By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - 0 Comments
The Military Police Complaints Commission has released its final report on the inquiry brought after Amnesty International and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association “alleged a failure on the part of certain Military Police (MP) to investigate the Canadian Task Force Commanders in Afghanistan for directing the transfer of detainees to Afghan authorities in the face of a known risk of torture.”
The Commission’s mandate in this public interest hearing is limited to the question: Did these subjects fail to meet a positive duty to investigate the transfer orders of the Task Force Commanders in Afghanistan during the timeframe of this complaint? This mandate does not extend to making findings and recommendations concerning the Government of Canada and Canadian Forces’ (CF) policy on detainee transfers. The Commission is limited to determining whether it was reasonable for the CFPM and the other military police subjects of this complaint not to have investigated the legality of detainee transfer orders made by the Task Force Commanders. It is for others to examine the overall appropriateness of Canada’s detainee transfer policies, and the results achieved.
The Commission finds the allegations made by AIC and BCCLA against the eight subject officers in the June 12, 2008 complaint to be unsubstantiated. Viewing the evidence as a whole, the Commission finds no grounds to conclude any of these officers should have investigated the Task Force Commanders while in theatre, or should have caused such an investigation to occur. The Commission finds their actions under the circumstances prevailing at the time met the standards of a reasonable police officer.
The commission devotes an entire chapter to detailing the problems it encountered in trying to access documents and witnesses.
With the Commission’s decision to conduct public interest hearings in March 2008, and through to November 2009, the doors were basically slammed shut on document disclosure. The Commission did not receive a single, new document from the Government throughout that time period despite many requests … In addition to document issues, the Government’s uncooperative stance was also demonstrated in the difficulties experienced by the Commission in accessing witnesses for pre-hearing interviews and even into the hearings themselves…
This Commission is not the first tribunal to be confronted with difficulties in obtaining access to Government documents and evidence. As former Chairperson Peter Tinsley stated at an early stage of this Commission’s proceedings, it seemed that some of the key lessons from the Somalia experience had not been learned. This Commission was indeed struck by a number of similarities between the process issues which it faced, and the experiences reported by the Somalia Inquiry.
The Somalia Inquiry mainly had to do with the actions of the Canadian military in Somalia. The Somalia Inquiry felt compelled in its Report to tell the story of DND’s apparent reluctance to cooperate with the Inquiry when it came to transparency and disclosure of documents. The comments made by the Somalia Commission in Chapter 39 of its Report on this issue could, in many respects, be adopted almost word for word to describe the issues this Commission faced in obtaining disclosure of relevant information from the Government during these proceedings.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, September 30, 2011 at 12:27 PM - 5 Comments
A government appeal to limit the scope of an investigation by the Military Police Complaints Commission has been rejected.
A Federal Court has dismissed an application that would, among other things, strike the testimony of diplomat-whistleblower Richard Colvin and block thousands of pages of documents from being used by the Military Police Complaints Commission…
Justice Department lawyers argued the commission had no authority to call witnesses who were not members of the military, such as Colvin, who said he repeatedly warned both Foreign Affairs and the Defence Department about possible prison abuse … The government also claimed that the watchdog, created in the aftermath of the Somalia scandal to monitor the conduct of military police, exceeded its mandate by issuing summonses for documents.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, April 5, 2011 at 9:47 AM - 15 Comments
The Harper government is once more seeking to limit the purview of the Military Police Complaints Commission.
The federal government already argued successfully in 2009 that the findings should be limited to what military cops knew or could be reasonably expected to know, but now Ottawa is challenging the definition of what the military police should have known. The federal government wants to narrow the definition so that it includes only information the military police would have physically possessed — such as being copied on an email — instead of what they may have been able to find out by asking questions.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, February 3, 2011 at 10:35 AM - 11 Comments
Murray Brewster covers the last day of hearings at the Military Police Complaints Commission.
The issue of the treatment of Afghan prisoners has fallen off the political map, something Neve lamented.”We have tried so many different ways to have that issue taken seriously,” he said Wednesday just before the hearings concluded.
Gilles Duceppe said in December that the committee of MPs charged with reviewing documents related to the treatment of detainees would have something to release in January. After QP on Tuesday, he was reminded of that. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 3:17 PM - 0 Comments
Military Police Complaints Commission hearings have resumed and, while testifying, a Canadian general defended Afghanistan’s NDS (“these are not torture chambers per se”). After reviewing new documents, the CBC figures Canada has transferred in excess of 400 detainees to Afghan authorities. The Hill Times reports that the government was preparing in 2007 to deal with difficult questions.
