Saturday, February 9, 2008

The Human Face of Torture: Omar Khadr

Here are a few excerpts from a Rolling Stone article detailing this kid's ordeal:

A few months after Omar Khadr arrived at Guantanamo Bay, he was awakened by a guard around midnight. "Get up," the guard said. "You have a reservation." "Reservation" is the commonly used term at Gitmo for interrogation.
In the interrogation room, Omar's interviewer grew displeased with his level of cooperation. He summoned several MPs, who chained Omar tightly to an eye bolt in the center of the floor. Omar's hands and feet were shackled together; the eye bolt held him at the point where his hands and feet met. Fetally positioned, he was left alone for half an hour.
Upon their return, the MPs uncuffed Omar's arms, pulled them behind his back and recuffed them to his legs, straining them badly at their sockets. At the junction of his arms and legs he was again bolted to the floor and left alone. The degree of pain a human body experiences in this particular "stress position" can quickly lead to delirium, and ultimately to unconsciousness. Before that happened, the MPs returned, forced Omar onto his knees, and cuffed his wrists and ankles together behind his back. This made his body into a kind of bow, his torso convex and rigid, right at the limit of its flexibility. The force of his cuffed wrists straining upward against his cuffed ankles drove his kneecaps into the concrete floor. The guards left.
An hour or two later they came back, checked the tautness of his chains and pushed him over on his stomach. Transfixed in his bonds, Omar toppled like a figurine. Again they left. Many hours had passed since Omar had been taken from his cell. He urinated on himself and on the floor. The MPs returned, mocked him for a while and then poured pine-oil solvent all over his body. Without altering his chains, they began dragging him by his feet through the mixture of urine and pine oil. Because his body had been so tightened, the new motion racked it. The MPs swung him around and around, the piss and solvent washing up into his face. The idea was to use him as a human mop. When the MPs felt they'd successfully pretended to soak up the liquid with his body, they uncuffed him and carried him back to his cell. He was not allowed a change of clothes for two days.
[snip]

While he was at Guantanamo, Omar was beaten in the head, nearly suffocated, threatened with having his clothes taken indefinitely and, as at Bagram, lunged at by attack dogs while wearing a bag over his head. "Your life is in my hands," an intelligence officer told him during an interrogation in the spring of 2003. During the questioning, Omar gave an answer the interrogator did not like. He spat in Omar's face, tore out some of his hair and threatened to send him to Israel, Egypt, Jordan or Syria -- places where they tortured people without constraints: very slowly, analytically removing body parts. The Egyptians, the interrogator told Omar, would hand him to Askri raqm tisa -- Soldier Number Nine. Soldier Number Nine, the interrogator explained, was a guard who specialized in raping prisoners.
Omar's chair was removed. Because his hands and ankles were shackled, he fell to the floor. His interrogator told him to get up. Standing up was hard, because he could not use his hands. When he did, his interrogator told him to sit down again. When he sat, the interrogator told him to stand again. He refused. The interrogator called two guards into the room, who grabbed Omar by the neck and arms, lifted him into the air and dropped him onto the floor. The interrogator told them to do it again -- and again and again and again. Then he said he was locking Omar's case file in a safe: Omar would spend the rest of his life in a cell at Guantanamo Bay.
Several weeks later, a man who claimed to be Afghan interrogated Omar. He wore an American flag on his uniform pants. He said his name was Izmarai -- "lion" -- and he spoke in Farsi and occasionally in Pashto and English. Izmarai said a new prison was under construction in Afghanistan for uncooperative Guantanamo detainees. "In Afghanistan," Izmarai said, "they like small boys." He pulled out a photograph of Omar and wrote on it, in Pashto, "This detainee must be transferred to Bagram."
Omar was taken from his chair and short-shackled to an eye bolt in the floor, his hands behind his knees. He was left that way for six hours. On March 31st, 2003, Omar's security level was downgraded to "Level Four, with isolation." Everything in his cell was taken, and he spent a month without human contact in a windowless box kept at the approximate temperature of a refrigerator.
When he was not being tortured or held in isolation, Omar spent virtually every waking minute of his captivity at Guantanamo alone in his cell, first in a facility called Camp Delta and then in one called Camp V. His left eye, the one injured at Ab Khail, had gone blind and was immobile. Except for a Koran, there was nothing in Omar's cells to occupy his mind. During his first year and a half at Guantanamo, he was permitted to exercise only twice a week for fifteen minutes, in a cage slightly larger than his own. Conversation between cells was possible, but prisoners had become so unstable and fearful of one another that they tended not to say much; there were no friendships. Omar tried to talk to his guards, about anything, but they were unresponsive. They often covered their nameplates with tape before entering detention facilities.
Hat tip to Time for change's Journal (via After Downing Street). Further:
Torture of detainees held in prisons operated under the auspices of the George W. Bush administration has been very common since Bush commenced his “War on Terror”.

Whatever restraints may exist against the torture of children, the torture of Omar Khadr is not at all unique in that respect: Just recently, Bush legal advisor John Yoo argued publicly that there is no law that can prevent the President from ordering the torture of children; video evidence exists of the torture of Iraqi children in our jails in Iraq; and former President Jimmy Carter discusses this issue in his book, “Our Endangered Values” (page 119-20):
After visiting six of the twenty five or so U.S. prisons, the International Committee of the Red Cross reported registering 107 detainees under the age of eighteen, some as young as eight years old…. The international Red Cross, Amnesty International, and the Pentagon have gathered substantial testimony of torture of children, confirmed by soldiers who witnessed or participated in the abuse….

Children like this eleven-year old have been denied the right to see their parents, a lawyer, or anyone else, and were not told why they were detained…
From Time for change's Journal one may get some more details about the rather dodgy case against this kid. Since the age of 15, his life has been nothing but torture; and as it's become increasingly clear, he's far from the only one.

Part of The Human Face of Torture series.

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