Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Canada’s most-awarded
newsroom for a reason
Stay informed for a
lot less, cancel anytime
“Exemplary reporting on
COVID-19” – Herman L
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Sketch showing Omar Khadr during August 9 court session.

It is difficult to imagine that a 15-year-old, handcuffed to a stretcher after surgery, bullet holes in his chest and his eyes full of shrapnel, would feel anything but coerced during an interrogation. Yet a U.S. military commission judge ruled yesterday that statements given eight years ago in these circumstances by the Canadian Omar Khadr to U.S. authorities at a prison camp in Bagram, Afghanistan, were reliable and not the product of coercion.

Bagram was a terrifying place to be for anyone. "Those who refuse to cooperate inside this secret CIA interrogation center are sometimes kept standing or kneeling for hours, in black hoods or spray-painted goggles, according to intelligence specialists familiar with CIA interrogation methods," the Washington Post reported in December, 2002. "At times they are held in awkward, painful positions and deprived of sleep with a 24-hour bombardment of lights - subject to what are known as 'stress and duress' techniques."

The environment was, by its nature, coercive. Screams from other prisoners could be heard. Interrogators threatened Mr. Khadr with rape by several men. One man who interrogated him was later court-martialled for beating another prisoner. Mr. Khadr was sometimes hooded and chained with his arms pinned high against a fence.

Story continues below advertisement

And he had no reason to believe he was protected from danger. He was in a legal black hole - he had no lawyer, no access to a judge, no possibility of contact with any adult with a stake in him.

Did interrogators, recognizing the dangers to a future fair trial, bend over backward to warn him of the uses to which their information would be put? No. He was given no "Miranda" warning that his statements could be used against him. People in the United States would be in an uproar if information were extracted from any other accused criminal, whether juvenile or adult, as it was from Mr. Khadr.

The possibility of coercion underscores the dangers of putting on trial a juvenile for war-crimes rather than, as has been the near-universal practice since the Second World War, treating those who enlisted them in illegal militant groups as the war criminals, and working toward rehabilitation of the juvenile. It is much more difficult for young people to protect themselves from being coerced. It is a painful irony that the 15-year-old who was coerced by his family to be a terrorist could then be coerced by a democratic state to give evidence against himself.

Barack Obama, in changing the Bush-era rules of the military commissions, promised that coerced evidence would not be used. Yesterday's ruling is not an auspicious start for the first trial under Mr. Obama's supposedly fairer system.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies