Omar Ahmed Khadr, born in Toronto September 19, 1986, is a Canadian convicted of five charges under the United States Military Commissions Act of 2009 including murder in violation of the law of war and providing material support for terrorism, by a Guantanamo military commission tribunal, a venue reserved for non-American enemy combatants captured in the War on Terror. In October 2010 he pleaded guilty to the five charges against him as part of a plea agreement with military commission prosecutors. He was captured on July 27, 2002 by American forces at the age of 15 following a four-hour firefight in the village of Ayub Kheyl, Afghanistan. He has spent seven years in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. Khadr signed a pre-trial agreement, pleading guilty to the charges, and the details of the charges and accepting an 8 year sentence, not including time served, with the possibility of a transfer to Canada after at least one year to serve the remainder of the sentence there, based on a US/Canada agreement.
He is the youngest prisoner held in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp by the United States. He is the first since World War II to be prosecuted in a military commission for war crimes committed while still a minor. He has been frequently referred to as a child soldier, and was formally identified as a child soldier by the head of the United Nations child soldier program in a letter to the Military Commission in October 2010. The only Western citizen remaining in Guantanamo, Khadr is unique in that Canada has chosen not to seek extradition or repatriation despite the urgings of Amnesty International, UNICEF, the Canadian Bar Association and other prominent organisations. A 2009 review determined that the Canadian Cabinet had failed Khadr, by refusing to acknowledge his juvenile status or his repeated claims of being abused. In April 2009, the Federal Court of Canada ruled that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms made it obligatory for the government to immediately demand Khadr’s return. After a hearing before the Federal Court of Appeal produced the same result, the government announced they would argue their case before the Supreme Court of Canada. In January 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that Khadr’s constitutional rights had clearly been violated, but it stopped short of ordering the government to seek his return to Canada.
Khadr had accompanied three of the men he was staying with, as they went to the village to meet with several other militants. Neither of his parents were told about the meeting, and his father shouted angrily at Abu Laith al-Libi following reports of the battle, for not taking care of his son properly.
In the early morning of July 27, 2002, a team composed of 19th Special Forces Group, the 505th Infantry Regiment and a “militia”, composed of approximately twenty Afghan fighters loyal to mercenary warlord Pacha Khan Zadran and led by Zadran’s brother Kamal, had been sent from the airbase to the Ab Khail house in search of an elderly wheelchair-using man alleged to be the bomb-maker who had hidden anti-tank mines several weeks earlier. The search turned up no evidence against the occupants of the house.
While at the house, a report came in that a monitored satellite phone, possibly one owned by the Khadrs, had just been used 300–600 metres from the group’s present location. Seven soldiers were sent to investigate the site of the phonecall.
During this time, the elderly man sleeping beneath the tree awoke and began screaming loudly in Pashto, causing a number of local children to run over and interpret for the Americans, explaining that the man was “just angry”. Morris took a photograph of the children standing on the road outside the compound. A crowd of approximately a hundred local Afghans had gathered around the area to watch the incident unfold. An Afghan militiaman was sent towards the house to demand the surrender of the occupants, but retreated under gunfire.
Reinforcements from the 3rd Platoon of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion 505th Infantry Regiment arrived under the command of Captain Christopher W. Cirino, bringing the total number of Americans and Afghan militia to about fifty. Two of Zadran’s militiamen were sent into the compound to speak with the inhabitants, and returned to the Americans’ position and reported that the men inside claimed to be Pashtun villagers. They were told to return to the huts, and inform the occupants that the Americans wanted to search their house regardless of their affiliation. Upon hearing this, the occupants of the hut opened fire, shooting both militiamen.
Morris and Silver had now taken up positions outside the stone wall, with Silver “over Morris’s left shoulder explaining where he should try to position his next shot”, when Morris fell back into Silver, with a cut above his right eye and shrapnel embedded in his nose. Both Silver and Morris initially believed the wound was due to Morris’ rifle malfunctioning, though it was later attributed to an unseen grenade. In an alternate account of the injury, Morris has also claimed that he was inside the compound and hiding behind the granary preparing to fire a rocket-propelled grenade into a wall of the house when he was shot.
At this point, a five-vehicle convoy of ground reinforcements arrived including a rifle squad from the 82nd Airborne, bringing the number of troops to approximately a hundred. Two of these vehicles were damaged beyond use by the militants. Ten minutes later, the MedEvac left for Bagram Airbase and a pair of A-10 Warthogs arrived on-scene and began attacking the houses along with the Apaches. The MedEvac arrived at Bagram Airfield at 1130.
Unaware that Khadr and a militant had survived the bombing, the ground forces sent a team consisting of OC-1, Silver, Speer and three Delta Force soldiers through a hole in the south side of the wall, while at least two other American troops continued throwing grenades into the compound.
