Commission to resume inquiry into transfer to torture

The Military Police Complaints Commission is set to resume its inquiry into the conduct of the military police in transferring detainees captured by Canadian forces into Afghan custody in the face of reported risks of torture in Afghan prisons. The Commission was adjourned earlier this year while it awaited further production of documents from the Canadian government.

The Commission’s public interest hearing was established in response to complaints filed by Amnesty International Canada and the BCCLA in 2007. Witness hearings commenced earlier this year, and thus far, the testimony provided has been troubling.

Alex Neve, Secretary-General of Amnesty International: “Amidst all of the rhetoric, namecalling and finger-pointing that has marked so much of the political debate about Afghan prisoner transfers, it is crucial not to lose sight of what is at stake in these hearings. Torture is never justified. Complicity in torture is never justified. Going ahead with prisoner transfers in the face of a known risk of torture is on the wrong side of those fundamental principles. That is what the MPCC is examining.”

Grace Pastine, Litigation Director for the BCCLA: “Wilful blindness and blame-shifting have been the dominant themes to date. We’ve heard senior members of the Canadian Forces and officials in Foreign Affairs testify that they were ignorant of numerous reports issued by the U.S. State Department and the U.N., all of which attest to the prevalence of torture in Afghan prisons. Government and military officials have pointed fingers at everyone except themselves. The public has a right to know why these illegal transfers are continuing to this day, and why there’s been a complete failure to investigate these very serious breaches of domestic and international law.”

The witness hearings will commence on Thursday, September 9, 2010 at 9:00 AM at 270 Albert Street, 10th floor, in Ottawa, Ontario and are set to run until October 13, 2010. The witnesses currently scheduled during this period are MGen Michael Ward, LGen André Deschamps, DFAIT official John Davison, MGen (ret’d) Timothy Grant, LCol Irwin, BGen
Guy Laroche, LGen Michel Gauthier, and Col Christian Juneau.

Amnesty and the BCCLA are represented by lawyers Paul Champ, Carmen Cheung, Khalid Elgazzar, and Grace Pastine.

Beth Berton-Hunter, Media Relations, Amnesty International: 416-363-9933, ext 332
Grace Pastine, BCCLA Litigation Director, 778- 241-7183, [email protected]