Back in 2007 the Cons claimed that all the Geneva Conventions do not apply in Afghanistan because we are not officially at war with Afghanistan. Yesterday in the Afghan parliamentary committee, Con MP Jim Abbott attempted to resuscitate that position.
Appearing as a witness before the committee, Paul Champ, human rights lawyer for Amnesty International and the BC Civil Liberties Association, advised that the UK suspended detainee transfers in June 2009.
If the Brits still think the risk of torture is too great, he asked, why does Canada think it's safe, particularly in light of the 2009 report from the US State Dept dated March 11 2010 regarding continuing reports of detainees being beaten, subjected to elecric shocks etc?
Hawn asked whether it is appropriate to impose Canadian standards on Afganistan.
Champ : "Prisoners in Canadian corrections facilities are not subjected to electric shocks or beaten with electrical cables or hung up for days."
Dosanjh : "Are you suggesting that we as Canadians, the Canadian government in particular, with the evidence before us, are in breach of our obligations vis a vis the Geneva conventions?"
Champ : "Yes and also the convention against torture and human rights [I didn't catch it]."
Dosanjh ; "Is it your view that the government of Canada today if taken to court would be likely to be found in breach of international obligations?
Champ : "I do ... Prohibition against torture is a non derogable duty."
Abbott : "Dosanjh's question is irresponsible. Would you agree with me that the Geneva convention does not apply in Afghanistan because it is not a state-to-state conflict, and would you further agree you were worried that we could be or soldiers could be subject to laws under the Geneva convention. And considering that it doesn't apply, would you agree, why would you answer that irresponsible question with an irresponsible answer?
Champ : "I would disagree with you that the Geneva convention does not apply to the armed conflict in Afghanistan."Abbott : "Who was the other state?"
Champ : "You are quite right there's some dispute whether its an international armed conflict or not but regardless Common Article 3 - which is the duty not to subject individuals to inhumane or cruel treatment - that applies both in internal civil armed conflicts or international armed conflicts so that applies regardless and I think almost any lawyer would agree with me on that."
Abbott : "Are you chery-picking the Geneva convention?"
Champ : No I don't think so.
Common Article 3 applies in all conventions 1,2, 3 &4 . It's the prohibition against cruel and inhumane treatment and I think any lawyer would agree with me that it applies in this conflict."
There was more showboating from Abbott about docs leaked in the US "sending Osama bin Laden back to his caves" and "damage to soldiers from the complete public release of all docs" - which the unflappable Champ responded to by explaining that what is needed is a functioning system for dealing with all this and no one has suggested full scale public release of the docs and for instance he for one does not expect to see them.
Hawn opined that Champ is an employee of 2 orgs that are fighting our government so it's all just a partisan political witch hunt and we should move on to other matters.
Bachand reminded Hawn that the Cons boycotted the committee before xmas and then prorogued for a month so it's pretty rich they now just want to move on, at which they all went "in camera" for a fight.
I do not see how we can "move on" as long as we have a government that does not believe in prohibitions against torture.
UPDATE : Dave explains yet again why the Cons fiddling around with definitions of torture endangers the very troops they purport to champion as they hide behind them.