July 15, 2009 / 3:23 PM / 8 years ago

Canada spy agency assailed on Guantanamo detainee

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada’s spy agency ignored concerns about the basic human rights of a teenage Canadian terrorism suspect when it interviewed him at Guantanamo Bay, and failed to pay sufficient attention to his young age, a watchdog committee set up by Parliament found on Wednesday.

<p>In this photo of a sketch by courtroom artist Janet Hamlin, reviewed by the U.S. military, a sketch of Canadian defendant Omar Khadr is pinned inside a hangar used by the media, following Omar Khadr's hearing in the U.S. war crimes commission at the Camp Justice compound, at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, Cuba, June 1, 2009. REUTERS/Brennan Linsley/Pool</p>

The Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) found that the spy agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), also failed to give full consideration to possible U.S. mistreatment of the detainee, Omar Khadr.

“SIRC believes that CSIS failed to take into account that, while in U.S. custody, Khadr had been denied certain basic rights which would have been afforded to him as a youth,” the report said.

Khadr was captured in Afghanistan in 2002, when he was 15, and charged with throwing a grenade that killed a U.S. soldier and wounding another during a fight at an al Qaeda compound.

The committee found that CSIS had reasonable grounds to travel to the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in early 2003 to question Khadr. Khadr’s now-dead father was alleged to have been a senior al Qaeda operative and was known as a friend of Osama bin Laden.

A video released last year showed Khadr -- now 22 and the only western prisoner still held at Guantanamo -- crying when questioned by CSIS investigators in 2003. Documents also showed he had been deprived of sleep ahead of an interview with an official of Canada’s Foreign Ministry in 2004.

CSIS said it had no knowledge of whether Khadr had been deprived of sleep or not before it questioned him in 2003.

But the committee said CSIS had failed to take into account “widespread media reporting on allegations of mistreatment and abuse of detainees in U.S. custody in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.”

The committee found that in the time since then CSIS has implemented several changes with respect to co-operating with foreign agencies, which it hoped would help in balancing human rights issues with the need for investigation.

It also recommended establishing a policy framework to guide its interactions with youth.

CSIS said it would carefully consider the recommendations and would welcome a policy discussion about its work abroad. It noted that it has had to “adapt to the more recent phenomenon of youth radicalization”.

It also said that while it had been aware of media allegations of mistreatment of Guantanamo detainees, it had had no reliable proof that Khadr had been mistreated before its interviews with him.

Editing by Peter Galloway

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