Thursday, October 08, 2009

Extraordinary Afghan cover-up is what they're saying

As the public hearings on transfers of detainees in Afghanistan were adjourned yesterday by the Chair, under a legal onslaught from the Harper government doing its level best to shut down the hearings, Bob Rae lent a hand to publicizing the government's heavy-handed role:
The Conservative government was accused of orchestrating an "extraordinary" cover-up after public hearings into alleged torture of Afghan detainees resumed briefly Wednesday.

Justice department lawyers have moved to block the probe into complaints about military police conduct in Afghanistan by throwing a national security blanket over the inquiry.

"It is extraordinary to me that there has been such a determination on the part of the government to cover up evidence and shut down witnesses and to prevent people from coming forward who would have something to say," Liberal MP Bob Rae told reporters Wednesday.

Rae (Toronto Centre) said there are serious allegations of torture at Afghan prisons and questions surrounding circumstances in which prisoners were transferred from Canadian to Afghan control.

"I don't believe that it is in the national interest for Canada to be covering up this information," he said.
If the hearings are adjourned pending resolution of the federal court case over the scope of the inquiry, it's estimated that will take two months. That would take resumption of hearings to a point where the present Liberal appointed chair Peter Tinsley will be leaving. The thinking is that Tinsley would be replaced by a chair more amenable to doing the government's business here (see Globe report today).

The government seems to be petrified of Richard Colvin's evidence:
He was the political director of an Afghanistan provincial reconstruction team until 2007.

Mr. Colvin's lawyer has argued the diplomat has personal knowledge of what military police knew about the risks of torture.
Colvin has shipped an affidavit to the Commission under seal given his concern about revealing any national security details and the consequences, that threat apparently having been made against him by the government. So now there is evidence sitting at the Commission, tantalizingly, unable to be read or heard given the government's actions. Good for Colvin for doing so and giving the government this little poke in the eye.

Terrible optics for the government as they get some well-deserved attention for their efforts to cripple this federal oversight body.