Big media day at the MPCC this morning, as senior diplomat Richard Colvin appears before the Committee. Colvin’s testimony before Parliament on his longstanding concerns about the treatment of CF-transferred detainees helped make the Afghan detainee issue a subject of national debate late last year.
Some highlights from this morning’s session:
Colvin testified that he became aware of systemic issues related to detainees within a month of his arrival in Afghanistan in April 2006. This information — of “systemic risk of mistreatment of detainees” — was credible, and communicated to the Canadian Expeditionary Forces Command (CEFCOM) headquarters. This testimony is interesting in light of documents recently obtained by the Globe and Mail, which suggest that senior commanders in the Canadian Forces were concerned that they did not have adequate information about detainee treatment by the Afghan authorities to make appropriate decisions about transfers.
Colvin detailed two ways in which the contents of his emails would have been transmitted to the Military Police — the first was through Ottawa, and the second was through the political director of the task force in Afghanistan, who would then pass the information on to the Provost Marshal.
Commission counsel Ron Lunau also asked Colvin about former Kandahar governor, Asadullah Khalid, who allegedly maintained his own private detention facilities where torture was commonplace. According to Colvin, Khalid’s reputation was well-known to CEFCOM and the Canadian government in May and June of 2006, and that there was a meeting on Canada’s relationship with Khalid in December 2006, which was attended by General Gauthier, among others.
Colvin repeated some of the testimony he provided to Parliament; he particular, he recounted the interagency meeting he attended in Ottawa to discuss detainee isues. He noted that there were representatives from the Department of National Defence at this meeting, and he informed them in blunt terms that the NDS engages in torture, and if Canada is concerned about torture, it should stop transferring individuals to the NDS. According to Colvin, when he made this statement, the notetaker “put down her pen” and there was “silence” in the room. Not new news, but certainly worth hearing again and important to introduce in this context.
We’ll be back later today with the update from this afternoon’s session, which is just now starting up again.