Thursday, April 15, 2010

Canada subcontracts torture

Revelations don't get much more explosive than this. On Parliament Hill Wednesday, the Afghanistan committee heard from Malgarai Ahmadshah, an Afghan Canadian who worked for the Canadian Forces as an interpreter. Here's the Globe and Mail:

Mr. Malgarai, whose Canadian Forces’ codename was “Pasha,” was an interpreter for the military in Afghanistan for one year ending in June, 2008...

“I saw Canadian military intelligence sending detainees to the NDS when the detainees did not tell them what they expected to hear,” Mr. Malgarai told the special Commons committee on Afghanistan.

“If the [Canadian] interrogator thought a detainee was lying, the military sent him to NDS for more questions, Afghan style. Translation: abuse and torture.”

Effectively, he said, “the military used the NDS as subcontractors for abuse and torture.” ...

There is friction between Mr. Malgarai and the Canadian government. He alleges that someone in the Canadian Forces leaked his real name and identity to the Taliban, calling it punishment for complaining to them about detainee transfers. The ex-interpreter says this led to death threats from the Taliban and forced his family to flee Afghanistan as refugees.

Mr. Malgarai, who now lives in Ottawa, said Defence Minister Peter MacKay and former chief of the defence staff Rick Hillier refused his requests for help in relocating his family...

In one July, 2007, example, he said the NDS refused to take a detainee suffering battlefield injuries. The NDS colonel, in front of two Foreign Affairs advisers, placed his pistol on the table and said, “Here is my gun. Go shoot him. Give me the body and I will justify it for you.”

Mr. Malgarai said one Foreign Affairs official, Ed Jager, immediately told the colonel: “I will pretend you did not say [that] and I did not hear it.”

The detainee was ultimately handed over. “Canada’s government says detainees are never transferred to NDS if there is a risk of abuse. But this is a lie,” the ex-interpreter said... (link)
Agence France-Presse has more:
Malgarai Ahmadshah alleged that in summer 2007, Canadian soldiers shot an unarmed man whom they believed had been carrying a gun.

"After the Canadian Forces wrongly killed a man, they panicked, they swept through the neighborhood, arresting people for no reason. They arrested over 10 men from about 10 to 90 years old," said the Afghan-Canadian who was codenamed Pacha during his tenure as translator.

Ahmadshah said he had personally interrogated the detained Afghans at the insistence of Canadian troops to determine whether they had any links to the Taliban.

"None did anything wrong except to be at home when the Canadian Forces murdered their neighbor," he said, adding that Canada had transferred "these innocent men" to the Afghan security forces. ... (link)
Under questioning from Liberal Bob Rae, Ahmadshah clarified that he had not seen the alleged killing. CanWest has this bit from Malgarai's appearance:
Malgarai said he translated 40-50 detainee transfer documents from English to Pashto, Afghanistan's official language. He would ask the Canadians: "Should I translate this as transfer for questioning or transfer for torture?"

"They would just laugh," he said. "They were subcontracting torture." (link)
The CBC's Kady O'Malley liveblogged Malgarai's testimony and includes this:
Oh, and the explosive test - that, [Malgarai] says, is "ridiculous". The soil in Afghanistan is tainted -- he, himself, put his hands on it once, asked for a test - and came back positive. (link)
Although the media seem not to have picked up on this revelation, if true it is arguably more serious than his other disclosures. It is doubtless the case that Canadian forces have detained and passed on to the NDS a large number of Afghans on evidence from explosives tests and little else. If the tests are as prone to false negatives as Malgarai contends, then it follows that we have likely jailed (and worse) many innocent people.

1 comment:

Alison said...

I didn't hear it myself but a couple of people on Thursday told me about the false positive explosives test. They had heard about it on CBC radio.