Monday, March 17, 2008

McQuaig condemns torture - Harper hides it

Linda McQuaig once again takes on the arrogant and powerful:

Votes that condone torture
Linda McQuaig

March 11, 2008 - Later this week, our two leading political parties are expected to join forces and commit Canada to another three years of military intervention in support of the Afghan government – which we know practises torture. ...

So mainstream is torture in the "war on terror" era that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia recently told the BBC that if a hidden bomb were about to blow up, "it would be absurd to say you couldn't, I don't know, stick something under the fingernail, smack him in the face. It would be absurd to say you couldn't."

Such a flippant approach to torture from one of America's top judges is in sharp contrast to the more enlightened position taken by Canadian justice Dennis O'Connor, who investigated the torture of Maher Arar. As O'Connor wrote: "The infliction of torture, for any purpose, is so fundamental a violation of human dignity that it can never be legally justified." O'Connor went on to cite former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan: "Let us be clear: torture can never be an instrument to fight terror, for torture is an instrument of terror."

This clear, moral stand against torture doesn't seem to be shared by the Canadian government or military. Indeed, attempts by human rights advocates over the past two years to create protections for detainees transferred from Canadian to Afghan custody have been mostly resisted by Canadian officials. ... (link)
Meanwhile, the Globe and Mail has the latest developments in the attempt by Military Police Complaints Commission to investigate the detainees issue:
Tories stalling abuse probe, watchdog says
Military Police Complaints Commission orders public hearings to get access to key uncensored reports on treatment of detainees

March 13, 2008

Thwarted for more than a year by the Conservative government's refusal to co-operate, the independent Military Police Complaints Commission announced Wednesday it would hold public hearings to try to force disclosure of documents that will show whether the military knew detainees transferred to Afghan custody were likely to be tortured.

The decision sets the stage for a confrontation between the Harper government and the independent civilian oversight body.

“Ordering a public interest hearing is necessary to ensure a full investigation of the grave allegations raised in this complaint,” said Peter Tinsley, chairman of the MPCC.

The government has refused to release uncensored versions of hundreds of pages of documents – many of which are entirely blacked out – although it provided no reasons. ...

“The government's continuing attempt to stonewall and delay are consistent with its communication strategy on detainees and torture,” Jason Gratl, president of the BCCLA, said Wednesday.

“But it's only a matter of time that the issue of torture catches up with them.”

After insisting for nearly a year that safeguards to prevent torture existed, and repeatedly changing those safeguards as they proved inadequate, the military stopped transferring detainees to Afghan security forces in November after credible evidence of torture was reported by Canadian diplomats. ...

A handful of documents have been leaked. For instance, the government censured every reference to torture in its routine annual human-rights and governance summaries. It also blacked out the reference to Asadullah Khalid, governor of Kandahar, when a detainee alleged he had been tortured by him.

However, the details of most of the heavily censored documents remain completely unknown. ... (link)

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