Bear in mind that everything that Stephen Harper and his government said on the tape turned out to be lies. Lies, lies and more lies. Cover up, cover up and more cover up.
This is horrible because everything that our soldiers have tried to do will be tainted because of this government's corruption.
"These assertions of prisoner abuse are no small matter. Under international law, Canadian soldiers cannot knowingly hand prisoners over to authorities that engage in torture. If they do, they are liable under international criminal law." —The Unexpected War, 2007
The Canadian Afghan detainee abuse scandal is a series of claims regarding detainees captured in Afghanistan by the Canadian Forces and given into the custody of the Afghan National Army (ANA) or the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS).
The story first gained national attention in February 2007 with the revelation that despite the prior assurances of defence minister Gordon O'Connor, the International Committee of the Red Cross did not monitor Afghan detainees transferred from Canadian to Afghan custody.
In the week of April 23 to April 27, 2007, The Globe and Mail released a series of stories detailing allegations of torture and a censored Canadian government report on treatment of detainees. These revelations led to intense discussions in the House of Commons and calls for Gordon O'Connor's resignation.
The magnitude of the issue within the Canadian political scene grew following apparently contradictory statements by government ministers about the allegations, to the point that it began to be described in the press as a "scandal".
Timeline of the controversy
On December 18, 2005, in the midst of a general election and while the Liberal government of Paul Martin was still in power, Chief of Defence Staff Rick Hillier signed an agreement between Canada's Department of National Defence and the Government of Afghanistan which did not include any explicit right of access by Canada to Afghan detainees, or any right of notification or veto if Afghanistan wanted to transfer a detainee on to a third country.
After several months of delay the arrangement is finally made public in March 2006.
On April 5, 2006, during the first question period of the 39th Parliament New Democratic Party Defence Critic Dawn Black asked Gordon O'Connor to renegotiate the prisoner transfer agreement with the Afghan government. O'Connor refused saying "Mr. Speaker, we have no intention of redrafting the agreement. The Red Cross and the Red Crescent are charged with ensuring that prisoners are not abused. There is nothing in the agreement that prevents Canada from determining the fate of prisoners so there is no need to make any change in the agreement."
Later in April 2006, Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor explained that "the process is that if Canadian soldiers capture insurgents or terrorists they hand them over to the Afghan authorities and then the International Red Cross or Red Crescent supervise the detainees. If there is any problem, the Red Cross or Red Crescent would inform us and then we would become involved." O'Connor reiterated the same theme on May 31, 2006: "If there is something wrong with their treatment, the Red Cross or Red Crescent would inform us and we would take action." The Red Cross however said that O'Connor was misunderstanding or misinterpreting their mandate, and it was the Canadians' responsibility.
In early February 2007, University of Ottawa (Canada) Law Professor, Amir Attaran produced documents he had received through an Access to Information(Freedom of Information) request showing that three prisoners in the custody of Canadian military police were brought in by their Afghan interrogator for treatment of similar injuries to the head and upper body, all on the same day. Attaran argued this could be evidence of torture on the part of the interrogator and should be investigated. In response, O'Connor stated that "the president of the Red Cross also said that basically our procedures are absolutely spotless, " O'Connor told reporters last month. "He's quite pleased with what we do with prisoners."
On February 26, the Military Police Complaints Commission announced it would be launching an investigation of the handling of detainees following a complaint filed by Amnesty International Canada and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association. It was revealed that there were allegations that the three prisoners had in fact been abused by Canadian soldiers.
On March 8, 2007, the International Committee of the Red Cross stated, in contradiction to O'Connor's earlier words, that it had no role in monitoring the Canada-Afghanistan detainee-transfer agreement. Its spokesman also indicated that following long-established operating procedure, the Red Cross would not reveal to any foreign government any abuses it might find in Afghan prisons. Following the Red Cross statement, O'Connor was heavily criticised by the opposition following this revelation The same day, The Globe and Mail announced that it had discovered the three detainees discussed in the report had subsequently disappeared after being given into ANA custody.
On March 13, O'Connor travelled to Kandahar to meet with Abdul Noorzai of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, "look the man in the eyes", and gain assurances that detainees were being supervised.
On March 19, O'Connor apologised for previously misleading the House on the Red Cross issue.
On March 21, in response to continued criticism of O'Connor's earlier actions, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper intervened in the issue, stating in the House that "I can understand the passion that the leader of the Opposition and members of his party feel for the Taliban prisoners... I just wish occasionally they would show the same passion for Canadian soldiers."
