First Guantánamo Interrogation Video Released: Prisoner Moans 'Kill Me'

Human Rights

The secrets of interrogation at Guantanamo Bay prison camp were broadcast for the first time yesterday in grainy footage of a teenage inmate calling for his mother and begging: "Help me, help me."

Yesterday's release of eight minutes of video of Canadian intelligence agents questioning a Canadian detainee, Omar Khadr, marked the first time the public has been able to witness the interrogation of a suspect at the camp.

It also offered a glimpse into the effects of prolonged detention and sleep deprivation on inmates at Guantanamo.

The footage surfaced on a day when the treatment of detainees in the war on terror returned to the spotlight in the US courts, Congress and Guantanamo itself.

In Virginia, a court ruled that the only enemy combatant detained on US soil, Ali Saleh al-Marri, who has been held in a naval brig since his arrest in 2001, had the right to challenge his detention in court.

In Guantanamo, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, accused of being a driver for Osama bin Laden, told a military court that he was held in long and repeated periods of solitary confinement and subjected to humiliation, with a woman interrogator brushing up against his thigh.

Meanwhile, Congress held inquiries into how the Bush administration reached its legal limits on the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo, with testimony from the official who was once in charge of detainee policy, Douglas Feith.

At the time the video was produced, February 2003, Khadr was 16. He had been subjected to what guards called the "frequent flyer" program, in which detainees are deprived of sleep.

In Khadr's case, he was prevented from sleeping for more than three hours at a time for 21 days.

In the footage broadcast yesterday, Khadr's despair at his indefinite confinement is palpable. He strips his orange prison uniform over his head, rocks and holds his face in his hands, weeping and begging for help. "You don't care about me," he tells interrogators.

Commentators described his indistinct moans as Khadr saying: "help me", "kill me", or even calling for his mother in Arabic.

The video, which the Canadian government handed over to Khadr's lawyers on the orders of Canada's supreme court, was the first sight of some seven hours of footage of his interrogation by Canadian agents. The images were recorded by a camera hidden in an air shaft as Khadr was questioned over four days.

Khadr, who was raised in Afghanistan and Canada in a family of extremists, is accused of throwing a grenade that killed a US special operations soldier during a firefight in Afghanistan in late 2001. When he was captured, Khadr was badly wounded and close to death. At one point in the video, Khadr lifts up his shirt to show his scars and complains he has not received proper medical care for his injuries.

"They [the injuries] look like they are healing well to me," the agent says. "I'm not a doctor but I think you are getting good medical care." Khadr replies: "You are not here." The video does not show torture or mistreatment, but Khadr's lawyer, Nathan Whitling, noted that the Guantanamo authorities had used sleep deprivation before the session with the Canadian agents.

"The tapes do not show a dangerous terrorist, but instead a frightened, wounded Canadian boy pleading for help form Canadian officials," Whitling told reporters.

The video was condemned by human rights organizations and detainee lawyers. "Rather than seeking to ensure that a Canadian citizen -- and a child into the bargain -- is offered the opportunity to put forward his case in a proper way, Canadian officials are shown interrogating a boy who says he has been tortured," Amnesty International said.

Joshua Colangelo-Bryan, a lawyer, said Khadr's despair reminded him of his clients at Guantanamo.

"It certainly is a state of mind that many of my clients described to me over their years at Guantanamo -- the utter despondency," he said.

According to the human rights organization Reprieve, the Pentagon's figures indicate there have been 21 teenage or child detainees at Guantanamo.

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