Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thursday Thirteen - 134 - 13 Reasons Canada's Defense Minister Peter Mackay Should Man Up About Torture Allegations

1 - "A top diplomat’s account of the rampant torture and rape of Afghan detainees is not credible, Defence Minister Peter MacKay (shown with Gen. Natynczyk) said Thursday.

Under fire from all parties, MacKay dismissed testimony from Richard Colvin as second- and third-hand information from enemy sources.

'What we’re talking about here is not only hearsay, we’re talking about basing much of his evidence on what the Taliban have been specifically instructed to lie about if captured,' he said."
- Kathleen Harris, Toronto Sun Photo by Andrew Vaughan

2 - "The mugging of Mr. Colvin's reputation showed the Conservatives' underside.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative Party has its own Frat Pack: a cluster of ministers and MPs who represent the sharp point of the party's attack machine. You could see it at work last week, with Transport Minister John Baird and others attacking the credibility of Richard Colvin, the civil servant who tried to alert the Canadian government to the torture awaiting Canadian Forces detainees sent to Afghan prisons."
- Jeffrey Simpson, Globe and Mail Photo by Chris Wattie

3 - "In December of 2005, while Canada was in the middle of the election campaign that brought Stephen Harper to power, then-Chief of Defence Staff General Rick Hillier signed a deal establishing our detainee transfer protocol — an arrangement that did not provide for Canadians to monitor their prisoners.

According to Mr. Colvin, Canadian soldiers were rounding up large numbers of suspected insurgents and turning them over to the Afghan authorities, and then relying on the Red Cross and an Afghan human rights group to make sure they were not tortured."
- Stephen Maher, Chronicle Herald Photo by Globe and Mail

4 - "Inevitably in this kind of insurgency, where foreign troops sweep the countryside for guerrillas, some innocents get scooped into the same net as actual enemy fighters.

All three of the independent military commands at that point (in 2007) — the Canadian, Dutch and British — knew that under international law they were responsible for the well being of all Afghans they picked up, even after they were handed over to Afghan prisons and interrogation centres.

The Dutch were concerned enough to report immediately any handover to the local Red Cross officials. Britain acted within 24 hours.

But Canada?

When Canadian soldiers brought in the usually hooded and tightly bound detainee, our military police on the spot would first inform the colonels and generals in the Kandahar mission control centre.

But instead of alerting the Red Cross right away, like the Dutch and British, these commanders, following orders, sent the information to CEFCOM, the Canadian Expeditionary Force Command in Ottawa.

This information would then be passed over to Defence Headquarters and to Foreign Affairs.

Instead of CEFCOM sending word back to Kandahar to immediately engage local Red Cross officials, the file instead was forwarded to the Canadian Embassy in Geneva.

Only then did Canada inform the International Red Cross, suggesting that it check up on some Afghan civilians our troops had detained and handed over to Afghan interrogators.

It was while this odd Kandahar to Ottawa to Geneva to Kandahar shuffle was going on that detainees would be under the greatest threat of torture and other abuses. If you wanted to ensure your detainee was grilled to the hilt over days, weeks, or months, would this not be the kind of play-for-time system that you would devise?"
- Brian Stewart, CBC News Photo by Musadeq Sadeq

5 - "Former warden of Sarpoza Prison, Abdul Qadar Khan Popal, told Canwest News Service 'Prisoners were kept several days in the custody of the NDS,' Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security. 'It was not a matter of hours,' Popal said before detainees were transferred from the dilapidated NDS detention centre to Sarpoza. 'I myself have seen injuries on their bodies caused by torture by the NDS.' " - Matthew Fisher, Photo by Natalie Behring-Chisholm

6 - "Colvin’s analysis came from interviewing hundreds of prisoners who had been transferred to the Sarposa prison, after allegedly being abused. In May 2007, the Globe and Mail’s intrepid, unembedded reporter Graeme Smith had ventured to the Sarposa prison and broke the same story of alleged torture. I happened to be in Kabul with colleagues when Smith’s expose hit the newsstands and, as a result, we were able to do some first-hand followup.

The head of the NDS acknowledged that the abuse issue could strain Afghan-Canadian relations and, as a gesture of good faith, he offered to grant us direct access to the notorious NDS detention centre in Kandahar.

When we interviewed the directing staff, they proudly admitted that to a man they had all received their training from the Soviets and were all former KGB officers."
- Scott Taylor, Chronicle Herald Photo by Dene Moore

7 - "Colvin told a special Commons committee on Afghanistan Wednesday that Canada took vastly more battlefield prisoners than either the British or Dutch militaries operating in southern Afghanistan.

