“How’s your English?” a grainy image shows a figure in an orange jumpsuit, his face obscured and his figured bent. His questioner is even harder to read, appearing as fragments, an arm, a blurred out face. Both are viewed through a frame, as this is a video made of an interrogation, the camera peering down and into the room, the angle itself disconcerting, as it suggests you’re seeing something that maybe you shouldn’t. This is the start of Omar Khadr’s ordeal, recounted in Luc Côté and Patricio Henríquez’s documentary You Don’t Like the Truth: 4 Days Inside Guantánamo, showing 16 May at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in DC. Khadr was 15 years old when he was captured in Afghanistan in 2002, then sent to Guantánamo, where he was interrogated and tortured. In 2010, he pleaded guilty to five charges, including “murder in violation of the law of war,” as part of a plea agreement with military commission prosecutors. A Canadian, Khadr is currently the only Western citizen still detained at Guantánamo. And to this day, he remains detained, despite that plea agreement.
As Khadr points out to his questioners, they don’t “like the truth”: they have stories they need to tell, paychecks to earn, and reputations beyond their own to uphold. The simplicity of his assessment, along with the very rawness of the film—the crude editing, the clunky split screens, the awful sound—help you to see what’s missing. These rough edges are applied to the nuances of the legal case, not to mention the hammering ethical failures of the “legal” or “extralegal” conditions. And so the roughness makes clear that none of the seeming rules and refinements mean anything. Except that there is no end of costs, for Omar Khadr, his interrogators, the Canadian government, or the US, no matter how it imagines itself.
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