Canadian Tories rebuked in Afghan torture affair

This video from Canada says about itself:

22 November 2009 — Canada Afghanistan torture controversy – CBC interview with Payam Akhavan.

The Speaker of Canada’s House of Commons ruled Tuesday that Stephen Harper’s minority Conservative government has violated parliament’s constitutional rights by refusing to obey a Common’s order to hand over all documents concerning the fate of Afghans captured by the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF): here.

What is perhaps the most ignored aspect of the whole issue of the redacted documents, the Speaker’s ruling against the Harper government on the issue of the torture of Afghan prisoners, and the opposition’s efforts to force the government to comply is that almost no one has commented on the totally absurd nature of the Harper government’s basis for stonewalling. Indeed everyone seems to casually accept the framing of the issue that the government has relied on for months: here.

By negotiating a deal with the Conservative government that largely removes the Afghan detainee issue from public debate and allows the government, bureaucracy and military to exert decisive influence over what the public learns about Canada’s involvement in war crimes, the opposition parties have become a party to the government-led cover-up: here.

Canada: A key prosecution witness at the court martial of Capt. Robert Semrau testified Wednesday that Semrau claimed he shot and killed a wounded Taliban fighter in a “mercy killing.” Semrau, 36, is facing a second-degree murder charge in connection with the shooting death of an unarmed Taliban prisoner in Afghanistan in October 2008: here.

The Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper is seeking to silence criticism of its right-wing policy agenda by purging high-level critics within Canada’s public service: here.


Britain: Torture prosecutions against MI5 and MI6 unlikely to be pursued. Police inquiry expected to say intelligence agents should not be charged over collusion in torture of terror suspects: here.

It is much to the shame of the late Labour government that it has taken a Tory-Lib Dem coalition to come up with a inquiry into torture overseas.

Hundreds of Afghan citizens have rallied in Jalalabad after Nato troops killed the brother-in-law of an Afghan MP in a night-time raid: here.

The Pentagon has released a stark assessment of the war in Afghanistan which suggested that just a quarter of the key regions in the country support or sympathise with the government in Kabul.

A British mercenary and his Afghan translator have been sentenced to two years in prison for paying a $25,000 (£16,400) bribe to intelligence agents, the Afghan prosecutor has announced.

USA: cost of war: here.

Is the ongoing campaign in Afghanistan going much worse than the press is reporting? Glenn Greenwald from Salon writes about current war propaganda: here.

If we could establish that funding an escalation of war in Afghanistan was illegal, immoral, against the public will, economically catastrophic, counterproductive on its own terms, and a cynically motivated intentional failure, well then nothing would change. Unless people use that information in pressuring their representatives to vote No. Because most of this is pretty easily known. Nonetheless I think it’s a good place to start, so let me take these points one at a time: here.

11 thoughts on “Canadian Tories rebuked in Afghan torture affair

  1. Canadian Forces launch probe after Afghan family claims slain teen was unarmed

    April 28, 2010 |Murray Brewster, THE CANADIAN PRESS

    – The family of an Afghan teenager shot and killed during a night-time raid involving Canadian soldiers three years ago is demanding Ottawa conduct a full investigation into what they describe as a botched hunt for insurgents. THE CANADIAN PRESS/A.R. Khan –

    KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – Canadian military police formally opened an investigation Wednesday into allegations an Afghan teenager was unarmed when he was shot and killed by soldiers during a night-time raid just outside Kandahar city almost three years ago.

    The decision to probe the shooting marks a stunning reversal from just a few days ago, when the country’s top military commander publicly dismissed the allegations first outlined before a special House of Commons committee by a former army translator.

    Word of the investigation emerged just hours after The Canadian Press published the eyewitness accounts of the victim’s two brothers, who allege their sibling was unarmed when he was gunned down.

    While confirming that the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service has opened a file on the allegations Ahmadshah Malgarai made before the all-party committee on April 14, a spokeswoman for Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walter Natynczyk disputed the suggestion that it’s a reversal of his earlier position.

    “As per normal procedures, CFNIS does not get into specifics of their investigation approach in terms of who they will interview,” Maj. Cindy Tessier said from Ottawa.

    “They will conduct a thorough and detailed investigation.”

    Malgarai not only said the teen was mistakenly shot, he claimed troops planted a weapon beside the body when they realized their error.

