Open Letter to PM urging Public Inquiry on Afghan Detainee Transfers

 THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dene Moore

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dene Moore

Signed by 41 human rights experts, former and current parliamentarians and other eminent Canadians, an Open Letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was just released by the Rideau Institute, further to their earlier report, entitled: Torture of Afghan Detainees: Canada’s Alleged Complicity and the Need for a Public Inquiry, (Omar Sabry, September, 2015, Rideau Institute and Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives publishers). For the French Executive Summary of the Report click Sommaire executif.

“We write to you today to urge you to launch a Commission of Inquiry into Canada’s policies and practices relating to the transfer of hundreds of detainees to Afghan authorities during Canada’s military mission in that country.”

This Open Letter comes just days before the Government of Canada must formally respond in writing to e-70 (Afghanistan), an electronic petition to Parliament calling on the Government of Canada:

“to establish an independent judicial commission of inquiry to investigate the facts with respect to policies, practices, legal and other opinions, decisions, and conduct of Canadian government actors, including Ministers and senior officials, concerning Afghan detainees throughout Canada’s involvements in Afghanistan from 2001”.

The Open Letter recalls the systematic blockage by the previous Harper government of all efforts to investigate this matter. It further recalls the dogged efforts of then Liberal Opposition MPs, Stéphane Dion and Ralph Goodale, to convince the Harper government to establish a public inquiry.

In the words of the signatories to the Open letter: “As a result of the previous government’s stonewalling, there were no lessons learned, and no accountability. In a future military deployment, the same practices could reoccur.”  Accordingly, they call on Prime Minister Trudeau to establish a commission of inquiry that could make recommendations with a view to ensuring that Canadian policy and practice going forward is fully in accordance with the universal prohibition of torture.”

Click Afghan_OpenLetter-Jun7-2016_EN for the full English text of, and signatories to, the Open Letter to Prime Minister Trudeau and Afghan_OpenLetter-Jun7-2016_FR for the French version. See also the report: Torture of Afghan Detainees: Canada’s Alleged Complicity and the Need for a Public Inquiry, (Omar Sabry, September, 2015, Rideau Institute and Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives publishers).

The electronic petition to parliament  e-70 (Afghanistan) to which the government must respond in writing by 17 June 2016 is available at: https://petitions.parl.gc.ca/en/Petition/Details?Petition=e-70.

At the June 8th press conference launching the Open Letter, Alex Neve of Amnesty International outlined the reasons why a Commission of Inquiry into the approach Canada took to handling detainees in Afghanistan is so very important:

“Every time a prisoner was transferred from Canadian hands into Afghan custody – transferred despite a well documented, well known risk of torture – every time that happened, the Canadian soldiers and military police on the ground, their senior and commanding officers, and the military brass and responsible ministers who gave the orders and set the policy, all became complicit in torture.”

For the full text of his remarks click: Alex-Neve-Afghan prisoners-June-8.

For the full text of remarks by  Craig Scott click: Craig Scott remarks June 8 on release of Open Letter.

For recent media reaction to the Open Letter, see: “Trudeau urged to reopen Afghan detainee investigation” (The Canadian Press, June 8, 2016)

And see the initial non-responsive comments by Defence Minister Hajit Sajjan here: Defence Minister deflects call to action by humanitarian leaders.  Note that several Ministries are involved – Global Affairs, National Defence and Public Safety – so action by the Prime Minister is required.

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