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This photo, taken from a 2003 U.S. Department of Defense surveillance video, was released by Omar Khadr's lawyers. Khadr (pictured) is in an interrogation room at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.
You Don't Like the Truth: 4 Days Inside Guantanamo
- Director: Luc Cote and Patricio Henriquez
- Genre: Documentary
- Running Time: 100 minutes
- Language: English, French
Not rated; images of naked, brutalized bodies
With: Omar Ahmed Khadr, Damien Corsetti, Moazzam Begg, Dennis Edney and Richard Belmar
The time period in the title of You Don't Like the Truth: 4 Days Inside Guantanamo refers to the days that two Canadian interrogators spent questioning Omar Khadr, not to the time Khadr has been in U.S. custody. A Canadian citizen captured in Afghanistan in 2002, when he was 15, Khadr is still at Guantanamo, where he's serving an eight-year sentence levied as part of a much-debated 2010 plea deal.
According to the attorneys interviewed in Luc Cote and Patricio Henriquez's documentary, that's not how the system is supposed to work. As a "child soldier," Khadr should be protected by United Nations protocols.
Khadr was jailed and interrogated — and tortured, several witnesses say — on charges that he threw a grenade that killed an American soldier. Though he eventually pleaded guilty, Cote and Henriquez suggest that the case against him was not particularly strong. Khadr was badly wounded in the U.S. attack on the house where was staying, and photographs show him lying helplessly on the ground at the time he was supposedly tossing the explosive.
In 2008, the video interrogation footage that's the basis for this film was ordered released by the Canadian Supreme Court. (Faces and certain bits of audio have been redacted by Canada's Security Intelligence Service.) This gives a glimpse at the young man's anguish. But the court's order, of course, covers only the video of the Canadians' questioning, not any of the interrogations conducted by Americans.
The Canadian government, the filmmakers point out, has thus far not requested Khadr's repatriation, though later this year he can request a transfer to a prison in Canada. It's considered likely that he'll be sent there; under Canadian law, he could be paroled after serving a third of his eight-year sentence.
Khadr was 15 when he was captured after a firefight in an Afghan village. Charged with throwing the grenade that killed U.S. soldier Christopher Speer, he entered a plea of guilty in 2010.
Born in a Toronto suburb to parents of Egyptian and Palestinian backgrounds, Khadr was in Afghanistan because his father ran a relief agency there. Khadr's dad, who was killed in 2003, probably had contact with al-Qaida and the Taliban, but the exact nature of those ties is unknown. While being held at Bagram Airport, Khadr claimed to know Osama bin Laden. When questioned by his Canadian visitors, he said he made that up so that his American captors would stop torturing him.
Cote and Henriquez's strategy is to show excerpts from the four days, interspersed with remarks. The original footage has simultaneous images from three cameras, and the filmmakers also use split screens, both to show reactions and to add commentary on the interrogation video.
The interviewees include Khadr's mother and sister, former cellmates, two psychiatrists, a Toronto reporter and several attorneys (both U.S. military and Canadian pro bono). Also interviewed is Damien Corsetti, a former American interrogator who describes himself as a "monster" while working at Bagram and Abu Ghraib.
Corsetti, who knew Khadr at Bagram, calls him "a child" who should have been released long ago. Other observers also argue that Khadr is not a hard-core terrorist, and doubt that he killed the U.S. soldier. (His attorneys contended, after his guilty plea, that it was their only option.)
Khadr's Canadian questioners seem to believe the charge, though: Tempting Khadr with food from Subway and McDonald's, they urge him to repeat the confession he made at Bagram. Khadr, who initially seems to think his countrymen have come to rescue him, sinks into despair when he realizes that this interrogation will be more of the same.
You Don't Like the Truth — which is what Khadr eventually tells his questioners — would be more satisfying if it were a more definitive look at Guantanamo's workings. All Cote and Henriquez can provide is some glimmers of insight about just one of the men held there. But that's enough to make their movie enlightening, compelling and, finally, heartbreaking.