The team began picking their way over the bodies of dead animals and three fighters. According to Silver’s 2007 telling of the story, he then heard a sound “like a gunshot”, and saw the three Delta Force soldiers duck – as a grenade flew past them and exploded near Speer, who was at the rear of the group and not wearing his helmet.
OC-1 reported that although he didn’t hear any gunfire, but the dust being blown from an alley on the northside of the complex led him to believe the team was under fire from a shooter between the house and barn. He reported that a grenade was also “lobbed” over the wall that led to the alley and landed 30–50 metres from the alley opening. Running towards the alley to escape the grenade which he also didn’t hear detonate, OC-1 fired a dozen M4 Carbine rounds into the alley as he ran past, although he couldn’t see anything due to the rising dust clouds. Crouching at the southeast entrance to the alleyway, OC-1 could see a man with a holstered pistol moving on the ground next to an AK-47, with two chest wounds. From his position, OC-1 fired a single shot into the man’s head, killing him.
When the dust cleared, OC-1 saw Khadr crouched on his knees facing away from the action and wounded by shrapnel that had just permanently blinded his left eye, and shot him twice in the back.
OC-1 estimated that all the events since entering the wall had taken less than a minute up until this point, and that he had been the only American to fire his weapon, although an American grenade had also been thrown into the living quarters after initially entering the complex.
Silver initially claimed that two Delta Force troops had opened fire, shooting all three of the shots into Khadr’s chest, after the youth was seen to be holding a pistol and facing the troops. These claims all directly contradict OC-1’s version of events as the only eyewitness. OC-1 did agree however, that something was lying in the dust near Khadr’s end of the alley, although he couldn’t remember if it was a pistol or grenade.
Entering the alleyway, OC-1 saw two dead men with a damaged AK-47 buried in rubble who he believed had been killed in the airstrikes, and confirmed that the man he had shot was dead. Moving back to Khadr, OC-1 tapped the motionless youth’s eye, confirming that he was still alive. Turning him over onto his back, for entering troops to secure, he began exiting the alleyway to find Speer, who he was unaware had been wounded. While leaving the alleyway, he saw a third AK-47 and several grenades. Contradicting Morris’ report of five well-dressed men, OC-1 maintained that a search of the rubble determined that there had only been four occupants, all found in the same alleyway.
Khadr was given on-site medical attention, during which time he repeatedly asked the medics to kill him, surprising them with his English. An officer present later recorded in his diary that he was about to tell his Private Second Class to kill the wounded Khadr, when Delta Force soldiers ordered them not to harm the prisoner.
He was then loaded aboard a CH-47 helicopter and flown to Bagram Airbase, losing consciousness aboard the flight
Khadr spent three months recuperating at Bagram. During that time he was often singled out for extensive labour by American soldiers who “made him work like a horse”, referring to him as “Buckshot” and calling him a murderer.
He was transferred to Guantanamo along with Richard Belmar, Jamal Kiyemba and other captives on October 28, 2002, although Canadian officials were not notified as promised. Shackled and fitted with surgical masks, painted-over goggles and ear protectors to ensure sensory deprivation, he recalled being kicked when he tried to stretch his legs.
Khadr arrived at Guantanamo Bay on October 29 or October 30, 2002, to face charges of terrorism and war crimes for his actions. He was recorded as standing 170 centimetres (5.6 ft) and weighing 155 lb (70 kg), and recalled being greeted by guards with the phrase “Welcome to Israel”.
Despite being a minor under 18, he was now treated as an adult prisoner at Guantanamo. Officials considered him an “intelligence treasure trove” not only because his father was Ahmed Khadr, but because he had personally met Osama bin Laden and might be able to offer answers about the al-Qaeda hierarchy despite having been only ten years old at the time.
At first, he still spent much of his time in the prison hospital where he spoke with Muslim chaplain James Yee, although he didn’t seek any religious counselling. In February 2003, he wrote to his grandparents in Scarborough, Ontario, saying “I pray for you very much and don’t forgat me from your pray’rs and don’t forget to writ me and if ther any problem writ me”.
On January 21, 2003, a new standard operating procedure was put in place for American military interrogators who were told they would have to “radically create new methods and methodologies that are needed to complete this mission in defence of our nation”.
In February 2003, Canadian Foreign Affairs intelligence officer Jim Gould and an official from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) were allowed to interrogate Khadr themselves. For three weeks prior to the Canadian visit, Khadr was deprived of sleep and moved to a new cell every three hours for 21 days in order to “make him more amenable and willing to talk”.
The presence of Gould, who brought Khadr a Big Mac value meal, allowed the government to claim that the purpose of the visit was to “to ascertain Khadr’s well-being”, while his attorney Nate Whitling argued that “(Foreign Affairs) is suggesting that the visit was actually for (Khadr’s) benefit, but this is not the case”. His attorneys applied for and obtained an injunction from Mr. Justice Konrad von Finckenstein of the Federal Court of Canada to prevent CSIS from interrogating their client in the future. The following month, a briefing from the Foreign Affairs department summarised Gould’s findings stating that Khadr was a “thoroughly `screwed up’ young man”. All those persons who have been in positions of authority over him have abused him and his trust, for their own purposes.” In protest of the fact that DFAIT and CSIS had been allowed to interrogate Khadr, but not the RCMP, Supt. Mike Cabana resigned his post in Project O Canada.
For most of 2003, Khadr had a cell next to British detainee Ruhal Ahmed and the two often discussed their favourite Hollywood films, including Braveheart, Die Hard and Harry Potter. Ahmed later recalled that while some interrogations would see Khadr return to his cell smiling and discussing what movies he had been shown, other times he would return crying and huddle in the corner with his blanket over his head.
In the early spring of 2003, Khadr was told “Your life is in my hands” by a military interrogator, who spat on him, tore out some of his hair and threatened to send him to a country that would torture him more thoroughly, making specific reference to an Egyptian Askri raqm tisa (“Soldier Number Nine”) who enjoyed raping prisoners. The interrogation ended with Khadr being told he would spend the rest of his life in Guantanamo. A few weeks later, an interrogator giving his name as Izmarai spoke to Khadr in Pashto, threatening to send him to a “new prison” at Bagram Airbase where “they like small boys”.
In all, Khadr has been reported to have been kept in solitary confinement for long periods of time; to have been denied adequate medical treatment; to have been subjected to short shackling, and left bound, in uncomfortable stress positions until he soiled himself. Khadr’s lawyers allege that his interrogators “dragged [him] back and forth in a mixture of his urine and pine oil” and did not provide a change of clothes for two days in March.
At the end of March 2003, Omar was upgraded to “Level Four” security, and transferred to solitary confinement in a windowless and empty cell for the month of April.
Canadian intelligence officer Jim Gould returned to Guantanamo in March 2004, but was met by an uncooperative Khadr. The Foreign Affairs office claimed that Khadr was trying to be a “tough guy” and impress his cellmates, while his attorney Muneer Ahmad said that Khadr had originally believed Gould “had finally come to help him” in 2003, but by 2004 had realised that he was being interrogated, not aided, by the Canadian government.
In all, Khadr was interrogated by Canadians six times between 2003–2004, and ordered to identify photos of Canadians believed to have ties to terrorism. When he told Canadians that he had been tortured into giving false confessions by the Americans, the Canadian authorities called him a liar, causing him to cry. He later recalled that he had “tried to cooperate so that they would take me back to Canada”.
In January 2004, Lieutenant-Commander Barbara Burfeind stated that the United States had decided not to hold juveniles at Guantanamo any longer, leading Clive Stafford Smith to question why Khadr was not only being held, but facing a military tribunal.
In April 2005, Khadr was again given another written psychiatric test by lawyers Ahmad and Wilson, which was turned over to Dr. Daryl Matthews, a forensic psychologist who had previously been invited to Guantanamo two years earlier by The Pentagon. Matthews concluded that Khadr met the “full criteria for a diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder”.
Khadr also participated in the July 2005 200-detainee hunger strike, and went fifteen days without eating. He was twice taken to the on-site hospital and force-fed – on July 9 he was kicked and assaulted repeatedly by Military Police after collapsing from weakness.
On July 20, 2005, Guantánamo detainee Omar Deghayes wrote “Omar Khadr is very sick in our block. He is throwing [up] blood. They gave him cyrum [serum] when they found him on the floor in his cell”, and his extract was subsequently published in The Independent.
On March 6, 2006, he met Clive Stafford Smith in the visitation area of Camp V, and stated that he had been knocked unconscious by an American grenade blast and didn’t recall ever throwing any grenades while the battle raged around him.
Kuebler was able to arrange for a psychological evaluation from Kate Porterfield, who was able to visit Khadr three times in November 2008. Porterfield reported that she was finding it hard to establish trust with Khadr, which was cited as “to be expected in cased like Khadr’s where young people had been abused”.
Khadr’s defence attorneys claimed that the Canadian government acted illegally, sending its counsel and CSIS agents to Guantanamo Bay to interrogate Khadr and turning their findings over to the Tribunal prosecutors to help convict Khadr, and that the release of the documents might help prove Khadr’s innocence.
In 2007, the Federal Court of Appeal ordered the Canadian government to turn over its records related to Khadr’s time in captivity, as judge Richard Mosley stated it was now apparent that Canada had violated international law. The government appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada in 2008, arguing that Khadr was just “fishing” for information and that disclosing their records, which include an initial account of the firefight which differs from all previously seen reports, could jeopardise national security.
Critics alleged that the refusal to release the classified documents was due only to the “embarrassment” they caused the government, and on May 23, 2008, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously that the government had acted illegally, contravening §. 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and ordered the videotapes of the interrogation released.
In April 2009, the Federal Court of Canada ruled once again that Khadr’s rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms had been violated. It concluded that Canada had a “duty to protect” Khadr and ordered the Canadian government to request that the U.S. return him to Canada as soon as possible. In August 2009, the Federal Court of Appeal upheld the decision in a 2–1 ruling. Finally, in January 2010, in a unanimous 9–0 decision, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the participation of Canadian officials in Khadr’s interrogations at Guantanamo clearly violated his rights under the Charter. In its sharply worded decision, the Supreme Court referred to the denial of Khadr’s legal rights as well as to the use of sleep deprivation techniques to soften him up for interrogation:
The deprivation of [Khadr's] right to liberty and security of the person is not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice. The interrogation of a youth detained without access to counsel, to elicit statements about serious criminal charges while knowing that the youth had been subjected to sleep deprivation and while knowing that the fruits of the interrogations would be shared with the prosecutors, offends the most basic Canadian standards about the treatment of detained youth suspects.
However, the Supreme Court stopped short of ordering the government to seek Khadr’s return to Canada. Instead, it left it to the government to determine how it would exercise its duty to conduct foreign affairs while also upholding its obligation to respect Khadr’s constitutional rights.
On July 7, 2010, less than one week before the beginning of preliminary hearings in his trial before a military commission, Khadr fired his entire team of lawyers and announced that he would act as his own legal defense. Later in the month, Khadr accepted Lieutenant Colonel Jon S. Jackson as his lead defense counsel. Lieutenant Colonel Jackson is reported to have worked behind the scenes for several months to work on a plea agreement that would return Khadr to Canada within one year.
On October 25, 2010, Khadr pleaded guilty to murder in violation of the laws of war, attempted murder in violation of the laws of war, conspiracy, two counts of providing material support for terrorism and spying. Under the plea deal, Khadr would serve one more year in Guantanamo Bay, and be returned to Canada, but Canadian authorities denied Khadr would be repatriated as part of any agreement. This plea deal was negotiated between Lieutenant Colonel Jon S. Jackson, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and members of the White House. It is reported the prosecutors objected to the deal but ultimately the Convening Authority agreed with Lieutenant Colonel Jackson’s proposal and accepted the deal. The Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs said in Parliament during Oral Question period that Canada was not involved in the agreement between Khadr and the US government, but when asked about an exchange of diplomatic notes indicating that Canada is inclined to favourably consider a request from Khadr for a transfer to Canada after one year, he said Canada would implement the agreement. Reportedly, Khadr will spend the next year in near solitary confinement in the section of Guantanamo reserved for the two prisoners who have been convicted in the Military Commission system, a Taliban cook and an Al Qaeda propagandist.
The WikiLeaks Cablegate disclosures revealed that the Canadian government’s Washington-backed decision not to seek the repatriation of Khadr, made it “politically impossible” for the country to take in the Uighur former detainees the US was unable to return to China. The WikiLeaks cables show strong US interest in Canadian reaction to Khadr’s case, and the director of Canada’s intelligence agency is reported expressing his belief that the release of DVD footage of Khadr’s interrogation, in which he is shown crying, would lead to “knee-jerk anti-Americanism” and “paroxysms of moral outrage, a Canadian specialty.”
Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) Director Judd discussed domestic and foreign terror threats with Counselor of the State Department Cohen in Ottawa on July 2. Judd admitted that CSIS was increasingly distracted from its mission by legal challenges that could endanger foreign intelligence-sharing with Canadian agencies. He predicted that the upcoming release of a DVD of Guantanamo detainee and Canadian citizen Omar Khadr’s interrogation by Canadian officials would lead to heightened pressure on the government to press for his return to Canada, which the government would continue to resist.
Judd commented that cherry-picked sections of the court-ordered release of a DVD of Guantanamo detainee and Canadian citizen Omar Khadr (ref D) would likely show three (Canadian) adults interrogating a kid who breaks down in tears. He observed that the images would no doubt trigger “knee-jerk anti-Americanism” and “paroxysms of moral outrage, a Canadian specialty,” as well as lead to a new round of heightened pressure on the government to press for Khadr’s return to Canada. He predicted that PM Harper’s government would nonetheless continue to resist this pressure.
Full Omar Khadr Interrogation Video
The U.S. vs. Omar Khadr