Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Stockwell Day, trade minister by day, rights inspector...sometimes

In Kandahar with Cannon and dressed for the occasion too: "Day, Cannon meet suspected Taliban militant during Afghan prison visit." A one-off visit to the Sarpoza prison and encounter with a prisoner is being touted by Day as assurance that detainee treatment is no longer an issue. From CP:
"What I wanted to find out was how was he being treated, are his rights being respected," said Day, who is also international trade minister.

"They both said that they are treated very well and they have high respect for the leadership of the prison."

At the height of the prisoner abuse scandal, Day had told the House of Commons that suspected insurgents were "trained to lie."

Nonetheless, he said the brief exchange in the dank prison entranceway backed up "in a profound way" the reports he had read from Corrections Canada officers, who regularly visited the prison and mentored guards.

"While they feel no system is perfect, our corrections officers have consistently reported improvement," said Day, who sported aviator sunglasses and an oversized chrome dogtag.

At his side was Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, who received assurances from the prison's long-faced deputy warden, Col. Ishmail, that the cell doors were opened regularly to humans rights inspection
While that latter point is on its face good news, as is the indication from Foreign Affairs that's found in the report, that "...Canadians have not received any further allegations of mistreatment since a case was uncovered in the late fall of 2007," it's difficult to put too much stock (pardon the pun) into these indications given the track record.

And there are other considerations surrounding today's prison visit by Day and Cannon to keep in mind. Recall that this prison in which the all-is-well-detainee-p.r.-event took place today, Sarpoza, was the one the Taliban blew up in June and freed 1100 prisoners from. Canada is now putting money toward the rebuilding. And consider that some of the prisoners being interviewed by Day, Cannon and their entourage raise questions about the impartiality of the Afghan justice system that put them there in the first place. There is a long way to go in Afghanistan on that front, to create an effective justice system and Canada has committed to that.

Quite the evolution for Day (pardon another pun given today's other news) in respect of detainees, that needed to be pointed out.