Thursday, October 15, 2009
Military Complaints Commission complains documents unavailable from Harper government.
The Harper government simply does not want to come clean and this is not surprising since it is probably dirty! Whenever national security can be excused as an excuse to avoid doing something that would make it look bad the government always will do so. The government has been doing everything possible to make sure that the commission cannot carry out its task including questioning its jurisdiction. Unfortunately these sorts of shenanigans probably have little negative political fallout.
CTV.ca News Staff Updated: Thu. Oct. 15 2009 10:42 AM ET
A lawyer with the Canadian Military Complaints Commission says the truth about allegations of prisoner torture in Afghanistan will only surface if the government is forthcoming with documents.
Freya Kristjanson told Canada AM on Thursday that while the government has said it's cooperating with the commission, it has not turned in any documents since March, 2008.
"This commission has not received a single new document (sic) despite repeated assurances that the government would be producing the documents both in the House and by their lawyers directly to the commission," she said in an interview from Ottawa. "The government has simply failed to deliver any documents."
"If the government cooperates with a body established by parliament within its mandate and gives the commission documents and access to witnesses then Canadians will know what happened," she added.
Government officials say they are in the midst of sensoring the documents for national security but Kristjanson said they're taking too long to get the job done.
"The commission absolutely will protect valid national security claims but the problem is the government is not cooperating or expediting the vetting of those national documents so that we can proceed with this hearing," she said.
The lawyer's comments come a day after the commission was adjourned for at least six months to deal with arguments over the inquiry's jurisdiction.
Commissioner Peter Tinsley agreed to adjourn the hearing but blasted the Canadian government for stonewalling the inquiry by withholding the requested documents.
The controversy being explored in the inquiry surrounds whether or not the Canadian government knew that Afghan prisoners were at risk of being tortured when the Canadian military transfered custody to the local authorities.
Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin filed an affidavit to the commission Wednesday saying indeed government officials did know of the risks because he personally warned them in writing in 2006.
Colvin -- who is now an intelligence officer with the Foreign Affairs department -- said in his written statement that he filed two reports in 2006 that examined potential problems with the handover of prisoners by the Canadian military to the local authorities.
"Judging these problems regarding Afghan detainees to be serious, imminent and alarming, I made investigations and detailed my findings formally in my reporting from the PRT," he wrote in the affidavit.
The content of the first report is still covered by national security. Colvin said the second report gave specific findings that "dealt with two issues, one of which concerned the risk of torture and/or actual torture of Afghan detainees."
The reports were widely distributed to the Foreign Affairs and Defence departments as well as senior military commanders in both Ottawa and Kandahar.
His statement contradicts earlier assurances by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other high-ranking officials that they had not received any credible reports from Canadian officials about prisoner abuse.
Cabinet ministers had also assured the public that the opposition was misled by Taliban propaganda and that in fact, the government has not received a credible allegation of prisoner abuse.
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