    Earlier Wednesday, the family of the teenager demanded Ottawa conduct a full investigation into what they describe as a botched hunt for insurgents.

    Two of the victim’s brothers, who say they witnessed the shooting, told The Canadian Press how their frightened sibling was running away from foreign troops when he was gunned down.

    Baryalai, who like many Afghans goes by only one name, said they were sleeping on the roof of their compound in the village of Hazaragi Baba, northwest of Kandahar city, on a warm summer night in June 2007 when soldiers burst in.

    The noise and the yelling spooked 17-year-old Janan, who ran.

    “He got up (and) was too nervous because of the situation,” Baryalai said through a translator. “He was getting downstairs (and) before they ask any question(s), they shot him.”

    When he testified before the Commons committee, Malgarai, a former language and cultural adviser to the commander of Canada’s Joint Task Force Afghanistan, could offer only a second-hand account and had no proof to back up his claim.

    The family, however, painted a picture of a raid gone horribly wrong.

    Unintended civilian shootings and misdirected air strikes by NATO have prompted a furious reaction from Afghans. The alliance is currently investigating a pre-dawn assault on a policeman’s home in February this year outside Gardez, the capital of Paktia province.

    U.S. Special Forces are accused of covering up the deaths of five people, including two pregnant women, in that incident.

    In a letter to the Commons committee, Natynczyk vehemently denied Malgarai’s allegations and said that “an armed individual posed a direct and imminent threat to (Canadian Forces) soldiers.”

    He said the appropriate rules were followed. Afghan and other unidentified coalition soldiers supported the raid.

    Baryalai claimed American soldiers were present.

    A second sibling, Gulab, said his brother was gunned down from a distance.

    “They shot our brother from our neighbour’s roof,” he said.

    In his letter, Natynczyk wouldn’t identify the soldier, but said the shooter was “providing support to the operation” and did not elaborate. Snipers and special forces are among those soldiers who often fall into such roles.

    Janan’s father, Haji Akhtar Muhammad, was in Kabul when his home was raided, but said he was told afterward that a gun was dropped beside his son’s hand and photographed as evidence. He wouldn’t say where he got his information.

    In keeping with Pashtun culture, Muhammad demanded compensation for the loss of his son and the revenue the boy would have provided the family.

    The brothers say they did not witness anyone placing a weapon beside the body. They were, however, among 10 people detained as suspected insurgents for days following the raid.

    In his testimony, Malgari said the people who did nothing “wrong except to be at home when the Canadian Forces murdered their neighbour” were transferred to the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s notorious intelligence service.

    No one was tortured and the NDS released them without charge three days after being transferred to their custody, both brothers said.

    “We were innocent and that is why we were released,” said Gulab.

    An Afghan justice official, who asked to remain anonymous because he was not allowed to speak to the media, confirmed no charges were laid in the incident.

    Natynczyk, in his statement to the committee, said an after-action review was conducted and it showed nothing untoward.

    The raid was conducted after a year of intelligence gathering, according to the general’s letter, and it was aimed at what was believed to be a homemade bomb-making factory and staging area for rocket attacks on Kandahar Airfield.

    Baryalai says the soldiers “found nothing at our home.”

    Those who were detained all tested positive for gunshot residue, which is one of the Canadian military’s standard tests for weeding out insurgents. Both brothers were among those with residue on their hands, Tessier said.

    But since AK-47s are plentiful in this country, Afghan prosecutors have said that by itself, the test is unreliable.

    Malgarai, who was known as “Pasha” to soldiers and Afghans during the 13 months he served under Brig.-Gen. Guy Laroche, acted as the interpreter on the interrogation of the 10 suspects.

    Natynczyk said two prisoners made allegations at the time of an unlawful shooting, but one later recanted.

    The brothers would not say whether they were the ones who complained.

    -With files from A.R. Khan


  2. Afghan lawmaker’s relative killed in night raid

    Posted: Apr 29, 2010 10:35 AM Updated: Apr 29, 2010 5:15 PM

    Associated Press Writer

    KABUL (AP) – NATO and Afghan forces raided a lawmaker’s home and fatally shot the woman’s brother-in-law in eastern Afghanistan during a nighttime operation, sending hundreds of people into the streets shouting “Death to America!” in protest, the lawmaker said Thursday.

    The military operation tapped into a well of resentment about raids by American and local troops that have been known to wound or kill civilians as well as insurgents. After a storm of complaints from Afghan people, NATO’s top commander in Afghanistan issued a directive earlier this year to avoid night raids when possible.

