Prisoner Abuse: Canada's Complicity

Share this post...

Submit to DiggSubmit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to StumbleuponSubmit to TwitterSubmit to LinkedIn
Torturers We: Canada's War Criminals?
by C. L. Cook
Nearly three and a half years have passed since Richard Colvin, a senior Canadian diplomat, sent the first of more than a dozen internal reports warning of the suspected torture and abuse suffered by Afghani detainees Canadian Forces (CF) soldiers routinely handed over to local "authorities," yet Stephen Harper's Conservative government is yet to hear of it.
Canadian PM Harper denies knowledge of detainee torture

This is the line the New Government of Canada would have the country believe, as both the current and former defence ministers plead ignorance of the Colvin reports coming to light at a military police inquiry in Ottawa this week.

But if former minister of defence, Gordon O'Connor and his successor, the current minister, Peter MacKay know nothing of the reports, their boss Stephen Harper was aware enough in 2007 to issue vociferous denials and denunciations of those he said furthered Taliban propaganda by merely suggesting such a thing.
Harper too denied he had any information about the Colvin reports. State broadcaster, the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC), a steadfast supporter of Canada's "Mission" in Afghanistan, says the prime minister says he never saw the report "at the time."

According to the CBC, Harper, speaking in Toronto at a funding press announcement said of allegations of prisoner abuses;  

"There were allegations of Canadian troops involved in torture. We’ve been very clear that's not the case."

In that he is correct; the question here is not of Canadian Forces' abuse of prisoners, but of CF soldiers turning over detainees to others who were suspected of abusing them, a contravention of both Canadian and international law.

The burgeoning scandal has the opposition smelling blood, and howling "cover-up." Foreign affairs critic, Bob Rae told Reuters news;

"There's no explanation that one can find, except that it's a cover-up." "It's almost like an obstruction of justice," Rae added.
Defence minister Mackay denies knowledge of abuse

There's no "almost" about the obstruction Harper's Conservatives are attempting now at the Military Police Complaints Commission, with government lawyers trying to both limit the scope of the investigation into who knew what and when concerning the fate of detainees handed over to the Americans and Karzai government, and preventing Richard Colvin's appearance at the inquiry.

Insisting on transparency, Bob Rae continued, saying;

"It's perfectly clear that, for a long time the government had the information and made a decision to do nothing with it, except to deny any knowledge of it."

The Toronto Star's Alan Woods quotes the former political director of the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) Colvin's affidavit, sworn to the commission last month as saying;

"Judging these problems regarding Afghan detainees to be serious, imminent and alarming, I made investigations and detailed my findings formally in my reporting from the PRT."

Colvin had taken up the post in Kandahar City in May of 2006, and as part of his duties had visited the Sarpoza prison. What he found there concerned him, and he says he reported those concerns to the government, again and again.

Though just what then defence minister O'Connor and foreign affairs minister MacKay knew is still unclear, New Democratic Party defence critic, Jack Harris piled on, saying;

"Substantive evidence exists of government knowledge of detainee treatment and this is something that in my view the government has been wanting to hide."
Former defence minister O'Connor denies knowing anything

The Star says Mackay spokesperson, Dan Dugas refuses to confirm or deny any specific government response to the Colvin testimony, and quotes an e-mail response to their questions that merely says;

"It would be improper to speak to matters that are before a quasi-judicial process. The government has cooperated with the commission as per its mandate set out by the Federal Court."

How Canadians react to these revelations and those sure to follow is an open question. Like the prime minister, the so-called "mission" in Afghanistan has never enjoyed popular support, and whether the country is ready to accept torture and abuse, either committed, or merely allowed to happen by the CF, it is a Rubicon moment Stephen Harper is unlikely to wish his name attached to.

Chris Cook is managing editor to Pacific Free Press 

Share this post...

Submit to DiggSubmit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to StumbleuponSubmit to TwitterSubmit to LinkedIn