Monday, November 30, 2009

Once more on command responsibility

For a certain someone who is out and about making inflammatory statements suggesting that rank and file Canadian soldiers are somehow the focus of torture allegations, he might want to read this: "MacKay and O'Connor could shoulder blame on Afghan torture allegations: expert."
Prof. Mendes emphasized in an interview that international conventions and law governing prisoner treatment, which has been incorporated into Canadian law through the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act, places the heaviest burden of responsibility on the chain of command rather than frontline soldiers.

"The notion of command responsibility that became entrenched in international humanitarian law is that if there is allegation of a serious crime in international humanitarian law, and torture is one of the most serious, it puts the heaviest burden on the civilian and military command structure," Prof. Mendes said.
Either the Prime Minister is not aware of this principle, in which case he would be incompetent, or he is aware of this responsibility and is nevertheless deflecting in the manner that he is.

Speaking of command responsibility, this Brian Stewart piece from last week deserves some more attention. He reports on the six step notification process Canada had in place when turning detainees over to the Afghans, i.e., instead of just straightforwardly notifying the Red Cross on detainee details, information went in a circuitous route almost around the globe, to multiple locations in Ottawa, then to the Canadian Embassy in Geneva before it ended up with the Red Cross in Kandahar. Strange process.

Why, in contrast to the Dutch and British did we do this? One could say it smacks of the PMO's control streak, that information was prioritized to get back to Ottawa rather than expeditiously on the ground in Kandahar. It led to an inability to monitor detainees. There are questions about whether this was negligent or purposeful. And the fact that Peter MacKay has now admitted that the government knew of concerns about torture shortly after taking office in January 2006 means that the lengthy notification process was in place concurrent to that knowledge.

That major shift by MacKay is a big story, much bigger than the continued sniping at Richard Colvin. They've changed their story, Harper is deflecting. Looks like it's going to preoccupy this week too.