Friday, February 01, 2008

Another Day, Another Scandal: Kandahar Governor Personally Tortures

Whooee! Well friends an' foes, when do we stand up and say:

"Not in my name!"?

The Globe & Mail is reporting that way back in April 2007, Canada had strong indications that the Governor of Kandahar Province was personally involved in the torture and mistreatment of detainees.

Ottawa kept abuse charges against ally secret

Kandahar governor accused of beating and using electric shocks on detainees in secret Afghan prisons

From Friday's Globe and Mail

The Harper government knew, but tried to keep secret since last spring, allegations that the governor of Kandahar was personally involved in torture and abuse of detainees.

The allegations against Governor Asadullah Khalid, appointed directly by President Hamid Karzai and a key political partner to Canada's nation-building efforts in southern Afghanistan, were regarded as sufficiently credible that senior officials in Ottawa were immediately informed and Canadian diplomats secretly reported them to the International Red Cross and Afghanistan's main human-rights group.

Government documents detailing the accusations were heavily censored by the government which, claiming national security, blacked out the references to “the governor.” But multiple sources, both inside and outside the government, confirm that the words “the governor” have been censored as have whole passages referring to secret cells allegedly run by Mr. Khalid outside the official prison system.

Rumours have long linked Mr. Khalid to secret prisons. That he had close ties with U.S. intelligence agents and special forces had been known since Canadian troops arrived in southern Afghanistan in early 2006. But Ottawa didn't confront an accusation of the governor's direct involvement in the interrogation and torture of prisoners until it sent diplomats to inspect the main secret police prison in Kandahar on April 25, 2007.

Yesterday, I exposed how Peter MacKay lied to Parliament after the November 6 change in detainees policy. Today, we find out that MacKay and Harper were aware of serious, credible allegations of torture. This isn't the Abu Ghraib style torture that can be blamed on a few rogue guards. This is torture at the hands of the governor who was personally appointed by Hamid Karzai. The only way this could get much worse is if we find out Karzai himself has been attaching the electrodes and wielding the rubber hoses.

Can MacKay and Harper claim ignorance? No. They made a report to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) informing the ICRC of the allegations.

Despite sharing the allegations with the Afghan government and outside agencies, Ottawa kept them from a Canadian Federal Court judge hearing a case brought by Canadian rights groups. It claimed the national security exemption.

Canada began follow-up inspections of detainees it transferred to Afghan custody after The Globe and Mail published a series of stories detailing accounts of torture and how internal documents showed that the government was aware abuse was rife in Afghan prisons.

Another diplomatic cable, dated April 26, the day after that first inspection uncovered the direct allegation, says “Governor Asadullah Khalid, in separate discussions, has noted his surprise and unhappiness at The Globe and Mail.”

It remains unclear whether the allegation of torture against Mr. Khalid has ever been investigated, as is required under the new detainee-transfer agreement.

Prior to the allegations, when Prime Minister Harper visited Kandahar, he was greeted by and met with Governor Khalid. That's normal protocol. After the allegations were made, Harper visited Kandahar again but in a break from protocol, he did not meet or greet the governor. Perhaps he didn't want any photos of himself with a known torturer.

Yet, whenever the subject of detainees treatment was brought up in Parliament, Harper, O'Connor, MacKay, Bernier and the rest of the ConMen all tried to say such allegations were fabricated by Taliban sympathizers and "real Canadians" would not make such suggestions. At the same time, our government was advising ICRC that they had received credible reports of the governor's personal involvement in physical torture.

More secrets and lies. More reasons why we should quit Afghanistan immediately. More evidence of Canadian complicity in war crimes. More "support-the-troops-you-Taliban-lover" taunts from a government that exposes its own troops to prosecution for war crimes. More dehumanization. More degradation.

More shame.

Change the climate in Parliament.


No comments: