You dont like the truth 4 days inside Guantanamo: A must see film about the only child detainee of Guantanamo Bay, Omar Khadr

* Posted by Frances * Last week I found myself at the Ritzy in Brixton for the screening of ‘You don’t like the truth – 4 days inside Guantanamo’ as part of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, a fantastic week of human rights films in London.

 

I wasn’t sure what to expect, not least since the 4 days of film featured in the documentary is the only footage from inside Guantanamo Bay that the public have access to. I was shocked to learn that, despite supposedly having been made public, the tapes were obtained only after a five-year legal battle with the Canadian authorities since the Americans claimed somewhat conveniently to have ‘lost’ them.

 

I would thoroughly recommend this film to all CHRN supporters interested in learning more about the issues surrounding Omar Khadr’s case. In it’s thought provoking discussion, the film features extremely insightful comment from those close to Omar and his case; ranging from former Guantanamo Bay detainees, to US Guantanamo prison guards, Omar’s defence team and the Canadian press. Throughout we are reminded that Omar Khadr was a 15-year-old child (and Canadian citizen) when his case began and should have been treated as such at every step.

 

The screening was followed by a fascinating Q&A with the film makers, Luc Côté and Patricio Henríquez, as well as Omar Khadr’s defence lawyer, Dennis Edney, who has funded much of his defence of Omar over the years himself.

 

You may remember that the CHRN and Amnesty International have campaigned repeatedly on Omar Khadr’s behalf. A Canadian citizen, Omar Khadr was arrested by US troops in Afghanistan in 2002 when he was 15 years old. He has been held in Guantanamo Bay ever since, despite international calls that he be treated as a child soldier. During his time at Bagram and in Guantanamo Omar claims he has been tortured, and it is confirmed by his defence team that he is at risk of going blind due to lack of sufficient medical following his arrest.

 

Omar is charged with several ‘war crimes’, including the murder of a US soldier, Christopher Speer (a charge against which Omar has always maintained his innocence.) At his trial last year, after eight and a half years of detention and extensive discussion between the prosecution and Omar’s defence team, Omar did plead guilty to the charges against him. By doing so Omar escaped a 40-year prison term and instead will serve a further eight years, after one of which he may be able to transfer to serve in Canada. So perhaps at age 32 Omar will finally be released.

 

The film is a hard- hitting documentary covering 4 days when Canadian officials visited Omar in Guantanamo for the first time. It is heart breaking to watch how Omar’s relationship with them changes, from the first day when he is clearly full of hope that they have come to ‘help’ him, to the last by which time it is clear they will not do so, will only ask questions about his father and that they ‘do not like the truth’ Omar is telling them, not least his claims of torture. Significantly, despite claiming in public they didn’t use any of the information, the Canadian officials featured did in fact send it all to the Americans, without securing any guarantees, such as foregoing death penalty charges. 

 

It was clear that Dennis Edney is outraged by the reaction to Omar’s arrest and trial. Most shocking is that the Canadian government did not ever ask for Omar’s return or repatriation and the Canadian government has never publicly denounced the existence of Guantanamo Bay. The Canadian government has in fact spent thousands of dollars fighting Omar’s defence at every turn and appealing all decisions in his favour. Dennis explained the difficulty he had convincing Omar to plead guilty at his trial but that he is glad he did, since Omar was ‘abandoned’ at this trial – all of the defence witnesses either refused or were not permitted to attend, the US judge admitted evidence from Bagram (despite Omar’s and witnesses claims that it was obtained under torture), the jury was hand picked from the US military. In short – Omar ‘didn’t stand a chance’.

 

The filmmakers suggested that this apparent abandonment is evidence of an entrenched far right wing political stance in Canada – where juveniles are treated like adults in the criminal justice system and there is even talk of (and some support for) the re-criminalisation of abortion. Stephen Harper, Canadian Prime Minister, for example, excluded funding of abortions from Canada’s G8 health plan. These pretty shocking claims add further significant insight into a debate, which as children’s rights’ activists we would be very concerned about. 

 

'You don’t like the truth – 4 days inside Guantanamo' will be released later this year in select cinemas. To find out more and make up your own mind visit www.youdontlikethetruth.com

 

Thanks for reading,

Frances

 

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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