Canadian Conservative Afghan torture scandal continues

This video says about itself:

Transferring to Torture: Canada, Human Rights, and Detainees Part 1

Professor Micheal Byers analyzes the role of the Canadian Armed Forces in Afghanistan, and how it violated the Geneva Convention against torture.

And here is the Part 2 video.

From CBC in Canada:

MacKay knew of Afghan detainee concerns: diplomat

Document debate rages in Parliament

Last Updated: Wednesday, March 31, 2010 | 11:30 PM ET

Concerns over the handling and safety of detainees in Afghanistan were relayed to Defence Minister Peter MacKay and other senior officials as potential “mission killers,” a diplomat said Wednesday.

Cory Anderson, a former senior political adviser to Canada’s provincial reconstruction team in Kandahar, said he briefed MacKay several times between 2007 and last year.

“We would talk about issues that we were concerned about in terms of what we would characterize as mission killers — and this was one of them,” Anderson told MPs at a special committee studying the Afghan mission.

He said he had no specific allegations of prisoner abuse to pass on because before 2007, Canada had no way of tracking the people it handed over to Afghan authorities. However, there were general worries about torture.

Anderson said despite a lack of hard evidence of torture, senior civilians and military brass in Ottawa were “fully aware of the plausible risk of abuse” of prisoners handed over to the Afghan National Directorate of Security, or NDS.

He said he did brief officials, including MacKay, about the problems of the NDS, which he described as duplicitous and open to manipulation by politically powerful people behind the scenes.

“It’s common knowledge amongst senior officials, civilian and military, the behaviour of the NDS when it comes to how they react to certain pressures placed upon them by tribal elders or people of influence throughout Kandahar.”

He said in hindsight, it was probably a bad decision for Canada to work with the NDS in the handling of detainees.

Even though the present system allows for tracking Canadian detainees in Afghan custody and provides for unannounced spot checks of their condition, the NDS remains an unsavoury partner. Canada would probably have been better off to find another partner to handle the detainees it captured, he said.

“I wish I would have been a little bit more vociferous trying to come up with alternatives, given the knowledge that we had about the NDS as an institution,” Anderson said.

There were suggestions that the international force should set up its own prison, or explore ways for the Afghan army to handle detainees but nothing ever came of those ideas.

Debate over documents

Meanwhile Wednesday, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson argued that Parliament has no authority to demand unfettered access to documents related to the alleged torture of prisoners handed over to Afghan authorities by Canadians soldiers.

He rejected the opposition parties’ contention that the government has breached parliamentary privileges by ignoring a Dec. 10 order, passed by the House of Commons, to produce the uncensored documents.

Karzai‘s justice: Children brutalized in jail: here.

Not Just Guantanamo: U.S. Torturing Muslim Pre-Trial Detainee in New York City: here.

9 thoughts on “Canadian Conservative Afghan torture scandal continues

  1. TORONTO, April 1 (UPI) — Nearly 80 percent of Canadians support the government’s plan to return troops from Afghanistan by the end of next year, a poll published Thursday indicates.

    The Angus Reid online poll of 1,006 adults was conducted March 30-31 after visiting U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked Prime Minister Stephen Harper to reconsider the government’s plan.

    Harper declined and 79 percent of respondents said they agreed with the plan, the pollster said in a release from Toronto.


  2. Brigade 888

    House of pain: Canada’s connection with Kandahar’s ruthless palace guard

    An inmate, shackled by the feet, arrives at Afghanistan’s notorious Sarpoza prison. Graeme Smith/The Globe and Mail

    They were pitiless Afghan guards who carried out unspeakable cruelty in notorious torture chambers; they were also Canada’s trusted allies

    Graeme Smith

    From Saturday’s Globe and Mail Published on Saturday, Apr. 10, 2010 5:00AM EDT Last updated on Saturday, Apr. 10, 2010 10:20AM EDT

    To the Canadian soldiers who worked with them on a daily basis, the members of Brigade 888 were trusted allies, protecting not only the governor of Kandahar but a Canadian outpost located in his palace.

