agents are not there to help him, but simply to get information. Thus, he doesn't show much willingness to cooperate.

Honestly, I don't know what to think about this case. I feel kind of bad for him. What chance did he have, really, given his upbringing? He was just a kid; technically a child soldier. The "evidence" that he threw the deadly grenade is very shaky; there's a very good chance he didn't do it. I think he was just a scared 16 year old in the wrong place at the wrong time.

And it really begs the question, what useful information could he possibly possess, six years after the fact? They say he personally met Osama Bin Laden when he was ten, but so what?

This is why the entire system that the Bush administration tried to put in place is so unjust. Charge them, release them, or shoot them, but don't keep them in limbo. Holding these prisoners indefinitely is something akin to mental torture, as we can see in the tape. Khadr had no idea what was going to happen to him; he had not been sentenced; he did not have the comfort of knowing he'll be released when the war was over, as is usually the case with POWs. If the Bush administration had its way, he'd have no rights at all, but at least with the Supreme Court rulings he was given the right to his day in court. His case will be heard by a military tribunal this October, which looks set to be a sham trial, as the previous judge was removed by the Bush administration for demanding crucial documents and other evidence (including the CSIS video) to be handed over to the defense.

UPDATE: Harper's position on the case remains unchanged.

Really, my biggest problem with all of this is the very likely possibility that he will not get a fair trial. The Americans know that if he did, few of the charges would stick. They might get him on the conspiracy charge, or even attempted murder, but there's no way they can prove he killed that soldier. And even if he did, that's murder? A brainwashed child soldier being forced to kill?

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