Home / Canada’s man for the job

Canada’s man for the job

Disturbing testimony continued to emerge from the Afghan Public Interest Hearings at the Military Police Complaints Commission, as John Davison, a Department of Foreign Affairs official who was stationed in Afghanistan, took the stand on Thursday, September 16.

Mr. Davison is one of many in a long line of military and government officials who turned a blind eye to the gruesome reports of torture emanating from human rights reports, newspaper articles, and even the torture chambers themselves – as detainee after detainee came forward with new stories of abuse.

Mr. Davison led a team of people who were responsible for interviewing CF transferred detainees to determine if detainees were being abused and tortured in Afghan jails.

By the time Mr. Davison assumed his post, the practice of torture in Afghanistan was consistently and credibly reported by many sources. Did Mr. Davison read any of those reports, reports prepared by the United States State Department, the United Nations or the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission? No, he did not.

Did he review the site visit reports to Afghan jails that his colleagues had prepared, including reports by Mr. Colvin, which were beginning to paint a gruesome, chilling pattern and practice of abuse? No, he did not.

No wonder then that Mr. Davison claimed he was “a little bit surprised” when on one of his routine prison visits, yet another CF-transferred detainee claimed to have been beaten with electrical cables and a rubber hose – only this time, the detainee directed Mr. Davison to the tools of torture that had been used against him. This was finally enough to convince Mr. Davison that the man had been tortured – it was the “proof” that was needed, as he put it, to confirm the existence of torture.

Never mind that the Canadian government was aware of least 6 other men who reported precisely the same type of abuse in preceding 8 months – some of those men Mr. Davison had interviewed himself. And never mind that if Mr. Davison had done even the most preliminary of research before packing up for Afghanistan, he would have known that the Afghan security force, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), was an offshoot of the Communist-era secret police in Afghanistan, widely feared for extrajudicial killings, abuse and torture.

And those folks at the NDS seemed so nice and well-intentioned.

Is it necessary to find the implements of torture in order to deem that a report of abuse is credible, we asked Mr. Davison? His job is just to report the facts, he answered, not to assess credibility.

If the Canadian human rights monitors on the ground doing the visits aren’t assessing whether the reports of abuse are believable or not, who is?

The fact of the matter is, as soon as the Canadian government decided to start monitoring CF-transferred detainees, the reports of torture started rolling in. Starting with the very first visit that was conducted in June 2007, less than a month after Canada entered into a new agreement with Afghanistan that provided for some oversight of detainees.

Given the Canadian government’s eagerness to sweep the whole detainee affair under the carpet and continue to transfer detainees to Afghan jailers with impunity, it seems that Mr. Davison was the perfect man for the job.