Meanwhile, the Brits have completed their own review of detainee policy and practice.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, June 18, 2010 at 4:28 PM - 4 Comments
Former diplomat Nicholas Gosselin visited Afghan detention facilities at least 38 times, but conducted only a handful of interviews with prisoners in the months after a bombshell allegation that a Canadian-captured detainee had been beaten with electrical cables. The revelation stunned both the inquiry chair and the human-rights group that prompted the continuing torture inquiry.
Gosselin told a Military Police Complaints Commission inquiry Tuesday that there often wasn’t time to get in to a question-and-answer session with inmates of either the Afghan intelligence jail, or the notorious Sarpoza prison.
“It wasn’t that there wasn’t a will,” said Gosselin, whose job at the Kandahar provincial reconstruction base included monitoring prisoners. “It was my No. 1 priority, but my bosses had other priorities, too.”
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, May 12, 2010 at 1:07 PM - 19 Comments
All parties are scheduled to return to the table to resume negotiations on Afghan detainee documents at 3:30pm this afternoon.
The Military Police Complaints Commission hearings, meanwhile, continue—with reports this week of wrangling between Foreign Affairs and National Defence, the firing of an Afghan official after a report of torture and disagreement over the circumstances of one detainee.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 8:14 AM - 9 Comments
While most everyone was paying attention to other matters across the hall, our former ambassador in Kabul appeared in Centre Block’s other grand committee room yesterday afternoon and neatly summed up Canada’s position on torture in Afghanistan.
“Our reports for several years indicated that there was a high likelihood that torture was going on in Afghanistan detention facilities. However, we were confident that, based on information we had, that no Canadian transfer detainees had been abused or mistreated,” said David Sproule, Canada’s ambassador in Kabul from October, 2005, to April, 2007.
Meanwhile, the Military Police Complaints Commission has decided upon a novel response to the delayed delivery of detainee documents: it’s called the officials responsible for such documents to testify.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, April 21, 2010 at 7:38 PM - 51 Comments
With the first opportunity in Question Period, Michael Ignatieff stood and demanded the Prime Minister apologize, on behalf of the government, for a Conservative backbencher’s press release that likened the nation’s police chiefs to cult leaders and accused them of corruption.
“Will he condemn these disgraceful remarks?” the Liberal leader wondered.
Stephen Harper would not. He would instead note that the backbencher had apologized, that the assistant who had put those words in the backbencher’s mouth had resigned and that, anyway, the real problem here was the Liberal leader’s position on the gun registry.
Mr. Ignatieff came back with an accusatory finger, demanding the Prime Minister answer the question. And so here came the Prime Minister, yelling and pointing and carrying on. “Of course we all agree with that apology,” he offered of his backbencher’s retraction, “and we accept that apology.” And then he again turned on the Liberal leader, upon whom said backbencher had wished metaphorical violence. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, April 14, 2010 at 12:36 PM - 98 Comments
The Globe’s Steve Chase nicely captures an absurdist moment at the MPCC hearings yesterday.
The full transcript of Richard Colvin’s testimony yesterday can be downloaded here.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 6:52 PM - 46 Comments
The Scene. When all of this is past, and Helena Guergis has either been redeemed or forgotten or both, various members of this government might send her a polite note of thanks. Peter MacKay in particular.
If not for Ms. Guergis’s unfortunate spring, it might very well be much worse for the government side. If not for the opposition’s eagerness to chase the mystery of Ms. Guergis’s misdeeds—rightly or wrongly, justifiably or not—the questions would be far more profound and far less easily dismissed. As it is, every question asked about who may or may not have alleged what she may or may not have done and why we may or may not ever know about any of it, is a question that does not involve the phrases “torture” and “Asadullah Khalid” and “Afghanistan.”
Indeed, every question about the affairs of the former minister of state for the status of women is one less opportunity for Peter MacKay to stand up and say something silly. And for this we are all surely the poorer. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 12:32 PM - 16 Comments
Richard Colvin is in Ottawa today to testify at hearings of the Military Police Complaints Commission. The morning was mostly a repeat, with some added detail and commentary, of his testimony at the special committee last year. Early reviews are in from the Globe, Canadian Press, CBC, Canwest, Star and Sun.
