'We understood that was the kind of world we were working in' - Macleans.ca

‘We understood that was the kind of world we were working in’


The Dutch general who served as his country’s chief of defence staff talks to Embassy magazine about why his side insisted on monitoring detainees from the outset.

“We all had our doubts whether, let’s say, the standards for treating prisoners would be the same with the Afghan authorities as what we deem proper in the West,” Mr. Berlijn said. “We’ve all heard stories that sometimes the prisoners in Afghan prisons were not treated all that well.”

Mr. Berlijn said local strongmen were particularly notorious, while he had also heard reports of prisoners being killed while in detention. That is why post-transfer monitoring was a key element of the Dutch transfer agreements, he said, noting the British followed essentially the same process. And those monitoring visits by Dutch embassy officials did happen, he added.

“I’m not sure if those were real reports but we understood that was the kind of world we were working in and that’s why we took those precautions,” he said. “We did not want to, let’s say, make it easy on ourselves by saying ‘Well, we handed them off to the Afghan authorities, it’s no longer our business.’ That was not the case. We understood we had a responsibility there.”


‘We understood that was the kind of world we were working in’

  1. “We did not want to, let's say, make it easy on ourselves by saying ‘Well, we handed them off to the Afghan authorities, it's no longer our business.' That was not the case. We understood we had a responsibility there.”

    Ah heh heh, yes, exactly. We Canadians concur wholeheartedly. To the last of us. Heh heh.

  2. ''…Mr. Berlijn said the Dutch, British and Canadians "compared notes" when it came to the question of transferring detainees to Afghan authorities, but in the end Canada decided to undertake its own process…''

    Next up to be interrogated by committee,
    Paul Martin and Bill Graham……why did the Liberal government ignore, give a wink and a nod, to the torture of detainees?

  3. Sort of like a vicious square and not a circle.
    We are back to the definition of evidence.

    When asked:
    Amin said there was proof,
    while Hamin said
    there was poof.

  4. Absolutely valid question. Harper party antics in no way excuse that of the Liberals previous — especially in the context of this note comparison. However, Liberal behavior previous in no way excuses that of Harper's party, either.

  5. What an interesting turn of phrase – "that's the kind of world we live in" that has been used two ways – in one form by our Canadian government, and in the other, by the Dutch.

    I can't help but wonder if our own government's law and order mentality – in certain respects a philosophy I adhere to – has extended beyond punishment fitting the crime to "well if we had enough information to detain them, then they MUST be guilty, and therefore, punished."

  6. I agree. But even here the Tories have no out. They defended the 2005 DT agreement the libs put in…a fact that i note Wilson doesn't bother to reference.

  7. This is why I think we should follow the Opposition's preferred course (as expressed by a majority vote in the House of Commons) of holding an inquiry into this issue that deals with 2001 to the present day.

    That's what the Liberal Party of today voted for.

    The "how would the Liberals feel if we looked in to past LIBERAL practices too" argument is undercut somewhat by the fact that the Liberals have voted in favour of doing just that exact thing.

  8. I'm liking that white-collar crime has finally come up for some punishment. Do you know that one of our very high-profile lawyers actually complained that the proposal on white-collar criminals was actually going to treat them like, wait for it . . . criminals? Outrageous. But other than that, I don't see a genuine law and order mentality from these Conservatives. Quite the opposite, in fact, since I see all kinds of thumbing of noses at the rule of law.

  9. The inquiry should not only look at the detainee transfer policy under Chretien and Martin, but the CIA rendition flights they allowed to fly through Canadian air space and refuel in Canada

  10. CBC News – World – The questions we are not asking
    25 Nov 2009 … Neil Macdonald asks: what about those Afghan prisoners who spilled Canadian blood? … What else could we do? We had no choice." …

    This might be of interest. The story of our handing over Afghans who did kill Canadians seems to have vanished. But of equal interest is the the chat with the "spooks" later on. It sheds some light on the war and our thinking. I don't concur with the Intelligence guys that we had no choice.[ think Brits & Dutch] Handing over guys who are basically patriots, even if they are shooting at you, to an unknown fate is still wrong. It's also stupid…isn't the idea to win over hearts and minds?

  11. Perhaps I should clarify, then, that what I meant by "law and order" mentality mostly referred to the get-tough-on-crime policies expanding sentencing requirements for a host of offences.

    I agree that respect for the rule of law hasn't been as present as as the "ideal" with this current government – at least not in conduct or attitude. In legislation, that's a harder argument to make.

  12. Sure, but there's a big difference regarding suspicion about the people you are giving prisoners too, and actually ignoring prepared reports from NGOs in the field.

    I await a full investigation which will set out the who what and when.

  13. That's one of the dangers of looking at crime as something that requires retribution and punishment as opposed to rehabilitation and prevention. It becomes far to easy to lump "crime" into "criminal"

  14. Agreed. See, notice, Wilson, that wrongdoing by Liberals do not get a pass by Liberals. But I would suggest most Liberals are of the "Canadian first, Liberal second" variety. You might try that sometime.

  15. "That's what the Liberal Party of today voted for"

    It's also fair to say that MI is not Martin or Chretien. I grow tired of this arguement that the libs have no credibility on this because of adsscam or that because they signed something in 05. It's not legimate to hold a new leader or even his party completely hostage to the past.