Monday, November 30, 2009

In 2007 Amnesty International Warned That NATO Countries Were at Risk of Complicity in Torture

Though Stephen Harper is sticking to his story that there is no evidence that detainees handed over to the Afghan authorities were tortured, the evidence is mounting that he is either lying or really naive.

I have stated repeatedly, that while the Harper government is trying to pass this off on our troops, they are not the ones who could be charged with war crimes.

Prof. Mendes emphasized in an interview that international conventions and law governing prisoner treatment, which has been incorporated into Canadian law through the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act, places the heaviest burden of responsibility on the chain of command rather than frontline soldiers."The notion of command responsibility that became entrenched in international humanitarian law is that if there is allegation of a serious crime in international humanitarian law, and torture is one of the most serious, it puts the heaviest burden on the civilian and military command structure," Prof. Mendes said.

Canada's original agreement with regards to detainees, was to hand them over to the American military. It made sense at the time because they were running the show and had already established their own detention camp at Bagram, where they would be interrogating terrorist suspects.

Then in 2005, the New York Times broke a story that the prisoners at Bagram were being horribly tortured, and two deaths at the camp were reported as homicides. Thirteen US soldiers were convicted in November of that year, forcing Hillier to change plans. In December, during an election campaign, he inked a new deal whereby those captured would instead be handed over to the Afghan authorities.

Reports of torture began arriving in early 2006, and the Harper government kept silent for a year and a half. Amnesty International reported in 2007, that there was evidence of torture, but their warnings were also ignored. You can read their full report here.

Major Manon Plante, a Canadian army officer, in a continuing-education thesis wrote: "Based on the Afghan human rights track record and its primitive prison capacity, how the Government of Canada came to the conclusion that the Afghan authorities had the capacity to detain personnel is perplexing," Maj. Plante wrote in her 105-page paper. "The decision may have been legal but it appears that it may not have been the right ethical choice."

And Tom Blackwell wrote in the National Post:

In an exhaustive critique, the author concluded Canada's decision to hand over suspected insurgents to Afghan authorities with a history of abuse violated Canadian ethical values, could turn ordinary Afghans against foreign troops and likely increased the stress of this country's combatants. The policy might even have contributed to the alleged mercy killing of a Taliban fighter by a Canadian soldier, she wrote.


According to the National Defence email, detainees captured by the Canadians are primarily people who have injured or killed NATO personnel or Afghans or are suspected, based on credible information, of planning attacks. No one suggests Canadian troops themselves have acted in anything but a humane, professional manner with detainees. Should we care, then, if murderous insurgents are roughed up in local prisons that have long been notorious for their abuses?

"We detained under violent actions people trying to kill our sons and daughters," Mr. Hillier said this week in rejecting suggestions that innocents were captured.

Amnesty International and other rights advocates, however, argue that any military operation in which Canadian troops are involved should be consistent with the country's fundamental values and its international legal obligations, such as the Geneva Conventions and UN anti-torture edicts. "It defines what kind of mission we're involved in," Mr. Taylor added ....

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