He said that those detainees were, by and large, innocent taxi drivers and farmers rather than Taliban operatives, and that abuse was the 'standard operating procedure' of Afghan authorities, regardless of the intelligence value of a prisoner.

The implements of torture were wire cables, electrical shocks and physical and sexual abuse, he said.

Once newspaper reports in April 2007 brought the problems to light, Colvin said he was instructed to keep quiet by David Mulroney, a senior official who had responsibilities to report on Afghanistan to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, then-foreign affairs minister Peter MacKay and Gordon O'Connor, who was the defence minister before he became the first political casualty of the detainee scandal."
- Tonda MacCharles, Toronto Star

8 - "As far as anyone knows, no one has seen a Canadian soldier turn over a suspect to a torturer to be pistol-whipped, cudgelled, shocked or raped.

Yet Richard Colvin sent senior Canadian officials no fewer than 17 messages in 2006 and 2007 warning that Afghan interrogators used torture as 'standard operating procedure,' that Canadian troops were handing over 'a lot of innocent people,' and that could make them complicit in war crimes. He also copied more than 70 people.

As for Colvin's credibility, the Afghan human rights panel has just confirmed that there were indeed 232 cases of torture in 2006/07."
- Editorial, Toronto Star Photo by Finbarr O'Reilly

9 - "The Foreign Affairs report, titled Afghanistan-2006; Good Governance, Democratic Development and Human Rights, was marked 'CEO' for Canadian Eyes Only. It seems to remove any last vestige of doubt that the senior officials and ministers knew that torture and abuse were rife in Afghan jails.

The report leaves untouched many paragraphs such as those beginning 'one positive development' or 'there are some bright spots.'

But heavy dark blocks obliterate sentences such as 'military, intelligence and police forces have been accused of involvement in arbitrary arrest, kidnapping, extortion, torture and extrajudicial killing.' "
- Paul Koring, April 2007, Globe and Mail Photo by Canadian Press

10 - "Whistleblower Richard Colvin joined Foreign Affairs 15 years ago, in his mid-20s, with the idea that – in the words of one source close to him – Canada might not be a major player but 'we're a force for good, we stand for something.' " - Tonda MacCharles, Toronto Star Photo by Sean Kilpatrick

11 - "Counter-insurgency is an argument to win the support of the locals.

Every action, reaction or failure to act become part of the debate. In Kandahar, Canada needs to convince local people that we are better than the Taliban, that our values were superior, that we would look after their interests and protect them.

In my judgment, some of our actions in Kandahar, including complicity in torture, turned local people against us. Instead of winning hearts and minds, we caused Kandaharis to fear the foreigners. Canada’s detainee practices alienated us from the population and strengthened the insurgency."
- Richard Colvin, House of Commons testimony, Macleans Photo by Tylere Couture

12 - "I find it insulting to listen to the governing party in Canada trying to discredit someone who is standing up for the Canadian sense of human justice. I think the Harper crew is insulting everything that each and every Canadian soldier fought and died for - basic human rights. We are a country that upholds the human rights of all people, all the time. This government just celebrated Remembrance Day, and now it slaps the face of all who died for this great nation. Canada deserves better." - Rod Sarty, letter to the editor, Chronicle Herald

13 - " 'We inherited an inadequate transfer arrangement left in place by the previous government,' said Defence Minister Peter MacKay.

'There is something called ministerial accountability,' said Liberal defence critic Ujjal Dosanjh. 'You can't shut your eyes, your ears and your mouth to say "No, I didn't know." '

The opposition demanded to know the names of the officials who tried to shut down Colvin's reports and sanitize the reports of other diplomats.

'Who in this government issued that order?' asked Dosanjh. 'Why is this government creating a culture - an un-Canadian culture - of secrecy about an issue as abhorrent as torture?' "
- Murray Brewster, Canadian Press Photo by Pete Williamson


chubskulit said...

I like your list!

My Thursday 13

life's journey said...

Informative list of T13. Thanks for sharing. Mine is ready.

Pop Art Diva said...

Frankly, every leader in the free world should man up, but I am not a fan of any politico.

My TT is 13 Things to do with LEFTOVER TURKEY!. . .

hey, politicos are turkeys so we had the same subject matter, lol! And I think my list could even work with your Turkey!

Amy Ruttan said...

It makes me sick, this whole issue.

Going to have another piece of that pie I think. ;)

Shelley Munro said...

Very murcky waters.