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Canada government releases e-mails alleging torture of Afghan detainees

[JURIST] The Canadian government on Wednesday released more than 40 redacted e-mails [text, PDF] sent by former diplomat Richard Colvin to then-foreign affairs minister Peter MacKay [official profile] raising concerns about the torture of detainees who were transferred to Afghan prisons by Canadian authorities. The e-mails, which Colvin alleges were sent in violation [Montreal Gazette report] of instructions to avoid written communication, were requested by the House of Commons Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan [official website] in order to corroborate testimony [JURIST report] Colvin gave to the committee last month. Throughout the spring of 2006, Colvin relayed allegations made by the International Committee of the Red Cross [official website] that Afghan authorities were routinely torturing detainees, and that by refusing information requests and failing to provide timely notice of transfer to Afghan custody, the Canadian military was hindering efforts to track Afghan detainees and monitor their treatment. Peter Tinsley, Chair of the Military Police Complaints Commission (MPCC) [official website], also released redacted copies of the e-mails Wednesday at the request of Amnesty International (AI) and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) [advocacy websites] after finding that the contents had already been selectively leaked [Toronto Star report] to media organizations.

Last week, former Chief of Defence Staff [official website] Rick Hillier [NSB profile] testified before the committee, rejecting [JURIST reports] Colvin's accusations and saying that, after reviewing the reports, he determined that they reports did not contain any information that would have required Canadian officials to bring them to his attention. AI and BLCCA filed complaints [JURIST report] in 2007 against the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal [official website], alleging complicity in torture by Canadian personnel serving in Afghanistan. AI 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 MPCC 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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