Wednesday, December 02, 2009

More Afghan documents bolstering case for public inquiry

Update (2:05 p.m.): Below.

The Ottawa Citizen has obtained a list of detained Afghans and other documents courtesy of the litigation started in the Federal Court by Amnesty International and the BC Civil Liberties Association. The list is blacked out in parts and is long.

What's notable about the Citizen report is the reaction by a Canadian government official to the notion that the fate of the detainees should be followed up. This reaction is found in an email exchange. This reaction would have been during a time when allegations of torture would surely have been known to this official, Peter MacKay tells us it was an ongoing concern since the time they took office and the litany of reports at the time would confirm that it should have been (Graeme Smith's Globe reporting on the issue in April of 2007, just prior to the email of May 16, 2007 below, for e.g.):
The list detailing the number of detainees taken into custody by Canadian Forces had grown to 36 pages by late 2007 as government officials tried to find out what happened to the prisoners and determine where they all ended up.
...
The list had been produced to help determine the fate of those Afghans detained by Canadian troops, but originally the military’s Canadian Expeditionary Force Command (CEFCOM), responsible for Afghan operations, didn’t want to be involved, according to Foreign Affairs officials.

“I think that is completely inappropriate,” Elissa Golberg, Canada’s representative in Kandahar, responded in a May 16, 2007 exchange of e-mails. “We should be clear that CEFCOM are responsible for the beginning of that database until such time as a detainee is transferred,” she added in another e-mail. After that, the tracking for the database became a Foreign Affairs responsibility.
Seems to evidence recalcitrance, a not-my-bailiwick attitude, and maybe a turf war/conflict with Foreign Affairs. This is not a good indication to be coming out of the archives as to what the Harper government's posture was at the time in terms of pursuing allegations of torture. Not to be a broken record, but inquiry is required, turning a blind eye is not a reasonable response in the circumstance. Chalk it up to one more unresolved issue to be examined if ever a public inquiry occurs.

That public inquiry is now supported by the House of Commons in a majority vote. This is a good and responsible signal to the world, in the face of the government's refusal to send it. It was one of those days when you are thankful that the Harper party does not have a majority government.

Update (2:05 p.m.): And throw in this situation covered by the Globe today, "Parts of detainee report erased at ambassador's request."