‘Media’

Justin Trudeau must face up to Afghan detainee torture allegations

 

FILE- A prisoner leans against the entrance to the wing where political prisoners are kept at Sarposa prison in Kandhar city, in this 2009 file photo. Opposition threats to stall all parliamentary business seem to have helped break a log-jam in negotiations over access to sensitive Afghan detainee documents. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dene Moore

We believe this is unfinished business of the most serious kind — accountability for alleged complicity in torture — the only appropriate remedy for which is a public inquiry. – Peggy Mason

In September 2015, in the midst of the federal election campaign, the Rideau Institute released a report — Torture of Afghan Detainees: Canada’s Alleged Complicity and the Need for a Public Inquiry — calling for a transparent and impartial judicial inquiry into the actions of Canadians in relation to Afghan detainees, a cause the Liberals themselves had championed in the face of implacable stonewalling by the Harper government.

That report was followed by other actions, including an Open Letter to the Prime Minister signed by 41 human rights experts, former and current parliamentarians, and other eminent Canadians, including former prime minister Joe Clark.

In December 2015, Craig Scott, a former M.P. and law professor at Osgoode Hall in Toronto, launched a parliamentary e-petition, which subsequently received enough signatures to obligate the government of Canada to provide a written response.

Shockingly, the Prime Minister left it to Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan to provide the official government response, which denied the need for an inquiry despite all of the evidence to the contrary. This decision was all the more problematic since, were an inquiry to be held, Harjit Sajjan himself would be a witness, given his role as an intelligence officer in Afghanistan when the alleged mistreatment took place.

…. there remains an underlying conflict of interest in that Sajjan is blocking an Afghan-detainees commission of inquiry for which he would be a crucial witness. – Craig Scott

Canadian media coverage of this terrible inaction by a government that professes to value international law has been rather sparse, and perhaps the Liberals were hoping the issue would just fade away.

However, they clearly misjudged the International Criminal Court, which has jurisdiction over war crimes and crimes against humanity where the responsible national government either cannot or will not take action itself. In December 2017 the Chief Prosecutor of the ICC sought approval from the Court for a formal investigation into the actions of the Afghan government, the Taliban, and USA forces regarding Afghan detainees.

Shortly after that announcement, Craig Scott delivered a 90-page 90-page brief to the ICC arguing that the investigation should be widened to include Canada.

On 5 January 2018, Globe and Mail columnist and human rights advocate Erna Paris highlighted the issue once again in her powerful article entitled Will Canada finally deal with its Afghan war skeletons?   She concludes:

How ironic that Canada, whose current leader has fashioned his mandate on human rights and the rule of law, may be subject to an international investigation for having failed to respect the rules of the world’s first court to prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity — the very tribunal this country worked so hard to create.

Only a full investigation will serve the interests of justice. Canada’s reputation in the world may soon depend upon its willing compliance.

 

Click here for the full Globe and Mail article. Click here for the Rideau Institute Report. Click here for the brief by Craig Scott to the International Criminal Court.

 

Photo credit: Dene Moore/Canadian Press

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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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CTV Power Play with May and Mason

Peggy Mason CTV

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and Rideau Institute President Peggy Mason discuss the new Liberal plan for countering ISIS with Don Martin of CTV Power Play.

Click here for both interviews: Don Martin Power Play with Elizabeth May and Peggy Mason (CTV.ca, 9 Feb 2016).  The Mason interview begins at the 6:20 minute mark.

Elizabeth May reviews the complicated history of the conflict while Mason highlights the horrific effects of the coalition bombing campaign and the importance of the peace process to end the civil war in Syria.

Click Mason and May on Countering ISIS  for both interviews.

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New study identifies more than $10 billion in savings on military equipment

A new report, entitled Smart Defence: A plan for rebuilding Canada’s military, has just been released by the Rideau Institute and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

The study, by University of British Columbia Professor Michael Byers, identifies more than $10 billion in potential savings in spending on military equipment.

At the same time, the study identifies ways to increase capabilities in Arctic and coastal surveillance, search and rescue, disaster and humanitarian relief, and peacekeeping.

“There are two big problems with defence procurement in Canada,” says Byers. “One is mismanagement, including new layers of bureaucracy introduced by the Harper government. The other is overreach, which occurs when officials grasp at the latest, unproven technologies – such as the F-35 Strike Fighter – which carry huge cost risks and uncertainties.”

The study recommends cancelling the planned purchase of 65 F-35 Strike Fighters and acquiring 30-40 new F/A-18 Super Hornets – the latest version of the CF-18 – to extend Canada’s current fighter jet capability for another two decades.

“Piloted fighter jets could soon be rendered obsolete by unmanned drones capable of air-to-air combat,” says Byers. “Instead of blowing the defence budget on a fleet of unproven, hyper-expensive F-35s that could soon become outdated, we should be looking for a lower-risk, lower-cost alternative.”

The study calls for “Smart Defence”: a more objective and reasoned approach to defence procurement that is based on Canada’s actual needs, proven off-the-shelf technologies, and the elimination of cost risks and uncertainties.

“A full public review of defence and national security policy is urgently needed. This report provides essential analysis for that effort as well as guidance on immediate steps that need to be taken, in the meantime”, said Rideau Institute president, Peggy Mason.

Read the full report here: Rebuilding Canada’s Military

Watch the full press conference here: “Smart Defence” Press Conference

See Amanda Connolly’s article for iPolitics on the report here: Rideau Institute report: Harper allowing military to ‘rust out’, (iPolitics, 29 June 2015).

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Ambassador (ret.) Peggy Mason discusses Canada’s current military role in Iraq

Rideau Institute President Peggy Mason spoke to CBC Radio One listeners across the country Sunday about the Canadian military’s current involvement in an airstrike mission in Iraq, the need for a political and humanitarian strategy, and where the mission will be in six months:

“I think that it’s a seriously misguided strategy, this focus on airstrikes, which has little hope of effectively countering the threat posed by ISIL and which has an even greater prospect of making the situation worse. So, I think that it’s a seriously misguided strategy and Canada should not be part of it.

[….]

All of the political complications will be far worse [in six months] unless we really start to get serious about addressing them.”

Listen to the full interview on CBC Radio’s The 180 with Jim Brown here. 

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