Afghan torture repeat likely, Canadian lawyer claims

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      A human-rights lawyer believes Canadian troops could hand over detainees from other countries only for them to be tortured, just as were the Afghans under Canada’s watch.

      “The question is, when Canadian forces are deployed into an armed conflict, we understand that they are going to have to necessarily partner up or be allies with—temporarily or for a longer period of time—militias or with state armies that might not have the best human-rights records,” Ottawa lawyer Paul Champ told the Straight by phone. “So, how do we navigate those relationships and how do our human-rights obligations affect what we do with individuals we capture? I don’t think there have been a lot of lessons learned from the Afghan-detainee transfer issue such that it wouldn’t happen again. And that’s what is most disturbing of all at this point.”

      In June 2010, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, along with then–opposition leaders Michael Ignatieff and Gilles Duceppe, signed a memorandum of understanding pertaining to the release of documents detailing the torture of Afghan detainees handed over to their own secret police beginning in December 2005. (The federal NDP opted out of the committee.)

      However, in the event of an election, the document must be signed again by all party leaders to keep it active.

      For Champ, the parliamentary issue is a “red herring” due to its limited scope and the fact that higher-level “cabinet-level documents”, for example, were not submitted.

      Of more relevance to Canadians at this stage is the awaited report by the Military Police Complaints Commission on the detainee issue, Champ noted.

      Sid Lacombe, spokesperson for the Toronto-based Canadian Peace Alliance, agreed with Champ that “there’s definitely a problem”.

      “Anytime there’s an institutional cover-up of war crimes, there is certainly a potential that this could spread in future missions,” Lacombe told the Straight by phone. “And that’s something that other militaries around the world have identified. The culture of impunity for the soldiers and the officers is not a good thing to engender in any military.”

      Lacombe said he still believes Defence Minister Peter MacKay should resign over the detainee scandal.