Wednesday, July 11, 2007

National security as a lame excuse!

This is a common strategy. The rights of el Maati, Nureddin, and Al Malki the subjects of the Iacobucci inquiry are similarly denied on the basis of national security. They will never hear the evidence against them and they will not be able to clear their name even though there is an inquiry in their name!
Rick Hillier is just using security as a cop-out. Attaran shows this to be the case by citing US practice. Amazing that in this case Canada is worse than the US. Harper being an admirer of the US should correct Hillier and tell him to imitate the US example!

Afghan detainee information ban infringes rights, says Ottawa professor
Last Updated: Tuesday, July 10, 2007 | 1:37 PM ET
CBC News
The man whose access to information requests first brought the Afghan detainee abuse scandal to light has harshly criticized Canada's top soldier over reports he's muzzling information, saying the alleged ban infringes on the rights of Canadians.

University of Ottawa law professor Amir Attaran said staff at the department that manages the requests have told him he won't receive the type of information he was granted last year.

"I've been told … that I would just get a whole bunch of blank paper, it would be heavily censored," he said Monday during an interview on CBC Radio's As It Happens.

University of Ottawa law professor Amir Attaran.
The Globe and Mail reported on Monday that Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Rick Hillier has ordered no documents related to detainees captured in Afghanistan be made public under the Access to Information Act. Hillier, the country's top soldier, said such disclosure could endanger Canadian military operations in Afghanistan, according to the report.

Detainee abuse became a national scandal earlier this year after documents revealed the military was not monitoring detainees who had been transferred from Canadian to Afghan custody. It was later alleged that some of those detainees were being mistreated.

Continue Article

The allegations first came to light after Attaran received the documents through an access to information request.

Attaran says the situation has changed in the past several months.

"We've seen the Department of National Defence and other departments like Foreign Affairs completely clamp down on what documents they're prepared to give to the Canadian public under the Access to Information Act," he said.

Attaran said Hillier and his advisers have ordered no information on Afghan detainees be released, even though decisions on what information is made public is supposed to be made by a civil servant working in each department.

Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Rick Hillier.
(Tom Hanson/Canadian Press)
"The rights of Canadians to access information should be decided by civil servants applying the law," said Attaran. "It's inappropriate for a general and his staff to begin deciding what Canadians may see. That is a foot on the slippery slope of military officers running Canada."

Attaran questioned Hillier's argument that releasing information such as the number of detainees being held would risk soldiers' safety and undermine the mission.

"The number of detainees held by a country is not secret in other nations. The U.S. not only will tell you how many detainees in Guantanamo Bay, they'll give you their names, they'll give you their birthdates," he said.

"Other countries are not so lumbered with secrecy as Canada has become."

Since the beginning of May, the U.S. military has issued 25 media releases detailing the capture of at least 100 Afghan prisoners.

The information is posted on a U.S. army website, with details of the captures, including where they occurred, the number and type of weapons seized, and information about the prisoners, such as rank, and sometimes even names.

Attaran said the alleged information ban in Canada is so extensive that the detainee abuse scandal wouldn't have come to light if it had been in place when he made his earlier request.

"I think the objective is to prevent further scandal," he said.

"That's a law under which any Canadian can insist on receiving certain types of information. It’s a legal right of Canadians and unfortunately that legal right is evaporating at a shocking speed."

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