Oh, Guantánamo

Im old enough to remember the first pop video.

Or at least the first really popular one. Vienna, Ultravoxs ice-cold classic (This means nothing to me / Ohhhh, Vienna!) might not be quite as a cool as it was in 1981 ok, it hasnt been cool for about 25 years! but Midge Ures once slicker-than-slick promo flashed through my mind this week.

Because? Well, because we now have headlines about the first video from Guantánamo. Right, so the mind/world works in strange ways. In the case of Guantánamo Bay, very strangely.

I expect the Canadian Omar Khadr knows this rather too well by now. Hes been held at GITMO since he was 16 (about the age I was when watching Midge and the boys on TOTP); hes 21 now.

The Guantánamo video is a recording of Omar being questioned/interrogated from 2003. Theres no other word for it: the video is disturbing. (Warning: You are about to watch live footage of an interrogation)

So, you hear Omar saying help me over and over again. I lost count of how many times he says it. Hes alone in a room between interrogations by Canadian intelligence officers (spookily shown with big black blobs for heads on the tape). The authorities are recording him, but not helping him.

The interrogators frankly dont seem interested in his physical or mental state. Even when he pulls up his orange boiler suit top to reveal his wounds (sustained in Afghanistan he says) they wave them away with an airy remark about how theyre healing. The most bizarre/disturbing moment in the eight minutes I watched was how Omar says he lost his eyes and his feet. Hes apparently talking about earlier injuries but hes obviously in some sort of deep mental despair.

How the Canadian officials could think it appropriate to question him in this state is hard to comprehend.

Still harder to understand is how the Canadian government can go on to this day saying that it cant help a Canadian citizen trapped at Guantánamo. And a teenager/21-year-old at that. You almost have to remind yourself: this is not some sort of freakish reality tv boot camp. This is one of the worlds most notorious prisons. And its held Omar and other children (alongside hundreds of men) for years without charge or trial. (Ok, not everyone is sympathetic. The story doing the rounds today is how a US soldier who says he was ambushed by Khadr's group in Afghanistan has "earned" his place in Guantánamo. But I wonder has he "earned" the right to languish in detention for over five years without even getting a trial?)

Meanwhile, now finally charged, Omar is set to be dragged before one of Guantánamos so-called military commissions, show trials run by the military that can use secret evidence and impose death sentences. Amnestys calling for him to be repatriated to Canada and either face a proper trial or be released.

Actually, when you get right down to it, this first Guantánamo video perhaps does more than pages of documentation to bring home the reality of life behind the GITMO razor wire. Lets hope other legal teams can force the authorities to release the hundreds of tapes that are thought to exist.

So, to sum it up, what were getting out of the gloom of the Guantánamo interrogation rooms isnt anything like a music video. In fact, its more like one of film-maker Michael Hanekes creepy set-pieces. Except its real and its happening now.

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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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