Four Days Inside Guantanamo

Four Days Inside Guantanamo


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Some documentaries are uplifting, some appalling or shocking and some a mixture of both. There is a specific sort of factual film, however, that depicts events so horrendous and unjust that it simply makes you bristle with anger. Inside Job had me seething at the state of the banking system, but Four Days Inside Guantanamo's damning revelations about the treatment of one child in Guantanamo Bay have left me raging about it to anyone who will listen ever since.

The child in question is Omar Khadr. A Canadian-born kid whose childhood was somewhat fragmented as his family trekked him to Afghanistan and back again. At 15 years old he was caught up in a firefight in Afghanistan and, miraculously, survived despite sustaining three bullet wounds and an assortment of injuries. Worse was, arguably, to come, as he found himself accused of throwing a grenade at a US soldier and killing him. Because the soldier - despite being in full combat - was a trained medic, it was deemed that Khadr had committed a "war crime" and he was sent to the hellholes of Abu Ghraib and Bagram (take a look at Ghosts Of Abu Ghraib and Standard Operating Procedure for more information about what happened there), before winding up in the prison of 'no jurisdiction', Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Copy picture

In July 2008, Canadian courts ordered the disclosure of seven hours of top-secret video that was recorded in February 2003, between a Canadian interrogation unit and the then 16-year-old Khadr over four days.

Luc Côté and Patricio Henriquez have carefully sifted through the footage, here presented as a series of days labelled Hope, Fallout, Blackmail and Failure. And just as we peer in on the interrogation, so we watch a string of others as many of them see the footage, presumably for the first time. These include British former Guantanamo detainees Mouzzam Begg and Richard Belmar - who both knew Khadr - a psychiatrist and Khadr's mum and sister. Commentary is also offered from a former Canadian diplomat and Khadr's lawyers. Perhaps most surprising is the inclusion of commentary from infamous former soldier Damien Corsetti, who was known as the "king of torture" when he 'worked' at Abu Ghraib. He is upfront about his own role in torture committed at Abu Ghraib, but expresses his own disgust at Khadr's incarceration and Canada's lack of interest in the case.

Seeing is believing and what we see is, essentially, a frightened child who has suffered torture at the hands of his captors and who, initially, views the arrival of some of his fellow countryman as something to be celebrated. When he realises that they are not the saviours he had hoped, however, we witness harrowing scenes as he becomes terrified and seems on the verge of breakdown, rocking with sobs and crying for his mum. "No one cares about me," he says. And, it seems, that's alarmingly close to the truth.

These scenes would be difficult to watch whoever was involved, but the knowledge that this is a mere boy of 16 makes them all the more horrific. Even if you believe that Khadr really did commit the crime he is accused of - and there is plenty of solid evidence presented here to suggest that is highly unlikely - the fact that he was just 15 at the time means that he is classed under UN convention as a child soldier and therefore deserving of psychiatric help and rehabilitation rather than being crushed by a legal system that has denied him a fair trial.

The film is a stinging indictment on US tactics at Guantanamo and, perhaps worse still, a coruscating look at Canada's role in this specific matter. It seems, unlike other countries such as Britain who fought to get their citizens out, the Canadian government was more than happy to leave this teenager sitting in a "legal blackhole".

"If you lie, they want more lies. If you tell the truth they don't want to hear it," observes Mandou Habib, who was also held at Guantanamo Bay. It's this catch 22 that leaves many still in limbo. This may not be the most dynamic documentary ever committed to film, but it has a quiet, thorough and compelling insistence, made all the more powerful by its measured approach.

Four Days Inside Guantanamo ought to be compulsory viewing for anyone over the age of 15 who is in any doubt about what is happening down in Guantanamo and, in particular, for Canadian and US citizens who deserve to know what their governments are up to. The sight and sound of Khadr's interrogator leaving him with the cheery words: "All right Omar, take care." as he departs the room one final time will make a chill run down your spine. If truth is the first casualty of war, then surely children like Omar Khadr come a very close second.

Reviewed on: 01 Apr 2011
Share this with others on...
Four Days Inside Guantanamo packshot
Documentary based on security camera footage from an encounter in Guantanamo Bay between a team of Canadian intelligence agents and Canadian citizen Omar Khadr, then a 16-year-old detainee.
Amazon link

Director: Luc Côté, Patricio Henriquez

Year: 2010

Runtime: 99 minutes

Country: Canada


Human Rights 2011

Search database: