Sunday, November 22, 2009

Natynczyk speaks and raises more questions

Just a brief post here to pass along two items on the issue of the government's handling of Afghan torture allegations.

This CP report makes news in that General Natynczyk, the Chief of Defence Staff, is disclosing for the first time that the transfers of detainees were halted more than once, in contrast to what the government has been telling us. This pokes at the credibility of the Harper government yet again. Buried at the end of this excerpt though is a perhaps telling point for those following the issue to note:
An Afghan agency, at one time entrusted to monitor Canadian-captured insurgents in Kandahar, says it has documented nearly 400 cases of torture across the war-ravaged country.

The latest report from the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, a translated version of which was obtained by The Canadian Press, comes as Canada's top military commander confirmed the army halted transferring prisoners to Afghan authorities on more than one occasion.

Speaking at the close of an international security conference in Halifax, Gen. Walt Natynczyk wouldn't say how many times the transfers were stopped.

There has been only one occasion when the federal government has publicly acknowledged that the army stopped handing over prisoners - in November 2007 - because of torture concerns.

The general said he couldn't offer details because he didn't want to pre-empt statements that former military commanders are expected to make before a special House of Commons committee this week.(emphasis added)
What to make of that latter recalcitrance from Natynczyk? Does he have knowledge of testimonial preparation in advance of the hearings? Or is he just being cautious? What do we think the chances of that might be? Recall this Friday Star report where a Foreign Affairs spokesperson cautioned us to wait and see regarding future testimony before the Afghan Commons Committee, implying that there was more to come to round out Colvin's testimony. The question is naturally raised: what is going on behind the scenes within these departments in advance of the testimony? Is there witness coaching going on? Logical questions to ask, it's been put in issue. Inquiring minds might like to pursue that.

There's more in that report to digest that is not good for the government, perhaps others might take a look.

Second, this blog post, "All Opposition & Media re. Torture: Don't Get Distracted!," is worth a read for all concerned about this issue. It's about the proper tone for the issue and a plea not to let the Conservatives distract. Quite a useful reminder.