    They and the man they served, Asadullah Khalid, have been gone for almost two years, but the city has yet to forget them. Kandahar is a tough place, but Mr. Khalid and his bodyguards are remembered as particularly brutal. The Canadians who knew them say they witnessed no abuses by the guards, but Brigade 888 was notorious among the locals.

    People still speak in hushed tones about its torture chambers – the sleep deprivation and electric shocks.

    A former palace official says he witnessed a prisoner hanging from the ceiling of a guardroom “trussed like a chicken.” A man who was among those detained says he endured weeks of beatings supervised by the governor himself.

    “There was a lot of strange stuff in Kandahar. ”— Canadian officer

    Troubling questions have emerged about the real nature of Canada’s relationship with the guards – and with an Afghan regime so tarnished by corruption that President Hamid Karzai has responded to growing demands that he clean house by threatening to join the very insurgents trying to bring him down.

    This week in Ottawa, the Military Police Complaints Commission, a civilian watchdog, launched public hearings into why Canada kept handing over prisoners to Afghan officials despite repeated complaints that suspects were being physically abused.

    Now, a Globe and Mail investigation of Brigade 888 has found evidence that Canadians lived beside, and helped to train, Afghans who routinely committed torture. Stationed in the governor’s front garden, a few minutes’ walk from the guards, some soldiers knew that the governor’s men were holding detainees – they were asked to supply plastic ties for the captives’ wrists.

    During Mr. Khalid’s controversial tenure in Kandahar from 2005 to 2008, the palace became a microcosm of Canada’s moral dilemmas in southern Afghanistan. Canadian soldiers posted there urgently needed help from local forces, but struggled with how the Afghans behaved.

    “Did I think that was a little strange?” one Canadian officer said, describing the governor’s private jail. “Yeah, I did. But there was a lot of strange stuff in Kandahar.”

    Asadullah Khalid, then governor of Kandahar, chats with Lt-Col. Dana Woodworth, the Canadian commander of the Provincial Reconstruction Team Base, at Sha Wali Kot, Afghanistan, on Feb. 11, 2008.

    The Canadian Press

    Asadullah Khalid, then governor of Kandahar, chats with Lt-Col. Dana Woodworth, the Canadian commander of the Provincial Reconstruction Team Base, at Sha Wali Kot, Afghanistan, on Feb. 11, 2008.

    The so-called brigade amounted to roughly 60 men who typically wore U.S. military uniforms or civilian clothes and were led by a pair of battle-hardened commanders from Ghazni, the home province of Mr. Khalid.

    Besides protecting the palace and the governor, Brigade 888 performed intelligence work. A source described the guard offices as a “nerve centre” for information, with several telephones for taking anonymous tips from the public and relaying useful details to Mr. Khalid, who was well known for sharing such intelligence with his Canadian and U.S. partners.

    Speaking on condition they not be identified, Canadian soldiers who worked in the palace compound said they appreciated Brigade 888 for maintaining security even as the Taliban attempted to kill the governor. Soldiers patrolled alongside the guards and gave them weapons training.

    “The generals knew exactly what was going on. ”— Confidential source

    Officials deny allegations that Canada also paid the guards, but local Afghans were left with the impression the Canadians supported them. Soldiers at the outpost were tasked with easing communications among the Afghan and foreign security forces, so they cultivated friendships with Mr. Khalid and his men, playing Xbox video games with the governor and providing high-fibre breakfast cereals to help his constitution.

    Some of the Canadian liaison officers had similar contacts with the Kandahar chief of the National Directorate of Security (NDS), the feared Afghan intelligence service. Close relationships were essential to obtain information that saved Canadian lives on the battlefield, Canadian officers say, and they avoided asking questions about how the Afghans obtained their intelligence.

    A Canadian officer shrugged off a question about whether, in retrospect, Canadians should have monitored the interrogations to make sure prisoners weren’t tortured.

    “From the Afghan point of view, that would be like your mom sitting down with you on the couch while you’re trying to make out with your girlfriend,” the officer said. “It would have been awkward.”


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