New York Times on Omar Khadr

The Free Omar Committee welcomes the attention the New York Times draws in a recent article to the continual suffering of the men tortured and wrongly held at Guantanamo.

It’s good to see that a section in the NY Times article is about Omar Khadr. Regrettably it contains too many errors to ignore; inaccurate information in the media has perpetuated damaging myths and kept falsehoods about Omar alive.

For 15 years misinformation has legitimized the horrific violations of Omar’s rights. Today it still shields governments from their accountability and prevents actions for redress, as recommended by the Committee of the United Nations Convention against Torture.

One of the main goals of the Free Omar Committee is to hold the media accountable for proper coverage of all aspects of Omar’s case.

In the following letter to the NY Times editor, Free Omar writer, Kathleen Copps, points out the inaccuracies in the New York Times article How U.S. Torture Left Legacy of Damaged Minds.

Thank you to the authors and the NY Times for reminding readers of the ongoing horrors of Guantanamo Bay U.S.military prison.

Our group, the Free Omar Khadr Now Campaign, advocates on Omar Khadr’s behalf and encourages accurate reporting on the complexities of the case.

With all due respect, we would like to point out that your recent article How U.S. Torture Left Legacy of Damaged Minds, incorrectly identifies Omar Khadr as a “one time Qaeda child soldier” and states that his father was an al Qaeda member.

In 2002, Omar Khadr, a 15 year old Canadian citizen was seriously wounded and captured by the U.S. military in Afghanistan and imprisoned for a decade-first in Bagram, the Guantanamo. In the wake of 9/11, falsely linking his family to al Qaeda manipulated public opinion on both sides of the border and served to make palatable, the abandonment, torture and complete denial of fundamental justice to a child.

Not only have journalists consistently perpetuated the Khadr / al Qaeda link, but like the authors of this recent article, have inaccurately maintained that Mr. Khadr
“pleaded guilty” to “war crimes”. References to guilty pleas and war crimes lead people to believe that the Guantanamo military tribunal was a legitimate process carried out in a properly-constituted court. It certainly was not. In fact Omar Khadr’s sentencing by a military
tribunal was itself a gave breach (i.e. a crime) of the Geneva Conventions and a crime in Canada.

In 2004, Mr. Khadr’s lawyers filed a civil claim against the Canadian government seeking compensation for the violations of his fundamental rights and for the complicity of Canadian officials in his torture.

Instead of providing redress, the Canadian government at tax payer expense, persistently fought Omar Khadr’s legal team at every level of court-only to lose each and every time.

At 29, after spending almost half his life in prison, Omar Khadr was finally released on bail from a Canadian prison in 2015. He chooses to avoid the limelight and instead focuses his energy pursuing educational goals and making positive plans for his future.

Canada has a long overdue obligation to settle the civil suit and provide remedy to Mr. Khadr for the travesty of injustice he has suffered.

Journalists have a long overdue obligation to accurately reveal the truth and set the record straight how a child was so ruthlessly abandoned in pursuit of the U.S. “War on Terror”.

Kathleen Copps

FREE Omar Khadr NOW Campaign