Military police commission to hear key witnesses in torture hearings

The inquiry by the Military Police Complaints Commission into whether military police failed to
investigate if commanders illegally ordered the transfer of detainees to a known risk of torture in Afghanistan will hear the final witnesses next week.

The hearings are based on complaints that were filed by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) and Amnesty International Canada in 2007 and 2008. Since the filing of the complaints, startling information about the conditions prisoners faced and the Canadian Forces’ failure to investigate the legality of the transfers has been made public.

“The evidence we’ve heard has been overwhelming. It shows that the argument that senior members of the Canadian Forces did not have enough information to launch an investigation into the issue is simply not credible,” says Grace Pastine, Litigation Director of the BCCLA. “These hearings have revealed that in spite of all the available information that existed at the time and that clearly required immediate action, there was an absolute failure at all levels of the government and military to investigate and stop Canada’s role in delivering detainees to torture.”

“It is a violation of international law to deliver individuals to situations in which they would face a serious risk of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,” noted Alex Neve, Secretary-General of Amnesty. “The evidence we’ve heard strongly suggests that Canada’s conduct in Afghanistan is in serious breach of domestic law and international obligations.”

Witnesses who appeared at the hearings testified that as soon as Canadians began monitoring
detainee prison conditions in Afghan jails they started receiving startling reports of abuse and torture. Canadian-transferred detainees claimed they were beaten with cables, electrocuted and subjected to sleep deprivation after Canadian Forces handed them over to Afghan jailers. During 2007 – 2008 approximately 30% of detainees Canada interviewed reported they had been mistreated. The Canadian Forces have halted transfers at least four times since 2007 due to concerns over detainee treatment.

Lt. Col. William Garrick and Captain (Navy) Steve Moore were the top military police officials
responsible for the decisions not to investigate. They will testify next week on Monday, November 29 and Tuesday, November 30. The hearings begin at 9:00 AM at 270 Albert Street, 10th floor, in Ottawa. The hearings will then adjourn until final arguments are heard in early February.

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

Grace Pastine, BCCLA Litigation Director, (778) 241-7183, [email protected]
Beth Berton-Hunter, Media Relations, Amnesty International Canada, (416) 904-7158