Contingency and hindsight -

Contingency and hindsight


CBC obtains the contingency plan the government prepared to deal with public accusations of torture in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, the board of inquiry charged with investigated the events of June 14, 2006 has completed its work and its report is now being reviewed ahead of a public release.


Contingency and hindsight

  1. "In mid-March [2007], we began detailed work to create a contingency plan — a standard operating procedure — in the event of well-founded allegations of mistreatment," Mulroney, who is now Canada's ambassador to China, told the committee.____"We did this not because of confirmed instances of real and substantial risk of torture or mistreatment of Canadian-transferred detainees but because it was clear that what we had in place at the time could and should be further reinforced. We needed to be far more engaged in terms of monitoring, training, and providing infrastructure and equipment."

    Yes, EXACTLY, it was an ongoing process trying to get things working right. It does not happen overnight. At least Mulroney saw this complex issue (how to deal with prisoners) as a process.__

    • Compare that to the 4 years it took the Libs to formulate the poor plan the Cons govt inherited.

    • I agree that this might have been a reasonable answer, working to solve an existing issue, etc, but only if …

      a) given in place of absolute denials that any credible mention of torture had ever been made
      b) in place of "The Red Cross looks after that" when it doesn't
      c) without pretending that anyone who questions any aspect of your policy must be a Taliban sympathizer
      and d) the agreement actually solved the problem (recent evidence suggests not)

      So instead of the truth, what we got was an initial refusal to accept accountability, deflections, lies, deliberate cover up. and character assassination. Now we're supposed to just excuse it all on the basis of "war is hell?" The only mystery is why Mackay hasn't resigned already.

  2. "Canadian officials did not start monitoring detainees in Afghan custody until May 2007, when a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed with the Afghan government allowing Canadian officials to visit prisons and track detainees who had been transferred there."

    Another process which took time and effort within chaos.

    • And you know, had that been MacKay's answer way back at the beginning, and had they released the documents to prove such. This never would have gotten legs.

      Instead it was attack the messenger, deny it ever happened until it was shown to have happened, claim national security, prorogue, and now hand off to some outsider with a track record of not disputing government claims, even if he believes they're wrong.

      • It took the Liberal government 3 YEARS to formulate a totally insufficient detainee arrangement,
        from the time the first Afghan was detained by Cdn soldiers, 2002,
        but a Conservative govt is expected to instantly,
        weeks after winning govt, realize the Liberal's had failed and then fix it , now, right now!!
        To do otherwise means they are complicite in war crimes….

  3. "It was Colvin who reinvigorated the debate over Canada's role in the torture of prisoners in Afghanistan with his testimony before the House of Commons committee. The former diplomat told the committee that all detainees transferred by Canadians to Afghan prisons were likely tortured by Afghan officials and that many of the prisoners were innocent."

    HIndsight is 20/20, and besides, the point was and should be now, that when dealing with prisoners on the spot, it cannot be immediately clear who is innocent and who is guilty.

    The chance that some prisoners are innocent is always existing, even within our Canadian prison system. That is not a particular insight by Colvin but is a wellknown fact. How come we in Canada cannot even decide 100% who is guilty and who is innocent when putting people behind bars???

    • It was not entirely hindsight at all, colvin was on the spot.

      "HIndsight is 20/20, and besides, the point was and should be now, that when dealing with prisoners on the spot, it cannot be immediately clear who is innocent and who is guilty"

      Exactly! We had no idea who was guilty or not. It was our rsponsiblity to not turn over possibly innocent people to the Afghan authorities…particularly their security thugs.

      • ok, so it would be our responsibility to decide what to do with the detainees. Should the Canadian forces put up a prison on location? That question also surficed at the same time. The question of placing taken prisoners in the care of the American forces was out of the question, political correctly speaking, of course. And while all of these questions were being posed, the insurgency stepped it up a notch or two.

        • It had been suggested to us by a couple of nations we put up our own prison. It had been suggested to us by a couple of nations that any agreement we make with the afghani authorities include strong measures to ensure no torture was taken place.

          Our governments failed to do so. Not just the Harper government, but the Liberal government before them from some of the stuff I've been reading lately. Harper, MacKay, Hillier, Martin, Graham.. all of them. It appears that they all knew, or should have known, that handing over detainees to Afghan authorities without proper oversight would likely expose those detainees to torture.

          In my books, that's a war crime, and every one of them needs to face the music for it.

