We have all been wrong, painfully so. After a year of supporting Barack Obama’s policies and wishing upon a star that progressive ideologies would finally be implemented, correcting the wrongdoings of his predecessors – from Bill Clinton’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell disaster to George W. Bush’s Guantanamo Bay horror – we realise it won’t be the case just yet, and chronic violations of the rule of law are the only common feature displayed by our divided media outlets. More recently, the debate over the use of torture on « unlawful enemy combatants », this hybrid creation of the 2006 Military Commission Act that made attorneys cringe and shiver worldwide, surfaced in the Drake trial. The CIA lawyer confessed that he believed destroying tapes proving the use of torture during interrogations was «unworthy of interest ». We are surfing on Orwellian territory. We are learning there is no such thing as supra constitutional rule, that human rights have limits quickly overcome by suspicious concerns of national security, and that torture is no big deal. If Dostoevsky was one of our contemporaries, the brothers Karamazov would have taken to the streets requesting the head of Bob Gates on a pike.

The most recent scandal to emerge from the detention facility in Cuba is the trial of Canadian citizen Omar Khadr, who has been held in Gitmo for 8 years. Khadr is now 23. Khadr was therefore arrested and detained, without trial and under torture, while he was still a minor. The only Westerner among 183 detainees, Khadr has reported the use of bag suffocation, threats of attacks by violent dogs barking at him, and even the threat of rape if he did not cooperate with his collaborators. The young man is accused of terrorism and war crimes : he allegedly worked with Al-Qaeda and murdered a US soldier in Afghanistan. As Glenn Greenwald put it, « resisting occupation as a teenager means you’re a war criminal and a Terrorist ». It is a direct violation of every law of war, but when it comes to Omar’s situation, what stings the most is the 2008 presentation of the United States before the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which called the US representatives out on the following:

“Conduct investigations of accusations against detained children in a prompt and impartial manner, in accordance with minimum fair trial standards. The conduct of criminal proceedings against children within the military justice system should be avoided.”

It is clear that Khadr’s case will not be avoided, all the more since the military commissions before which Khadr will be presented hold no juvenile provisions, a situation that the Bush Administration legislators have failed to foresee. In the War on Terror, new shortages of justice are a daily occurrance. A document from Amnesty International released just yesterday lists the growing number of ratified and implemented conventions that are violated by Khadr’s unlawful detention, including the Commission on Equal Rights and Discrimination (CERD), protecting civilians from being prosecuted on the basis of their creed, color, or ethnic origin. In the current political context, where racial profiling is as common as your daily cream cheese bagel, the CERD seems almost out of place, like some sort of outdated, old-fashioned, and overrated legal recourse that holds no authority. The CERD does indeed look pale in comparison to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), ratified as early as 1992, reiterating the simple and democratic statement that no one can be held without trial –  ignored as well.

From both sides, a plethora of witnesses will be called to the stand – from FBI agents to interrogators, and from doctors to guards, attesting on one hand that Khadr is indeed a threat to United States security, on the other that he received « cruel, unusual and degrading treatment » at the hands of his wardens. This trial is instrumental in the possible reform of military tribunals surrounding the aberration that is the War on Terror – an aberration that Obama himself once criticized but not to the point of putting it to an end. Human Rights advocates are hoping that statements obtained under torture will be rejected in those  tribunals, a provision that is already in place in regular criminal courts. It may seem unsignificant, but therein lies the key of the trial. Refusing to accept any confession obtained under “enhanced interrogation” is in fact acknowledging that the use of coercive treatment during interrogation does not provide a legit, lawful and useful confession or admission, and certainly does not help the course of justice in the way it should be carried in a lawful, democratic nation based on equality. No redundancy, just emphasis. In short, Omar Khadr’s trial will decide whether those military tribunals will from then on choose to uphold the rule of law, and admit that torture not only does not work, but has no place in a realm supposedly promoting justice.

In the meantime, Guantanamo is also holding captive Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-confessed mastermind behind 9/11, as well as his four cohorts who are also believed to have planned and executed the attack. Their trial lingers in limbo, and their future is more than uncertain. One thing is for sure, the most controversial detention facility, a mother, sister and father to the Baghram prison in Iraq, is not anywhere near closing.