‘All kinds of things are going on’


The Canadian Press gets a look at several uncensored documents.

The International Red Cross met twice with senior Canadian officials in Kandahar to deliver veiled but insistent warnings about torture in Afghan jails a year before Canada acted to protect detainees.

Details of the face-to-face meetings in 2006, outlined in uncensored memos examined by The Canadian Press, undermine the federal government’s claims that diplomat Richard Colvin was a lone voice raising vague concerns about torture.

The Red Cross is prevented by international rules from using the term “torture” and from commenting on one country’s behaviour to another. But the risks were so dire that detainees might be tortured in Afghan jails that the agency felt compelled to alert senior Canadian diplomats and officers in person, say memos made available on a confidential basis to The Canadian Press.

Some of this would seem to be referenced in KANDH-0032, which is found in its redacted form in today’s release at page 126.


‘All kinds of things are going on’

  1. Mulroney, Hillier and government ministers have acknowledged they knew about the prevalence of torture in Afghanistan jails, but that Colvin's preferred solution, "stop turning prisoners over to the Afghan authorities", wasn't acceptable to Canada or our allies. They have repeatedly said they were looking for credible evidence that people detained by Canada had been tortured.

  2. Right.. like the Afghan's would invite us in to watch while they're doing it? The government has used and continues to use obtuse language here. Internaitonal law states that if we even think there is a RISK of torture to prisoners handed over to other authorities. NOT credible evidence.. we cannot hand over prisoners/detainees.. so that argument about credible evidence is a sham.

  3. Well, no, but what in this article is news? It's written as if something has been uncovered.

  4. Well, we've no credible evidence jobs are being created in Canada either. Therefore, is there nobody working in Canada?

  5. To quote my blogging friend Impolitical:

    This is one of the worst reports to date for the government, the indications are that the Red Cross tried to repeatedly warn Canadian officials in 2006, in memos and meetings, not just in Afghanistan but in Ottawa and Geneva as well. That separates the allegations from Colvin alone, it's quite significant that those meetings were totally independent initiatives. The report speaks of the Canadian embassy staff in Kandahar finally taking the Red Cross seriously in 2007, but only after the Globe had publicly reported allegations for the Canadian audience, and political damage was occurring. It's not a good picture that's being painted.

  6. All of which invites the question: what did Canada and our allies know about Afghan jails in 2005 when we agreed to transfer prisoners to them?

  7. like the Afghan's would invite us in to watch while they're doing it?

    This is a loaded statement. Are you dismissing all monitoring efforts? Is torture a given?

    • It's assumed, but not actually proven.

  8. Yes. Because the Liberals and what they did half a decade ago is always the real issue. That is, when the real issue isn't how biased the media is by making Harper look so bad.

  9. I liked Baird the other day saying, in one single response and run-on sentence in QP, that (a) they have never ever received any credible substantiated evidence of torture [despite all of the evidence provided] and (b) whenever they have received any credible substantiated evidence of torture [of the kind, supposedly, he just told us they never got] "they acted".

    I supposed the second could be true. They acted to gag and threaten witnesses, censor documents, cover-up what they knew, use our troops as political props and shields for their incompetence, and connivingly try to confuse the public into numbness with their constantly changing storylines.

  10. The issue is Canada and our allies transfering prisoners to Afghan authorities, knowing that torture was prevalent in that system. Why are we focusing on the delay in improving our monitorung agreement instead of discussing the original decision?

  11. Because we have no evidence of the Liberal government knowing about torture and not doing anything.

    Because we kicked the Liberal bums out for their level of competence.

    Because the Liberals aren't the government now.

    Because the current government knew about the torture and at first did nothing and then lied about it (remember O'Connor saying the Red Cross/Red Crescent was responsible for monitoring?) and then tried to cover up their inaction.

    Because we have evidence, lots of it, of the government knowing about the torture and doing everything they can to cover up.

    Because, as we showed in 2006, Canadians actually do care about accountability and not just at election time.

  12. How about you not type every thought you have. It's not really necessary.

  13. incapable of focusing on more than one thing at a time Style?