The Colvin encyclopedia is fully up to date with the latest relevant links and background.
Meanwhile, Derek Lee and Jack Harris responded yesterday to the government’s response to the opposition’s question of privilege on the House order to produce documents. Tom Lukiwski and Jim Abbott then commented for the government. The Speaker thanked all for their submissions and said he would now be considering the matter with a judgment to be delivered in due course.
The text of the discussion if available here.
'Yeah, those allegations, they occurred, and we're doing the best we can to not have them happen in our custody'
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, April 8, 2010 at 5:45 PM - 20 Comments
Richard Colvin is now scheduled to testify before the MPCC on Tuesday.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, April 8, 2010 at 1:20 PM - 15 Comments
As Canwest notes, Sgt. Carol Utton testified this week at a Military Police Complaints Commission that detainees were “delighted” to be handed off to the NDS.
Unnoted is the explanation, provided by Sgt. Utton a few questions later, as to why detainees might be so eager. The following is from a transcript of Sgt. Utton’s testimony provided to reporters last night. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, March 7, 2010 at 1:33 PM - 65 Comments
Canadian Press details the involvement of CSIS in the interrogation and transfer of detainees.
The spies began working side-by-side with a unit of military police intelligence officers as the Afghan war spiralled out of control in 2006, according to heavily censored witness transcripts filed with the Military Police Complaints Commission.
The spy agency’s previously unknown role in questioning detainees adds a new dimension to the controversy about the handling and possible torture of prisoners by Afghan security forces. It also raises more questions about the critical early years in Kandahar when the Canadian military found itself mired in a guerrilla war it had not expected to fight.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 5:09 PM - 54 Comments
The Globe, Canadian Press, Star, and CBC report from the appearances of the former president of the Nuclear Safety Commission, the former chair of the Military Police Complaints Commission and the former chair of the RCMP public complaints commission at a Liberal forum this morning. From the Globe’s account.
More diplomatic was Peter Tinsley, whose term as chair of the Military Police Complaints Commission, was not renewed last year. The commission made news for probing the Afghan detainee controversy, the same hot-button issue that many observers say forced the Tories to prorogue Parliament this winter.
“The perception has become widespread that something is not quite right in the system,” Mr. Tinsley said. Too often, he said, political “horsetrading” and unelected staffers play key roles in hiring and firing watchdogs that serve at the whim of the government they are appointed to criticize. ”The potential for abuse itself does not bode well for good governance,” Mr. Tinsley said.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 12:01 PM - 72 Comments
As reported by the CBC’s Alison Crawford, the former chair of the RCMP Public Complaints Commission, the former Military Police Complaints Commissioner and the former head of the Nuclear Safety Commission will speak at a Liberal-organized forum on governance next week.
Kennedy had wanted to see through expected legislation on providing civilian oversight for the RCMP. His reports included blunt criticism about how Mounties take notes, handle Tasers, investigate themselves, etc. And in the last days of his tenure, Kennedy lashed out at RCMP Commissioner William Elliott, accusing him of trying to delay the publication of several of his reports.
The government also refused to renew Tinsley’s appointment, even though he wanted to continue his work on the Afghan detainee issue. And Keen, who was fired while serving her second term as head of the CNSC, accused the natural resources minister of ignoring her advice to close the Chalk River nuclear facility.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, December 21, 2009 at 5:02 PM - 23 Comments
Laurie Hawn writes to inform the Afghanistan committee that Conservative members won’t be attending tomorrow’s meeting. It appears the committee will carry on without them. Meanwhile, Tim Naumetz of the Hill Times obtains classified transcripts from the Military Police Complaints Commission inquiry.
Maj. Kevin Rowcliffe, then a staff adviser to Lt.- Gen. Michel Gauthier, second in command of the Afghanistan mission under Mr. Hillier, was concerned even in early stages of the Afghanistan mission of the potential for torture abuse and expressed concern at the very top that Canadians were transferring detainees to Afghan police and intelligence forces “not knowing what happens to them after they’re handed over.”
