Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Facts: The previous Liberal government and Afghan detainees

Further to this post,
"Torture in Afghanistan: The Liberals knew" redux
here is a translation from a friend of a story in La Presse, April 28, 2007 (see Very odd update); draw your own conclusions over what should be the extent of any enquiry, should one be held. And what happened to those detainees transferred to the Americans? Where is, and was, the outcry?
The Liberals were in the know

Canadian diplomats stationed in Kabul warned the former Liberal government in 2003, 2004 and 2005 that torture was commonplace in Afghan prisons. In spite of these warnings, the Martin government signed an agreement with the Karzai government in December 2005 to hand over all Canadian-captured prisoners to Afghan authorities, Foreign Affairs documents obtained by La Presse reveal.

From 2002 to 2005, the Canadian practice regarding Afghan detainees suspected of Taliban ties was to hand them over to US military authorities [emphasis added]. Ottawa decided to shift its transfers to Afghan authorities, however, in response to abuse allegations at the Guantánamo Bay internment center and the controversy that erupted over revelations of torture and degradation at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq ["An Afghan ghost of Abu Ghraib?"].

The December 2005 agreement to transfer detainees to Afghan authorities was concluded despite the content of annual reports from Canadian diplomats covering broad assessments of Afghanistan’s progress in human rights protection and the development of democratic institutions. According to a 2004 report: "The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission concludes from its monitors’ assessments that torture remains a current practice, particularly during the early stages of police investigations, in order to extract confessions from prisoners.”

While the Afghan government was not accused of condoning physical violence in the treatment of prisoners, a 2005 report filed by Canadian diplomats noted that the Afghan military, police and intelligence services were implicated in arbitrary arrests, kidnappings, extortion, torture, and the murder of criminal suspects. Police commanders and officers were also implicated in many allegations of rape. The alleged victims included women, girls and boys.

While Liberal deputy leader John McCallum was defence minister in 2003, his colleague Bill Graham was foreign affairs minister. In an interview, Mr McCallum told La Presse had never seen the Foreign Affairs’ documents. Mr Graham took over as defence minister in June 2004 and still held the post when Canada signed the agreement in December 2005.

An anonymous Liberal source, well acquainted with the situation, said the Martin government believed that the situation had improved in Afghan prisons when the agreement was concluded: "From 2002 to 2005, we transferred our prisoners to the Americans. But that became politically untenable because of the stories about Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. These events, and our certainty that things had improved in the Afghan prison system, conviced us to sign the detainee transfer agreement with the Afghans," the source explained.

However, the Martin government had received annual reports that ill-treatment in Afghan prisoners was commonplace, and the reports closely compare with the report disclosed in a Toronto daily newspaper Wednesday that has caused such a stir in the House of Commons. That document shows that going back to 2006, torture has been a routine practice in Afghan prisons. Opposition parties cited these reports to accuse the Harper government of closing its eyes on violations of Afghan prisoners’ rights. The Globe and Mail also reported this week that about 30 Taliban prisoners say they were abused by local Afghan police after they were transferred by Canadian soldiers.

The Harper government didn’t help its cause this week, making several contradictory statements about Afghan prisoners captured by Canadian soldiers and delivered to local authorities in the Kandahar area. Defence minister Gordon O'Connor was the source of the confusion and plunged the Conservatives into embarrassment. The minister initially said that the Independent Human Rights Commission monitors the condition of prisoners to ensure they are well treated, but the commission does not have the financial means nor the staff to undertake the task.

Then, on Wednesday, Mr O'Connor said that Canada had concluded an agreement with authorities in Kandahar allowing Canadian soldiers a right of access to Afghan detainees to ensure they’re not being ill-treated. This was contradicted 24 hours later by prime minister Stephen Harper, who confirmed in the House of Commons on Thursday that no formal agreement exists to allow this access, but that the Canadian authorities hoped to conclude one soon.

Then public safety minister Stockwell Day added to confusion when he said that for several weeks Corrections Canada staff had been afforded access to the Afghan prisons in the Kandahar area. Then Mr Day moderated his remarks by affirming that two Corrections Canada staff members had been sent to Afghanistan to advise local prison authorities, and then he he explained that their mandate had been
broadened so that they could look into the the practice of torture in
Afghan prisons.
One wonders why the current media "cover-up" continues concerning what the Liberal government knew and when they knew it.

Very odd update: Here's the start of the La Presse story, from a post by David Akin (now of Canwest News) in April 2007:
L'ancien gouvernement libéral avait été prévenu par des diplomates canadiens en poste à Kaboul, en 2003...
This is the result from Google, 1930 ET:
Centre d'Études des politiques étrangères et de sécurité (CEPES)

- 6:07am - [ Translate this page ]
L'ancien gouvernement libéral avait été prévenu par des diplomates canadiens en poste à Kaboul, en 2003, 2004 et 2005, que la torture était une pratique ...
Yet when one tries the link one now gets this (the link was working when this post was done earlier today):

You don't have permission to access /spip.php on this server...
Now I see it's there in Google cache (h/t Terry Glavin).


Blogger The Phantom said...

Martin considered Afghanistan nothing more than a photo-op, and didn't even send the lads in proper camouflage. "Shoot Me" Green was the colour if memory serves.

So he probably palmed off the "detainees", aka prisoners of war on the Afghans as a clever piece of business. Cost savings, you know.

Too bad for Count Iggula, eh?

10:26 a.m., January 12, 2010  
Blogger Patrick Ross said...

We knew damn well the Liberals knew about this when they signed that goddamned prisoner transfer agreement.

And now they think they're going to get away with it. Disgusting.

1:09 a.m., January 13, 2010  
Blogger Orville said...

For a real good read on how the Liberals are treating our soldiers who are on the battlefield go to Ezra Levant's blog.


12:26 p.m., January 13, 2010  
Blogger milnews.ca said...

Funny those URLs, eh?

Lest the interesting tidbit from the Franco media go missing again for whatever reason, in the public interest, here's a PDF version downloadable if the other links don't work.

1:14 p.m., January 13, 2010  

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