Canada ex-defense chief rejects alleged military complicity in torture of Afghans

[JURIST] Canadian former Chief of Defence Staff [National Defence website] Rick Hillier [profile] testified in front of the House of Commons Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan [official website] on Wednesday, denouncing allegations [JURIST report] that Afghan detainees transferred from Canadian to Afghani authority were likely tortured by Afghan officials. Hellier dismissed statements made last week by Richard Colvin,who represented the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) [official website] in Kandahar from 2006-2007, accusing both the government and military of ignoring and even suppressing reports [Reuters report] of torture by Afghan authorities. Colvin, currently deputy head of intelligence at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, cited upwards of 12 memos that he sent to top officials beginning in early 2006 indicating that captives transferred from a Canadian military base in Kandahar to Afghan authorities were subsequently tortured. After reviewing the reports, Hillier insisted [CBC report] that the reports did not contain any information that would require Canadian officials to bring them to his attention.

Amnesty International Canada
and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association [advocacy websites] filed complaints [JURIST report] in 2007 against the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal [official website], alleging complicity in torture by Canadian personnel serving in Afghanistan. Amnesty accused Canada of violating the Charter of Rights and Freedoms [text] by turning Afghan detainees over to Afghan authorities without any protection against later cruel and unusual punishment. In March 2008, the Canadian Military Police Complaints Commission (MPCC) [official website] decided to hold public hearings to investigate the country's detainee transfer process in Afghanistan despite a move from the Canadian Department of Justice to block the inquiry [JURIST reports]. In September, the Canadian Federal Court ruled [JURIST report] that the MPCC's authority was limited to the investigation of military police, and it did not have the authority "to investigate government policy and to inquire as to the state of knowledge of the Government of Canada at large."

 

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