The U.S. vs Omar Khadr
Sunday February 21, 2010 at 11 pm on CBC-TV
Canadian Omar Khadr was accused of killing an American soldier with a grenade during a firefight in Afghanistan in July 2002. Most of the evidence against him is based on a series of confessions Omar allegedly made at the age of 15 while in U.S. custody at the military base in Bagram and later in Guantanamo. Omar's defense team claims that these are false confessions extracted under torture.Omar Khadr at the age of 15
The U.S. vs Omar Khadr includes Omar's first-hand account of the torture and mistreatment he claims to have suffered. Not only is there extensive evidence that the U.S. Forces were using torture in that time period, but a Bagram cellmate and one of his interrogators corroborate his story. One of Omar's interrogators was later convicted in the murder of a detainee in U.S custody in Bagram.
A detailed re-creation of the firefight in Afghanistan in July 2002 and interviews with eyewitnesses to the battle shows that the U.S. Government put out a demonstrably false version of what took place that day. Some evidence that supported Omar's claims of innocence was systematically withheld from defense lawyers, while other exculpatory evidence was altered to make him look guilty. There is new stunning evidence which shows that American soldiers were committing war crimes in the aftermath of the battle by "shooting the wounded," and that the victim was actually killed by "Friendly Fire." His wounds and medical records indicate that he was hit with the blast of an American grenade that Omar could not have thrown.The American government claims that Khadr threw a grenade that killed a U.S. soldier. As details of the battle emerge, it is now unclear who threw the grenade and whether the grenade could have belonged to the American troops.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has used the terms "Rule of Law" and "Due Process" to describe the Guantanamo military commissions, but Omar's defense team argues that neither of those terms is appropriate. The U.S. military is allowed to pick the lawyers, the jury, and the judge, and to change the judge if they don't like his rulings, which has already happened in this case. The process has been denounced by the U.S. and Canadian Bar Associations, and even by the Supreme Courts in both Canada and the United States. President George W Bush and Prime Minister Stephen Harper are among the very few political leaders who still support the military commissions.
The Khadr family has become reviled in Canada because of controversial statements made on CBC TV several years ago, but the defense lawyers plead with Canadians to look beyond those revolting statements and see a child who was dragged into the world of Al Qaeda and left with strangers at the age of 15, ordered by his father to be their translator.
The U.S. vs Omar Khadr challenges us to ask whether justice is a right of all citizens or if we allow some to lose that right because we find their cause and their family repugnant.