          • "In my books, that's a war crime, and every one of them needs to face the music for it"

            This is where i draw the line. A war crime for me implies intent – a hard thing to prove at the best of times. All these parties should be available to answer for thier actions and pay a political price at the very least. Now i suppose there is another level or two in there somewhere…wiiful negligence is also a possibility for some parties…saying we didn't know the repercussions of our actions or inactions is also not acceptable.

          • The conventions are actually pretty clear on this. They state flat out that if you knew or ought to have known that a course of action would subject someone to torture, it's a war crime.

            Now, I'm willing to accept arguments that "ought to have known" needs to be interpreted very carefully so as to avoid the idea that simple precedent equates to activity, especially if they took some actions or had some reason to think that precedent might not apply.. but that's about it.

          • I'm willing to accept what you say, since i haven't done any personal research. But i'm puzzled; surely you have to prove intent for a war crime? I'm aware that following orders and "i can't be held responsible for what the other guy does", doesn't cut it in law. But intent is usually the gold standard in such cases, is it not? Also i can see how not proving intent does not absolve someone/govt of say negligence. But the hurdle should be relatively high, no…assumption of innocence…all that good stuff, that must apply to everyone.

          • Article 3
            1. No State Party shall expel, return ("refouler") or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.
            2. For the purpose of determining whether there are such grounds, the competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the State concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights.

            It's pretty black and white. Saying "We didn't intend for him to be tortured" when you should have known that he would be isn't an excuse. The Geneva conventions demand active adherence to the conventions, not just passive avoidance of breaking them.

          • Well that makes sense…active adherence. Thanks for that.

        • You make it sound like the Harper government isn't keen to build prisons. Heck, they see prisons as key bits of social infrastructure in Canada, so why not in Afghanistan?

          As for the insurgency stepping itself up "a notch or two", well, this happens whenever you get involved in unwinnable, pointless wars.

          It was annoying enough that the Liberals sleep-walked into this one, despite the opposition of most Canadians, but what was truly disgusting was to see this war fulsomely, if not gleefully, embraced by Harper because he figured that, at worst, he could rally his base around the war, accuse his opponents of hating the troops, and use the war as a divisive wedge issue.

          • Yah, in perfect Canadian head hanging with hat in hand, it's all our fault!

      • But good enough, decisions had to be made, directives needed to come down from somewhere. I understand. But directives taken amidst chaos is not as simple as it may seem. Theoretical conventions, like the Geneva conventions are all good and well in its intent, but the practice of war is not quite as easy as reading up on theories. Remember, the ideas leading to the Geneva conventions, come mostly our of an era of warfare practices not applying so readily to the kind of warfare being fought in Afghanistan.
        Of course, we as reasonable people must not loose our heads when combatting a barbaric opponent, but being able to stick to theoretical good intentions won't do the trick either. There has to be a reasonable approach to this. And the reasonable approach cannot be that we, the west, must constantly dot the i and cross the t before being able to do anything practical if the opponents in this war don't even ackknowledge the existence of reason whatsoever.

        • I'd argue that it's even more important that we dot the i and cross the t when facing those types of opponents in order to show the alternative.. and that it works.

        • Sorry, but the Geneva Convention is not a "theoretical convention". It is a crucially important piece of International law that Canada and most other nations have signed on to.

        • Could you possibly cram any more strawmen/ false dichotomies in that arguement?

      • Being caught in the middle of a firestorm, with a gun in your hand and powder residue on your clothing, is a pretty reasonable expectation of guilt, no?

        Farmers by day, Taliban by night….

        • Uh, I'm pretty sure "being caught in the middle of a firestorm, with a gun in your hand and powder residue on your clothing" in Afghanistan is called "Tuesday".

          I'd be suspicious of a farmer in rural Afghanistan who DIDN'T have a gun, and I'm not sure you can be in rural Afghanistan for more than five minutes without getting some gun powder on you.

          But you're probably right. If there's a "reasonable expectation" of guilt, why not hand them over to authorities who are almost certain to torture them? After all, if they're probably guilty of something, then they probably deserve what they get.

          • Wilson goes by the old testament, not the new.

    • it cannot be immediately clear who is innocent and who is guilty.


      That's why its a good idea to treat them all as innocent until proven otherwise. It's not just something you see on TV, you know.

  4. Actually, it was closer to 4 years before the Lib govt had a plan……

    • Er…we were in Kabul for the longest time under ISAF…you were saying Wilson?

      • That does not change the fact the Canadian soldiers were capturing suspected insurgents or is that picture of the JTF troopers photoshopped?

        • The detainees were going to the Americans…we were under ISAF at the time. But i think you're right about the JTF…weren't dealing with high value suspects separately, god only knows where they ended up, some black ops sight i suppose.