    Safiya Sidiqi, the member of parliament whose brother-in-law was killed, said family members told her that about 100 NATO soldiers stormed her home, near the city of Jalalabad, about 11:30 p.m. Wednesday. She was not home at the time.

    Hundreds gathered on streets near Jalalabad on Thursday, burning tires and shouting anti-U.S. slogans. A crowd gathered around the body, covered in a white sheet, and cried “Long live Islam!”

    NATO said Thursday that a joint operation with Afghan forces killed “one armed individual while pursuing a Taliban facilitator” on Wednesday night. The person killed ignored demands given in English and through an Afghan interpreter to lower his weapon, NATO said, without giving details of the person’s identity.

    Sidiqi said the soldiers broke the windows of her home, entered and pulled out 15 members of her family who were then photographed and fingerprinted. Eventually, she said, they opened fire on her brother-in-law.

    She called the raid “barbaric.”

    Sidiqi did not respond specifically to questions about whether her brother-in-law was armed.

    “Whatever happened, it was the mistake of NATO,” she told The Associated Press. “They have abused my family.”

    Police are investigating the raid, said Nangarhar provincial police spokesman Ghafor Khan.

    Civilian deaths at the hands of U.S. and other international forces are highly sensitive in Afghanistan. Public outrage over such deaths prompted the top commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal last year to tighten the rules on the use of airstrikes and other weaponry if civilians are at risk.

    In January, McChrystal ordered coalition forces to avoid night raids when possible, and to bring Afghan troops along with them if they do enter homes after dark.

    Though McChrystal’s order fell short of the complete ban on night raids sought by President Hamid Karzai, it reflects new sensitivities by NATO at a time when the coalition is pursuing a strategy of gaining Afghan public trust in a bid to rout Taliban extremists.

    On Thursday, the French military said embattled French troops mistakenly killed four Afghan civilians and seriously injured one during a clash with insurgents east of Kabul on April 6.

    The military investigated the bloodshed, which came as a section of French Mountaineer Brigade troops were fighting insurgents in Bedraou, part of the strategic Tagab Valley in the foothills of the Hindu Kush just 30 miles (45 kilometers) of the capital, the military said.

    During the prolonged fight, French observer troops spotted seven insurgents hiding behind a wall to prepare an ambush, said Adm. Christophe Prazuck, the French military spokesman.

    “There were no civilians visible around, so they got clearance to shoot,” Prazuck said on the telephone. But it turned out five young men, civilians, were huddling undetected under trees nearby, he said. Four died from shrapnel from the surface-to-surface missile that French troops fired, Prazuck said. One young man is recovering at a Kabul hospital, he said.

    Families are being compensated in cash and other benefits according to NATO policies in Afghanistan, he said.

    Also Thursday, a joint NATO-Afghan operation captured members of the Haqqani network, an autonomous Afghan Taliban faction closely tied to al-Qaida, and two other militants in Khost province.

    NATO said the two Haqqani members were responsible for arming fighters and placing roadside bombs.

    In Laghman province, deputy police chief Najibullah Hotak said a suicide bomber traveling on foot targeted a military convoy, killing one Afghan soldier and wounding two.


    Associated Press Writer Elizabeth A. Kennedy contributed to this report.

    Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.


  3. Afghan support for Karzai govt low, says Pentagon


    Afghan President Hamid Karzai at a pan-Asia summit in Thimphu, Bhutan. Karzai’s government commands …

    * Death Sparks Protests in Afghanistan Play Video Afghanistan Video:Death Sparks Protests in Afghanistan FOX News
    * Local Serviceman Killed In Afghanistan Play Video Afghanistan Video:Local Serviceman Killed In Afghanistan KDKA Pittsburgh

    Thu Apr 29, 3:04 am ET

    WASHINGTON (AFP) – The government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai commands support or sympathy in only a quarter of 121 Afghan areas considered “key” by the US military, a Pentagon report has said.

    “The overall assessment indicates that the population sympathizes with or supports the Afghan government in 24 percent (29 of 121) of all Key Terrain and Area of Interest districts,” the quarterly report to Congress said Wednesday.

    “The establishment of effective governance is a critical enabler for improving development and security.”

    Karzai has gone from a darling of the international powers who placed him at the head of the Afghan state in 2001 to facing accusations from the United States and other nations that he has allowed unchecked corruption.

