A few weeks after some degree of confusion on this matter was noted, the two judges reviewing documents related to the detention and transfer of detainees in Afghanistan to determine how information will be publicly disclosed have apparently decided that nothing can be released until Parliament reconvenes. The judges wrote to the Conservative, Liberal and Bloc leaders today to explain their current dilemma and that letter can be viewed here.
Mr. Ignatieff’s office has issued a statement calling on the judges’ report to be released and seeking, if necessary, an amendment to the memorandum of understanding to allow for public disclosure as soon as possible. The Conservatives have followed with a statement from Laurie Hawn, the Conservative representative on the committee, encouraging disclosure.
Full statements after the jump.
Michael Ignatieff. “The Panel of Arbiters informed us today that they have completed their work in preparation for the release of their report and an initial set of documents by April 15, 2011 or shortly afterwards, at the request of the Ad Hoc Committee of Parliamentarians which has been reviewing the documents. However, the Panel also indicates they believe that they are unable to release the report and documents tomorrow as they had intended because Parliament is not sitting.
“The Canadian people have a right to see the documents related to the transfer of Afghan detainees. The Conservative government repeatedly refused to disclose these documents, despite an order of the House of Commons and a very clear ruling by the Speaker of the House of Commons on April 27, 2010 that found the refusal of the government to provide the documents constituted a breach of the privileges of the House of Commons.
“The Speaker’s ruling recognized that in our system of government, Parliament is supreme – not Stephen Harper. We owe it to the brave men and women serving in our Canadian Forces and to the Canadian public to get to the bottom of this issue and only full and immediate transparency will achieve that.
“For these reasons, I call on Mr. Harper and M. Duceppe to immediately join me in calling on the Panel of Arbiters to publish the report that they were prepared to release on April 15. If an amendment to the Memorandum of Understanding is required to satisfy the concerns of the Panel of Arbiters, then we should agree on the wording and implement the amendment no later than Monday, April 18, 2011.
“I wish to take this opportunity to thank the Panel of Arbiters for the dedication and professionalism that they have shown over the past year. I would also like to acknowledge the sudden passing of Panel member Donald Brenner on March 12, 2011. Justice Brenner was an eminent jurist who served Canadians – and British Columbians in particular – with great distinction and honour. His work on the Panel was just his latest service in a long line of essential judicial roles to which he was dedicated.”
Laurie Hawn. “We are aware of the letter sent by the panel of judges overseeing the release of documents regarding Taliban prisoners. The Conservative Party fully supports and, in fact, encourages the documents to be released.”