‘Reports’

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

Read More

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.

Read More

Update: E-70 Petition on the torture of Afghan detainees

 THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dene Moore

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dene Moore

Petition E-70 to the Government of Canada calls for an independent judicial commission of inquiry into Canada’s approach to Afghan detainees in Canadian custody. Please sign the petition! We have until April 15th, 2016 to let the Government of Canada know just how important an issue we think this is!

To review and sign , click on Petition E-70

The author of the petition is former NDP MP and Osgoode Hall law professor Craig Martin Scott. He describes his reasons for this petition in the following Facebook post:

Our justice system and our parliamentary institutions have both failed in getting to the bottom of this chapter in our history. And in the process not only were human rights seriously violated but also our own democracy was undermined by our inability to hold Canadian state actors to account. Five years of working on this issue has led me to the conclusion that the only way we will know the truth and the only way that some form of real accountability will eventually be possible is to have a judicial commission of inquiry established under the Inquiries Act.

Craig Scott references the Rideau InstituteCCPA report which details the case for a public inquiry, Torture and Afghan Detainees:Canada’s Alleged Complicity and the Need for a Public Inquiry (Omar Sabry, 23 Sept 2015).

In addition to making the case for ensuring that there is no impunity for alleged complicity in torture, Craig Scott also argues passionately for the utility of e-petitions as a tool of civil engagement:

Ultimately, it all depends on citizens themselves wanting to make change happen in a more participatory way than typically happens in our current politics. Making the transition from MP (2012-2015) to engaged citizen is something I look forward to, and I very much hope you will join me in supporting the call for a commission of inquiry through E-70.

Please sign the petition! We have until April 15th, 2016 to let the Government of Canada know just how important an issue we think this is!

To sign the petition, click here and follow the step by step instructions.

Read More