On April 23, 2007, The Globe and Mail published interviews with 30 men who claimed they were "beaten, starved, frozen and choked after they were handed over to Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security". This prompted intense questioning by all opposition parties, including demands for a new agreement with Afghan authorities and unanimous demands for O'Connor's resignation.
On April 24, a Liberal motion to recall Canadian troops by 2009 failed, as the NDP wished for immediate withdrawal and the Conservatives argued against any timetable for a withdrawal. The same day, in speaking of the detainees, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said that "these people have no compunction about machine-gunning, mowing down little children; they have no compunction about decapitating or hanging elderly women; they have no compunction about the most vicious types of torture you can imagine."
On April 25, The Globe and Mail revealed that it had received an expurgated report by the government on human rights in Afghanistan through a freedom-of-information request, and also had obtained an intact copy through other means. In the official version "negative references to acts such as torture, abuse, and extra judicial killings were blacked out without an explanation."
After intensive questioning in the House on this revelation, O'Connor claimed that a new agreement had been reached, saying "we have, in the last few days, entered into a local agreement in the Kandahar province to enter the detention facilities any time we want."
On April 26, Michael Byers and William Schabas announced they had issued a request to the International Criminal Court to investigate "possible war crimes" by Gordon O'Connor and General Rick Hillier, Chief of the Defence Staff, over the detainee-transfer issue.
The Globe and Mail quoted an anonymous Conservative source about why Harper was not planning to dismiss O'Connor despite his mistakes with the file: "If it's interpreted as us wavering, or any weakening of resolve that somehow we're on the wrong course, those questions would get asked... The Taliban would see it as a positive thing."
In Parliament, Stephen Harper stated that there was "no evidence that access is blocked to the prisons" and said that Afghan authorities had agreed to "formalize that agreement so there is no potential misunderstanding", suggesting the agreement had yet to be settled. Shortly afterwards, Stockwell Day asserted that Canadian correctional officers in Kandahar already had unrestricted access to detainees, and this had always been the case.
An anonymous Conservative source blamed the apparent difference in messages between Harper and his ministers to Harper's managerial style of "take everything on on your own." On April 30, North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer announced tha the Afghan government was to launch an inquiry about the fate of detainees. In Parliament, House Leader Peter Van Loan questioned the existence of torture, saying "we have yet to see one specific allegation of torture ... If [opposition members] have a specific name, we'd be happy to have it investigated and chased down, but they continue to repeat the baseless accusations made by those who wish to undermine our forces there."
Stockwell Day claimed that Corrections Canada officials in Afghanistan had heard abuse claims from detainees.
On May 2, General Hillier took responsibility for signing the detainee-transfer agreement in December 2005, saying "Truly at the time we thought that was the right thing to do, that it was the right approach. Obviously we'll reassess that as allegations come out that perhaps that was not sufficient." He also indicated that Canadians soldiers in Afghanistan were upset at the prominence the abuse allegations had received in Canadian media. The Federal Court announced a hearing into an injunction filed by Amnesty International against future detainee transfers.
On May 3, Hiller announced that a new detainee transfer agreement had been signed which allows for follow-up monitoring of prisoners. Following this, the Federal Court hearing was suspended.
On June 1, 2007, following testimony from officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Office of Information Commissioner, New Democratic Party Ethics Critic Pat Martin sent a letter to the acting commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) asking for a criminal probe into DFAIT's cover-up of reports regarding extra-judicial killing and torture in Afghan prisons.
On June 25, 2007, it was revealed that the military probe investigating handling of detainees would not investigate any aspect of the detainee's treatment after their handover to Afghan authorities.
On August 14, 2007, during a cabinet shuffle, Gordon O'Connor was transferred from National Defence to National Revenue, with Peter MacKay taking over as defence minister. Many media reports, including the CBC, the Globe and Mail, and National Post regarded O'Connor's new portfolio as a demotion as a consequence of his handling of the prisoner abuse allegations.
On August 31, 2007, it was revealed that General Hillier and the government had hired British legal scholar Christopher Greenwood to submit a legal opinion to the Federal Court of Canada arguing "Canada's military has no obligation to accord Afghan detainees Canadian-style legal rights."
In January 2008, it was revealed that the Harper government, months earlier, quietly ceased the detainee transfers after an internal investigation revealed the allegations to be credible.