OP/ED: On torture and tactics

Rob Leggett
By Rob Leggett
November 26th, 2009

This week a parliamentary committee has heard testimony from diplomat Richard Colvin, concerning alleged torture of Afghan detainees that were captured by Canadians and then handed over to Afghan authorities. And even though I wanted to discuss this, this column has been the most difficult for me to get through, mainly because I find myself pulled in two different directions.
To begin with, I find Colvin’s sources for the alleged torture questionable, relying on second-hand and third-hand reports, and he never took the opportunity to discuss these issues with ministers travelling through the area or with General Gauthier, even though he had every opportunity to do so.
However, I do not doubt that the Afghan authorities resorted to torture, especially seeing as the Afghan government’s own human-rights watchdog called torture in the country’s detention centers standard police procedure.
The question is, who knew what and when … and what was done about it?
Prime Minister Stephen Harper seems confident that his government will withstand this storm, and why shouldn’t he be? His government has made many, very plausible undertakings to ensure detainees were not being tortured; the Canadian Forces even stopped the transfer of prisoners on several occasions while investigating claims of torture.
Many of those who have been named by Colvin, such as David Mulroney and Gauthier, cannot wait to be put before the parliamentary committee. This does not point to people who are guilty of the crimes of which Colvin is accusing them. In fact, Gauthier has said, “I look forward to providing an absolutely frank view of some key aspects of Mr.Colvin’s testimony when I appear before the committee next week.”
Despite all of this, I find it ironic that those who were opposed to Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan and who have been calling for Canada to leave Afghanistan, to let them deal with their own issues, are now the ones making the most noise about the alleged torture.
Let me understand this…the NDP and Bloc feel we should ignore routine beheadings and public whippings of women for minor infractions of law, but when it comes to the supposed torture by the government of those people responsible for killing our troops and innocent bystanders, we should be outraged?
Without a doubt, Colvin’s testimony is damning and, even if his allegations prove to be untrue, he has put a stain on the careers of some very prominent people. Understandably these people are speaking out.
You’d better have more than circumstantial evidence to make the accusation of war crimes…
But that doesn’t seem to be stopping Colvin.

Categories: Op/Ed


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