Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Harperspeak from Beijing

Update (11:55 p.m.) below.

From Beijing, the PM actually says something about the calls for a public inquiry on Afghan detainees and the Canadian government's handling of torture allegations. But the problem is that his position is political when this is a legal issue:
"In Beijing, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told reporters he has no intention of calling a public inquiry.

'The government of Canada has taken all necessary actions in all instances where there is proof of abuse of Afghan prisoners,' Harper said. 'I think the opposition has nothing to do when it is talking about something that happened three years ago.'"
With respect to the first part of his answer, we'll see. He may get to a point where he has no choice.

But on his latter statement, it's just obfuscation. The evidence coming to light is suggesting that no, the government of Canada has not taken all necessary actions in response to the allegations that have come to light. There does not need to be "proof of abuse of Afghan prisoners." He keeps setting the standard incorrectly. He can say it all he likes. But here's the problem:
Under the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act, breach of command/superior responsibility is a criminal offence. This means that military commanders and superiors are obliged to take measures to prevent or repress genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. In the event that such a crime is committed by one of their subordinates, military commanders and superiors are responsible for submitting the matter to the competent authorities for investigation.(emphasis added)
If there are allegations being made, you need to take steps to investigate. You don't wait to act on proof. The CP report tonight, for example, suggests there was plenty of reason for the Canadian government to be investigating.

The more evidence that comes to light suggesting the government didn't act reasonably, the more the pressure will grow for an inquiry. And if the Canadian government keeps stonewalling, someone else might hold one for us.

Update (11:55 p.m.): Heard from a law professor tonight who agrees with the legal take above. Just in case there is an inclination to dismiss such posts as partisan venting.