    Popular anger at Karzai’s government, which is widely seen as corrupt and inefficient, has allowed the Taliban to “perceive 2009 as their most successful year,” the Pentagon report said.

    “Expanded violence is viewed as an insurgent victory, and insurgents perceive low voter turnout and reports of fraud during the past presidential election (in August 2009) as further signs of their success,” the 150-page report said.

    According to the Pentagon, “violence is sharply above the seasonal average for the previous year — an 87 percent increase from February 2009 to March 2010.”

    “Although the overall security situation has stabilized somewhat since the end of 2009, violence during the current reporting period is still double that for the same period in 2008-2009,” the report said.

    The Pentagon said increased action by coalition forces in the country meant the Taliban has “been under unprecedented pressure.”

    “Reporting indicates increased and often strained efforts to resource the fight, which has led to tension and sporadic dips in morale,” the report said.

    It added that the decline in stability seen in the last report submitted to Congress “has leveled off in many areas over the last three months of this reporting period.”


  4. Many Afghans have no access to health service

    KABUL (NNI): About half of million of Afghans, with majority of them in southern Afghanistan where Taliban militants are active, have no access to basic health services due to continued instability and conflicts, Peter Graaff the Country Representative of World Health Organization (WHO) said. “Some half of million Afghans have no access to basic health services due to conflict-related problems,” Graaff told a joint press conference with WHO Assistant Director-General for Health Action in Crises Dr. Eric Laroche here in United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) compound. However, Graaff said that mobile health teams with qualified staff are useful in Afghanistan especially in areas with geographic problems and conflicts. He asserted that WHO and Afghan public health ministry are concerned about the health conditions in the country. Dr. Laroche at the same press conference emphasized for an intensified response to Afghanistan’s humanitarian health challenges. “Much has been achieved in recent years to expand health care in many parts of the country, but we still see today that many Afghans remain extremely vulnerable to a wide range of humanitarian emergencies, and more needs to be done to protect them,” he added. Laroche, the former UNICEF representative to Afghanistan during 2001 and 2002 said that millions of Afghans are vulnerable to a wide range of acute and complex emergences including natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods and conflicts in parts of the country’s south. However, during Taliban regime, collapsed in late 2001 only 8 percent of Afghans had access to health facilities but today, according to officials between 80 to 85 percent of Afghanistan’s some 30 million population have access to health service in peaceful provinces.


  5. French army says it mistakenly killed 4 Afghans

    The Associated Press

    Thursday, April 29, 2010; 10:44 AM

    PARIS — Embattled French troops mistakenly killed four Afghan civilians and seriously wounded one during a clash with insurgents east of Kabul, the French military said Thursday after concluding an investigation into the bloodshed.

    The incident occurred on April 6 as a section of French Mountaineer Brigade troops were fighting insurgents in Bedraou, a section of the strategic Tagab Valley in the foothills of the Hindu Kush just 30 miles (45 kilometers) of the capital, the military said.

    During the prolonged fight, French observer troops spotted a group of seven insurgents hiding behind a wall to prepare an ambush, said Adm. Christophe Prazuck, the French military spokesman.

    “There were no civilians visible around, so they got clearance to shoot,” Prazuck said on the telephone. But it turned out that five young men, civilians, were huddling undetected under trees nearby, he said. Four died from shrapnel from the surface-to-surface missile that French troops fired, Prazuck said. One young man is recovering at a Kabul hospital, he said.

    Families are being compensated in cash and other benefits according to NATO policies in Afghanistan, he said.

    France is the fourth-largest NATO contributor to the U.S.-led war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, with more than 3,000 troops stationed mostly in the east of the country.


  6. April 29, 2010

    Spirit of Mother’s Day needed in Afghanistan


    EDMOND — On Mother’s Day (May 9), Americans recognize the amazing women whose dedication has shaped our families and lives. Yet in some parts of the world, motherhood is more dangerous than war. Consider Afghanistan, where women have a 1 in 8 lifetime risk of dying from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes.

    Afghan mothers also suffer given the dismal odds their children face. One quarter of babies never reach their 5th birthday. In any given week, more than 6,000 Afghan children may die, mostly from easily preventable and treatable causes like pneumonia, diarrhea and birth complications.

    [The authors omit that Mother’s Day originally was an anti war day]


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