Today, the Military Police Complaints Commission heard testimony from Brigadier-General Guy Laroche, Commander of the Task Force in Afghanistan from November 2007 to May 2008. As we mentioned yesterday, BGen Laroche was Commander in Afghanistan when detainee transfers were suspended in November 2007.
Updated: Prism Magazine livestreamed the hearings today and will be doing it again tomorrow. The first half of today’s stream is in French only, but they sorted things out with the translation people in time for the second half. Tomorrow’s hearings should be available in English from the beginning.
He told the Commission this morning that he approved of the halt in detainee transfers which occurred in November 2007. Transfers were suspended because Commanders in theatre were receiving credible allegations of torture. He testified that he and his second in command, Colonel Christian Juneau, were not receiving adequate reports on the post-transfer treatment of detainees.
Brig.-Gen. Laroche said the November 5, 2007 site visit to an Afghan prison, where DFAIT officials interviewed a prisoner had been beaten by Afghan captors and found the actual implements of torture in the interrogation room, was clear evidence of torture and required a halt in handovers.
“We had evidence that detainees were abused and tortured and that went beyond what was supposed to be happen,” Brig.-Gen. Laroche said.
Brig.-Gen. Laroche ordered that transfers be resumed in February. Between the cessation of transfers in November 2007 and the resumption in February 2008, had conditions appreciably improved for Afghan detainees who were handed over the NDS, the secret police service notorious for torture and abuse? Brig.-Gen. Laroche testified that one video camera had been installed in an NDS interrogation room. Clearly, the installation of one video camera is incapable of preventing systemic, widespread abuse. We’re incredulous that senior military officials would rely on such a paltry mechanism for the protection fundamental human rights.
Brigadier-General Laroche, like many other witnesses who have come before him, engaged in a denial of responsibility, testifying that it was the responsibility of DFAIT, not the Canadian Forces, to monitor the condition of detainees and ensure that Canada was meeting its domestic and international law obligations.
One thing seems clear. We have now heard from numerous Canadian Forces officials who stated they received few, if any, of the reports that were being prepared by DFAIT. Brigadier-General Laroche testified that there was a “larger systemic problem.” Was Ottawa trying to shield the Canadian Forces from receiving information that could implicate the Canadian Forces in violations of international law?
Tomorrow may be a more interesting day than we originally suspected. Ed Jager, policy advisor with DFAIT, is scheduled to appear tomorrow. We learned from Brigadier-General Laroche today that Mr. Jager was a member of a “core detainee group” who met frequently to discuss transfers and post-transfer treatment of detainees.