Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Torture - What Canada knew about our detainees

Here, let me help you with that :

"3. Of the ... detainees we interviewed ... said ... had been whipped with cables, shocked with electricity and/or otherwise "hurt" while in DNS custody in Kandahar. This period of alleged abuse lasted from between ... and ... days, and was carried out in ...... and .......... ........... detainees still had ........ on .... body; ..... seemed traumatized."

OK you get the idea.
These are the heavily redacted first-hand reports from Canadian government officials in Afghanistan, detailing the continued abuse and torture of detainees who are captured by Canadian soldiers and turned over to Afghan forces. None appear to have been charged or even properly identified; they just seem to get detained and tortured.

And the only reason, the only reason, we are seeing these reports, which effectively refute the continuous stream of lies and denials about torture in Afghanistan from Harper and Co, is because the BC Civil Liberties Association and Amnesty International Canada have brought a lawsuit against our government in Federal Court.

POGGE and Impolitical both have very good posts up on this already.

What caught my eye was who these reports were addressed to....

To :Vincent Rigby, Assistant Deputy Minister for Policy, Dept of National Defence
Rigby stood in the HoC on Dec 11, 2006 and said :
Hansard : "We've had absolutely no information passed to us directly by the ICRC or the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission or Afghan authorities themselves as to mistreatment of detainees passed on to Afghan authorities by Canadian Forces."
Rigby, you will recall, was also O'Connor's minder in the HoC, sitting to his left and answering all questions about detainees with the stunning bit of misdirection that as we hadn't heard anything about detainee torture from the Red Cross - with whom, he was always careful to add, we have an excellent relationship - well, then, we had nothing to worry about. This feint worked swimmingly until O'Connor was in the HoC sans minder one day and made the direct causal link between "no prisoner torture" and "no Red Cross reports about it" which Rigby himself had been so careful to avoid. After that it fell to Michael Byers to explain to us that it would contravene the Red Cross's mandate to report on torture to third parties, so we would not be hearing from them no matter how many of our prisoners were being tortured.

Creekside has held a grudge against Mr. Rigby ever since he appeared before the rightwing US Heritage Foundation and referred to Canada's refusal to help the US invade Iraq as "a glitch".

and to : David Mulroney, associate minister at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and head of the government's Afghanistan Task Force, he was also one of the six government minders assigned to "assist" Manley's farce of a five-stooge panel on the future of Canada's involvement in Afghanistan. Manley's much reviled report was released this week. The word "detainee" did not appear in it at all. Not even once.

You can see the rest of the DFAIT torture reports here.

The Jan 21 transcript of the testimony from Nicholas Gosselin, Canada's human-rights officer stationed in Kandahar, is here. Mr Gosselin personally took the statement from an Afghani detainee abused with an electrical cable in the interrogation room where the torture occurred. Mr Gosselin located the electrical cable in its hiding place and confirmed the detainee's wounds were consistant with his statement. Other detainees who complained of abuse could not be located upon subsequent visits by Canadian officials.

And I think we'll just pause here for a moment to recall that Harper and Stockwell Day have both stood up in our Parliament and insisted that the reason detainees - hell, let's just call them prisoners from now on, shall we? - claim to be tortured is because the Taleban trains them to do so to trick us.
One guy had no toenails left. That's really quite the trick.
Dion and Layton were slagged as traitors in the HoC for even suggesting that the allegations be looked into.

WED NIGHT DAMAGE CONTROL UPDATE : Yesterday on the eve of the hearing, the Department of Justice sent a letter to the groups' [BCCLU and Amnesty Int] lawyers, saying that soldiers had temporarily halted the transfers.
From CTV : "Canadian authorities were informed on November 5, 2007, by Canada's monitoring team, of a credible allegation of mistreatment pertaining to one Canadian-transferred detainee held in an Afghan detention facility," wrote senior counsel J. Sanderson Graham. "As a consequence there have been no transfers of detainees to Afghan authorities since that date. The allegation is under investigation by the Afghan authorities. Canada will resume transferring detainees when it believes it can do so in accordance with its international legal obligations."

This doesn't begin to explain why the Cons continued to slag Layton and Dion in the HoC after they knew the allegations - which btw have been documented all the way back to April 2006 - were credible, but it's a start.
The BCCLU and Amnesty Int., having succeeded in getting this much public but noting the prisoner transfer has only been halted temporarily, will continue with their lawsuit.


Anonymous said...

Great post -- I read the Globe and Mail story last night and it made me sick, especially the sentence about the man without toenails. Thanks for putting this all together. The Harper Conservatives are all in it up to their necks, aren't they.

Anonymous said...

Terrific post, Alison, as always. Thanks very much for pulling this all together.

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