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Troops knew of torture in Afghan prisons

Today’s hearings at the MPCC were open to the public again, with retired MP officer Captain Mark Naipul testifying in the morning session.  Naipul had guarded detainees in Kandahar during his time in Afghanistan, and testified that Canadian soldiers were aware that detainees were subjected to torture and abuse in Afghan facilities.  The Globe and Mail reports:

“My general sense with the people that I served with was ‘Yeah, those allegations, they occurred, and we’re doing what we can to not have them happen in our custody’,” Mr. Naipaul told the Military Police Complaints Commission today. . . . “It was more of a matter that these are the allegations out there; accept that it happens and now what do we do about it to mitigate any discussions of Canadians mistreating.”

According to Naipul, he and his fellow MP officers were instructed that their obligations to prevent torture and mistreatment were limited only to ensuring that Canadian forces did not engage in abuse.

If Naipul’s account is correct, then the orders he received grossly misapprehend the nature of Canada’s obligations under international and domestic law.

As we have discussed in previous posts, the universal prohibition against torture means that Canada must not only refrain from directly engaging in torture and abuse, but to ensure that it is not delivering individuals to situations in which they would face a serious risk of torture.  This prohibition against transfer to torture is commonly known as the principle of non-refoulement, and is contained in Article 3 of the Convention Against Torture, to which Canada is a signatory.  The prohibition against refoulement is absolute.

Complicity in torture is also a criminal offence under domestic law, pursuant to the Criminal Code and the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act.  Instructions such as the ones received by Cap’t. Naipul unacceptably expose him and his fellow soldiers to liability.

Two more witnesses testify in the afternoon before the Commission breaks for the weekend.  We’ll be posting an update on the testimony if there are any interesting developments.