Torture victim secretly won case against UAE in 2013

Thanks to leaks of US State Department cables given to The Intercept, we are now aware of a $10 million settlement agreed upon in 2013 paid to a US citizen Khaled Hassen by the UAE. The UAE had fought to keep secret the fact that people at the highest levels of that country, which is a loyal puppet of the US and Saudi Arabia, including members of their royal family had acknowledged being involved in torture.

Hassen’s case was brought in federal court in L.A. against three of the most powerful figures in the Gulf — the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan, known in Washington as MBZ, a man particularly close to Otaiba; the emir of the UAE, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan; and General Saeed Hilal Abdullah al Darmaki.

The case had more than geopolitical hurdles to overcome: it was seeking justice from an abduction all the way back in January of 1984, when Hassen was working for a member of the royal family consulting on weapons contracting. Competition for contracts in the arms-trade industry can often turn violent, as it did in Hassen’s case. At the time, the three defendants were also in the arms trading business, and were rivals of Hassen’s boss as they all fought to rise through the ranks of the UAE power structure.

MBZ personally witnessed some of Hassen’s torture, Hassen claimed.
Hassen, in his suit, claims he was held in a windowless 7 by 10 foot cell until November 1985, beaten, blindfolded for days at a time, with the air conditioner cut off in the summers, causing the temperature to rise to excruciating levels. His feet and legs, he said, were bound together and he was hung upside down for long periods of time; he was fed foul tasting liquids that brought on “severe pain and hallucinations.” All the while, the State Department was working feverishly to locate and visit with him, the cables indicate.

What about people who were tortured by the US? Will they be likewise compensated by the US or will the US leave it up to other countries to do so? Take the case of Omar al Khadr, a Canadian citizen who was just 15 years of age when he was taken captive in 2002 in Afghanistan by the US and charged with committing a war crime.

Khadr was 15 when he was captured by US troops following a gun battle at a suspected al-Qaeda compound in Afghanistan that resulted in the death of an American special forces medic, US Army Sergeant First Class Christopher Speer.

Khadr, who was suspected of throwing the grenade that killed Speer, was taken to Guantanamo and ultimately charged with war crimes by a military commission.

He pleaded guilty in 2010 to charges that included murder and was sentenced to eight years plus the time he had already spent in custody.

He returned to Canada two years later to serve the remainder of his sentence and was released in May 2015 pending an appeal of his guilty plea, which he said was made under duress.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 2010 that Canadian intelligence officials obtained evidence from Khadr under “oppressive circumstances”, such as sleep deprivation, during interrogations at Guantanamo Bay in 2003, and then shared that evidence with US officials.

So we have a case where the US invades another country and when people resist that occupation and attack the troops, they are charged with war crimes. As the filmmakers of the documentary Witness say:

Omar Khadr is not only the youngest person ever convicted of a war crime in modern history, he is also the only person ever charged with “murder in violation of the laws of war” – despite the fact that hundreds have died in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001 and despite the fact it was never a war crime to kill a soldier in conflict until the US rewrote the laws of war after 9/11.

It is very likely years from now that the US courts will overturn his Guantanamo conviction, which they have done in the case of other detainees.

As happens so often, the US conveniently writes laws to punish others for the saem crimes that their own people commit. Imagine the reverse situation, where a foreign army invades the US and young people from Canada join up with the local population to take up arms to repel the foreigners. Would they be charged with war crimes? Of course not.


  1. says

    The Khadr case is a huge deal up here in Canada with conservatives using it to rile up people against the Trudeau government, despite the government doing nothing wrong and just following a Supreme Court verdict in the case of a Canadian citizen whose rights were grossly violated.

  2. Rob Grigjanis says

    Khadr was captured in 2002. The law allowing him to be charged was passed in 2006. As I recall, he was offered a deal: plead guilty and serve eight years, or probably spend the rest of his life at Gitmo. Of course, Conservatives in Canada refer to him as a “confessed terrorist/murderer”, but one can’t help wondering what they would have done in the same situation.

    The evidence that Khadr actually threw the grenade that killed Speer is utter shit, and would have been tossed out of any civilian court. At least one Marine lawyer quit in disgust at the proceedings. It seems clear that he was charged because he was the only survivor.

    It’s disheartening that Canadians seem to show more outrage at the money Khadr got, than at the treatment of a child by the US and his own government.

  3. Jenora Feuer says

    There was a columnist in the Metro paper in Toronto who noted that Trudeau was dealing with two major public issues at the moment.

    In her opinion, the Khadr one would blow over because there just wasn’t really any ‘there’ there, and the government (as noted) was just following a Supreme Court ruling.

    The slow-motion collapse and multiple resignations over at the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, on the other hand, was much more likely to be a long-term issue, as that strikes a lot more to the heart of how Trudeau has been positioning himself.

  4. jrkrideau says

    @ 3 Jenora Feuer

    Yes, I think the Omar Khadr furor will blow over. It looks like a case of the Cons grabbing anything they can to beat the Liberals over the head combined with what is probably general ignorance about the details Khadr case on the part of the general population. And foul creatures like Ezra Levant don’t help anything.

    I can recall a co-worker three or four years ago sounding very unsympathetic to Khadr and who was surprised to hear that he was a child solder.

    The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women looks like it is turning into a car wreak. At least Trudeau commissioned the enquiry while that asshole Harper did nothing but it may have some very significant downside to Trudeau and the Liberals unless the Government or somebody whips the Inquiry into shape. Clearly this is not the Gomery Commission.

  5. secondtofirstworld says

    In 2002, Congress introduced a bill that exempted US military personnel from being charged by a foreign power for crimes on their soil, and then in 2005 the US withdrew from the Treaty of Consular and Diplomatic Relations and as a signatory to the International Criminal Court of Justice. That being said, Robert Bales spends his life sentence at Fort Leavenworth for his participation in the Kandahar massacre, William Calley was sentenced for My Lai, and Charles Graner went there for Abu Ghraib, so not all hope is lost.

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