Maj. Rowcliffe and two other Military Police officers who were interviewed for the Military Police Complaints Commission inquiry revealed a state of “mass confusion” over transfers, scarce resources for military police in Kandahar and concern from the police themselves over the way generals in Ottawa, under pressure from the government, were handling the detainee controversy as it later made front-page news in Canada and burst onto the House of Commons floor.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, December 2, 2009 at 3:46 PM - 5 Comments
The Star reports that it was Peter Tinsley, commissioner of the Military Police Complaints Commission, who allowed today’s release after selective leaks elsewhere. The NDP’s Paul Dewar says that what has been redacted in one report is a general reference to the possibility of “torture” and other abuses.
“By redacting just that one sentence, the government was able to cover up knowledge of extrajudicial killings and torture in Afghanistan,” Dewar said, citing this as an example of overzealous censorship. ”This is precisely why Canadians can’t trust any document with redactions from this government.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 6:10 PM - 11 Comments
The Scene. From his seat, John Baird adjusted his tie and buttoned his jacket before Michael Ignatieff had even begun to speak. Though in Toronto hours earlier for an announcement, the Transport Minister had apparently rushed back to the capital so that he might pronounce on the government’s behalf on a file for which he has no authority.
Mr. Ignatieff finished asking when the government would release all documents relevant to the handling of detainees in Afghanistan and it was then Mr. Baird’s place to stand, his jacket conveniently prebuttoned, to explain how this was really a question about Supporting The Troops.
“Mr. Speaker, the government has been entirely clear. We will continue to provide all legally available information,” he said, employing a phrase that continues to escape all definition. “There are longstanding practices not just of this government but of other governments and even mandatory legal requirements that we will continue to follow. It is a responsibility that those of us on this side of the House take seriously because the number one priority must be the safety and the security of men and women in uniform.”
Having apparently learned a thing or two from the government’s display yesterday, Mr. Ignatieff stood here and leaned forward to demonstrate that he too could refer favourably to a general. “Mr. Speaker, last week in his testimony General Gauthier said that he hoped Parliament would have access to the documents on this question. It still has not happened,” he reported. “After weeks of withholding evidence, how are Canadians supposed to believe now that the government will provide full and uncensored documents to the parliamentary committee so that it can get at the truth of this matter?”
Mr. Baird took the opportunity to pronounce shame on Ujjal Dosanjh, the Liberal defence critic. Mr. Dosanjh’s crime? Apparently repeating a newspaper columnist’s negative assessment of the testimony provided last week by various Canadian generals. It is unclear under which article of the Geneva Conventions this particular sin would fall. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 1:17 AM - 39 Comments
The Globe’s Paul Koring reviews 80 documents provided to the Military Police Complaints Commission and finds them an unsatisfying read.
The heavily redacted documents, obtained by The Globe and Mail, underscore the sweeping nature of the government’s efforts to keep the documentary record from the Military Police Complaints Commission, which is attempting to conduct an inquiry into allegations that Canada knowingly transferred prisoners to likely torturers in Afghanistan…
In the material delivered to the MPCC, government blackouts render unreadable many of the documents, some drafted by Mr. Colvin. The sweeping redactions were imposed even though everyone who works with or serves on the MPCC must have at least “secret” clearance and all of the senior investigators, as well as the panelists who would conduct the inquiry, have the highest security clearances…
Some documents dating back to spring of 2006, a full year before ministers and senior officers said they first heard of abuse allegations, are entirely blacked out. Others have whole sections censored.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, November 27, 2009 at 9:30 AM - 2 Comments
In lieu of Richard Colvin’s memos, there is, again, Richard Colvin’s affidavit and what he says there about those memos. In that affidavit, filed for the Military Police Complaints Commission, Colvin describes sending seven memos before the Globe’s report of April 23, 2007.
Here are the dates and tracking numbers for each of those, with whatever description Colvin has provided of the content. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, November 25, 2009 at 2:02 PM - 20 Comments
Peter MacKay maintains he never saw Richard Colvin’s reports, only that he received briefings to which there were attachments of which Mr. Colvin was a contributor. A month ago, for the record, Mr. MacKay said he did not heard the name “Richard Colvin” until the diplomat became involved in the Military Police Complaints Commission hearings.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, November 19, 2009 at 1:43 PM - 0 Comments
Still awaiting the full transcript of Richard Colvin’s opening statement at committee yesterday (it should, hopefully, be available at some point this afternoon). In the mean time, the Star has made available the affidavit he provided to the Military Police Complaints Commission.