Wednesday, December 9, 2009

About face by Canada's top brass on torture claims

Today's surprising (although not entirely) admission by Canada's top military person, Gen. Walter Natynczyk, that some of those captured were indeed likely tortured casts a pall on Canada's reputation as a force for good in the world. It's irrelevant that some were so-called "unlawful combatants" or that they may have been caught in the act of committing crimes. If Canadians had even the slightest suspicion that prisoners of war might be tortured after being turned over to Afghan authorities but did so anyway, that in itself is a war crime -- just as refusing to provide the names of captured detainees to the Red Cross is also a war crime.

I really have no compassion for or tolerance of terrorists and their supporters -- either military or financial. The same principle applies whether it's al Qaeda or the IRA.
But we Canadians have incorporated, by law, the Geneva Conventions and their protocols into the body of Canadian law and therefore we are bound by the rules. We just can't pick and choose what rules we will follow. If we have no intention of following the rules, then the Conservatives should actually stand up in Parliament and say that Canada is withdrawing from the Conventions -- and have a vote on it to remove our obligations from the law books.
I have joined at least one online petition calling for a public inquiry -- but I say again that we need a special prosecutor, independent of any level of government and who can investigate this matter with an open eye. As far as the Parliamentary hearings go, if ministers have not testified under oath they should be forced to do so. Canadians need answers and we need them now -- otherwise, everything we have fought for the last eight years has been for nothing. In no way should this and previous comments on this issue be construed as an attack on the military; rather it is one on the government. It's a tired question, but it bears repeating: What did they know (both the Conservatives AND the Liberals before them) and when did they know it?

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