Follow up to Open Letter on Afghan Detainee Transfers to Torture

Canadian soldiers leading detainees

 

Our June 8th blog post highlighted the Open Letter from 41 distinguished Canadians to Prime Minister Trudeau urging him 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 despite the substantial risk of torture upon transfer.

The Open Letter was released at a press conference in the Charles Lynch Room, Centre Block, House of Commons.

The panel of speakers included Peggy Mason, President of the Rideau Institute and coordinator of the Open Letter; Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada; Paul Champ, human rights lawyer; and Craig Scott, Professor of Law at Osgoode Hall Law School and former Member of Parliament.

Said Mason:

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.

For a video of the June 8th press conference releasing the Open Letter, click here.

For recent media reaction to the Open Letter, see: Canada urged to probe role in Afghan detainee ‘torture’: Rights advocates and politicians say public inquiry would help prevent similar abuses from happening again.  (Jillian Kestler-D’Amours, AlJazeera.com, 9 June 2016).

A June 8 news story in iPolitics reports that:

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan refused to say Wednesday whether he believes there should be a public inquiry into the Afghan detainee scandal.

It is important to note that the Open Letter is addressed to the Prime Minister of Canada because the allegations of complicity in torture involve not only the Department of National Defence, but also the then Foreign (now Global) Affairs Department and the Department of Public Security, as well as potentially the PCO and PMO.

In these circumstances only the Prime Minister himself can take effective action.  We urge him to do so.

For a further comment on the role of the Minister of Defence, see the Facebook post by Craig Scott here.

How can Canada hope to credibly champion human rights abroad if we are unwilling to hold ourselves to the same standard?

 

Photo credit: Canadian Armed Forces

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