  14. Yes, it's a shame there hasn't been a federal election since 2007, and the Defence Minister at the time hasn;t stepped down largely over this issue…

    More pertinently, this is from the 2002-03 Annual Report of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission: Human rights protection: The miserable situation of the prisons remained unchanged as before. ..AIHRC registered several cases of torturing the detainees. In spite of all efforts the AIHRC monitors had no access to the private detention and also the detention centres of the Intelligence Department (Riasat Amniat) in Kabul and provinces.

    So, the existence of torture in Afghan prisons was known in 2003. We could probably find reports from Human RIghts Watch and the Red Cross that would repeat and amplify these concerns through 2005.

  15. Good thing we were transferring our detainees to the Americans throughout that time then, isn't it?

  16. I half-expect a statement from Harper in Beijing denouncing the Red Cross as smearing the Canadian Forces and being Taliban lovers. Or, maybe his sycophants Baird and MacKay will do the honours.. er.. smears.

  17. Great analogy, no way to refute that. Guess I'll go down the street and not get a slice of pizza from the restaurant that must not be open..

  18. The point you are trying to make is a desperate attempt to deflect attention from the real issue.

    The agreement reached by the Canadian government in late 2005 attempted to put in safeguards to protect detainees from torture. Clearly those safeguards were not sufficient.

    Sadly for you, however, the fact those safeguards were not sufficient came to light in 2006, and was ignored by the Conservative government.

    No matter how hard you try to make this about the previous government, it just isn't.

    • Of course, because any discussion about public policy is just a game for the Liberals and Conservatives to score points against each other…

      Canada decided in 2005 to transfer detainees to a prison system where torture was practiced. What were the alternatives and why did we make that decision?

      Hillier signed a transfer agreement in 2005 that was inferior to the agreements signed by our allies. Why did he do this?

      Those questions seem at least as useful as asking why it took so long to decide to update the agreement.

  19. Which of my comments do you think *are* necessary?

  20. Good question.

  21. I have an idea that will answer your question about the Liberals and the questions about the Conservatives the rest of the country has.

    Why don't we have an inquiry to get to the bottom of it? And you know what, why don't we give the inquiry a scope of review from the beginning of the Afghanistan war to present, 2001 to 2009.

    Maybe we can even get some opposition MP to introduce a motion to that effect to try to pressure the Conservatives to call an inquiry and stop covering up.

    What say you about that idea Style?

  22. That was mulleataur's idea on these boards last week and I'm glad to see Mr. Dewar picking up the ball. Do we really need to wait for the public inquiry before we start the conversation though? Aren't our journalists allowed to get out ahead of the inquiry by a bit?

  23. You are the one trying to score points against the liberals for something that is the total responsibility of the conservatives.

    Methinks you could use a mirror.

  24. Even Bob Rae agrees this isn't the sole responsibility of the Conservatives.

  25. Yesterday, despite Conservative attempts to suppress and censor, the Colvin memos were released in full. There are lots of memos from him warning the government and we are just starting to go through this. The day before it was revealed that the Conservatives lied about not being warned by the Red Cross. All of this flows from Colvin's testimony the Tories tried to change and suppress and Colvin's testimony was about what he said to the current government.

    In other words, we are finally getting some truth and its coming out daily. There is now a lot of it and we have only begun to start to analyze it. Just how damning is it? This is current stuff, the first pieces of the puzzle and the most relevant to the issue. The issue being the accountability and competence of the government for its own actions.

    Why you think journalists should drop investigations into newly released information and start digging for documents that may or may not exist, about conditions under detainee transfer arrangements that were replaced long ago by a former government is, frankly, quite strange.

  26. It's not news that there was torture in Afghan jails in 2006 and that governments knew about it – that fact was well-known all along. The Government has said that it had no evidence that specific Canadian detainees were tortured.

    Journalists can keep reading Colvin's memos, but I would like to see the issue put in its proper context – Canada and our allies chose, in 2005, to transfer detainees to Afghan prisons, knowing that torture was prevalent. What were the alternatives and why was this choice made? Maybe that will damn the Liberals too, maybe it's just a vital part of the discussion about our role in Afghanistan.

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