In 2003, a 15 year-old boy from Scarborough was caught in a military firefight between U.S. soldiers and a terrorist group in Afghanistan. When the fighting was over, an American soldier was killed and the boy was found with two bullets in his back. That boy was Omar Khadr and the documentary You Don’t Like the Truth: 4 Days inside Guantanamo Bay is about his continued plight in Guantanamo Bay Prison. The film is being featured this week at the 2011 Human Right Watch Film Festival at TIFF Bell Lightbox.
The U.S. Government claimed that Omar Khadr killed a U.S. soldier. Khadr was declared an “Enemy Combatant” and sent to Guantanamo Bay Prison. The Canadian government was notified, but only sent the spy agency Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) to interrogate him and didn’t make any attempt to pressure the U.S. Government to release him to Canadian authorities. You Don’t Like the Truth documents Khadr’s interrogations through video released in 2009 of the four days that he was questioned by CSIS in 2003. Interviews with people covering the case, his lawyers, a former U.S. guard and his former cellmates are interspersed with actual video footage.
The message of the film isn’t whether he is innocent or not, but instead how we treat prisoners without due process and a fair trial. By removing his human rights, it raises the question as to whether the information gleaned from interrogation was the truth, or simply what they wanted to hear. CSIS’s true intentions were never really understood, but it seems clear that they didn’t get what they came for. CSIS’s blindness and alleged incompetence is one of the more frightening aspects of this footage. Omar Khadr was seen on video making bombs, and he could have very well have killed a U.S. soldier, but that isn’t the point of the film. What this film does is expose how we treat child soldiers, and how we let our own Canadian citizens be treated by outside governments.
The film is well put together and the focus is very much on the actual footage, rather than much commentary. The most stirring interview was with a retired soldier who had a brutal reputation as a guard in the Bagram prison in Afghanistan (which was allegedly used for brutal interrogation and a transfer point send prisoners to Guantanamo Bay). In the film, he regrets his actions towards prisoners and makes a stern warning to the viewers. He asks if this can happen to teenager who is a Canadian citizen, then who else could it happen to?
The 2011 Human Rights Watch Film Festival runs from February 22 to March 4, 2011 at TIFF Bell Lightbox with You Don’t Like the Truth: 4 Days inside Guantanamo Bay screened on February 24 along with directors Luc CÃ´tÃ© and Patricio Henriquez, writer Michelle Shephard, and Senior Counsel, Terrorism and Counterterrorism for Human Rights Watch, Andrea Prasow, in attendance.