Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Drip, drip, drip...turning into a river

At what point do the Harper Conservatives call in the plumber to stop the leaking that's becoming a flood? Canadian Press today, with quite damaging information to add to the growing pile of Colvin backing evidence: "Red Cross repeatedly warned Canada of Afghan prison abuse: documents." The longer they stall on a public inquiry, the more such information will come out and the more we will all be talking about it. More leaks from motivated individuals, fascinating to watch.

This is one of the worst reports to date for the government, the indications are that the Red Cross tried to repeatedly warn Canadian officials in 2006, in memos and meetings, not just in Afghanistan but in Ottawa and Geneva as well. That separates the allegations from Colvin alone, it's quite significant that those meetings were totally independent initiatives. The report speaks of the Canadian embassy staff in Kandahar finally taking the Red Cross seriously in 2007, but only after the Globe had publicly reported allegations for the Canadian audience, and political damage was occurring. It's not a good picture that's being painted.

Of course the Red Cross doesn't want to comment on these disclosures, it's not their job to do so. Others need to deal with the information.

Details of one such meeting in Kandahar for you, the rest is a must read as well:
At one of the meetings, on June 2, 2006, at Kandahar Airfield, a military lawyer, the RCMP officer in charge of training Afghan police and some of Canada's diplomatic staff were all advised about potential torture at the hands of Afghan prison officials.
As Professor Errol Mendes points out in the report, that should have been a gut check moment in international law. Further information on those follow-up meetings outside of Afghanistan:
The Kandahar meeting was followed by a more high-level meeting on June 12, 2006, in Ottawa involving the international agency's delegation head for the U.S. and Canada as well as the agency's legal adviser from Washington.

The memos show there was also a fourth meeting in Geneva.

The intent of those meetings was for the Red Cross "to communicate its legal read of the situation in Afghanistan, as it has done with NATO in April 2006."

A spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs confirmed the Ottawa meeting did take place, but Katherine Heath-Eves declined to discuss the substance.
Let's see how they try to spin this pile of information.