Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Failure to investigate

The Military Police Complaints Commission is finally finished its report (pdf). The Globe and Mail has some good coverage:

Military police failed to carry out obligations to detainees, probe finds
April 26, 2009

[The Military Police Complaints Commission report concludes] that “there was a failure by the military police … to investigate the origins of the injuries of one of the detainees, when it was their duty to do so.” The detainee was so badly beaten that the military police contingent's commanding officer remarked he was “beat up pretty bad. He looked like he had been kind of booted.”

Yet the military police accepted without question the second-hand, hearsay claims of soldiers in the field that the injuries were inflicted to subdue a struggling captive.

In his report, MPCC chairman Peter Tinsley points to systemic problems in which Canadian military police seem to have lost sight of their fundamental duty to investigate possible war crimes, including the abuse of prisoners...

[An RCMP investigator] found a “disturbing prevalence of an MP mindset in which their police training and instincts are somehow submerged or switched off when assigned to duties considered by some to be purely military.”

Why neither the military police nor anyone in the entire military chain of command recognized the need for an investigation remains unexplained. For instance, when a senior Canadian Foreign Affairs official in the human-rights and international-law section e-mailed his concerns, saying, “We would like to be satisfied that no allegations of mistreatment will arise against the CF as a result of these arrests, detentions and transfers,” it was entirely ignored. No one in the military even replied.

Not until nearly a year later, when Ottawa law professor Amir Attaran noted the unexplained facial injuries on medial forms and The Globe and Mail published them (and the military's flat denial that anything untoward had occurred) did the military belated launch multiple probes...

Mr. Tinsley seems to have reluctantly agreed to redactions. He said the MPCC “has not been persuaded as to the validity of [the military's claims of security] concerns and, as such, is not satisfied with the current redacted state of this report.”

However, he acquiesced, despite the MPCC's specific mandate as a supposedly independent body created by Parliament...

[The report] paints a picture of relentless pressure from the high command in Ottawa to turn detainees over to Afghan security forces as quickly as possible; so quickly that questioning is sometimes curtailed and military intelligence officers can't complete assessments of whether detainees are important or not...

A broader MPCC public inquiry into whether Canada's policy of turning battlefield captives over to Afghan security forces – despite widespread and persistent reports that prisoners are tortured and abused in Afghan prisons – is expected to begin public hearings next month. However, the government is seeking to quash that probe, arguing the MPCC is overstepping its mandate... (link)

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