Military cops cleared in detainee torture controversy
Military Police Complaints Commission Chair Glenn Stannard bites his nails as he listens to government lawyer Alain Prefontaine during hearings into the treatment of Afghan detainees in Ottawa, on Tuesday, April 20, 2010. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Pawel Dwulit)
Published Wednesday, June 27, 2012 11:34AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, June 27, 2012 11:50PM EDT
The Military Police Complaints Commission released its long-awaited Afghan detainees report on Wednesday, concluding that complaints its officers mishandled allegations of post-transfer torture were "unsubstantiated."
In its report, the quasi-judicial commission concludes that Canadian military police officers had no reason to launch an investigation into the treatment of suspected Taliban prisoners who had been transferred into the custody of Afghan authorities.
"While the Commission has dismissed the complaint against eight individual senior Military Police officers, we have made a number of recommendations that we believe will improve the quality of policing services delivered by the Military Police," Commission Chair Glenn Stannard said in a statement accompanying the report's release.
The commission notes the mandate of its nearly four-year probe stopped short of making recommendations on the government and military's detainee transfer policy, but nevertheless identified "serious problems regarding reporting, accountability and information sharing in the Military Police, and made recommendations to improve the work of policing when MPs are deployed on missions."
The report notes there was a lot of both public and classified material that documented the risk detainees faced torture once they were handed over, but says military police were kept in the dark.
Even if Canadian military police had raised concerns, the report suggests that "MP input into post-transfer detainee issues or the status of the transfer process would have been perceived as unwelcome."
Similarly, the report notes that allegations of torture raised by former Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin as well as Department of Foreign Affairs who conducted site visits in Afghanistan back in 2007 were kept from military police.
The report's recommendations include:
- new measures and standards to ensure MPs are kept in the Canadian Forces' information loop
- a review of reporting structures with the aim of facilitating a "greater degree of MP command oversight in relation to policing matters in theatre"
- based on the report's investigation of the existing processes, "eliminating barriers" to the effective and efficient conduct of public hearings in the future
- updating the Canada Evidence Act so that the Military Police Complaints Commission can perform its watchdog duties "while at the same time maintaining strict control over any information the disclosure of which has the potential to negatively affect Canada’s national security interests or international relations"
The report comes two years after the commission heard from 40 witnesses in hearings beset by legal challenges from the federal government.
Besides a failed attempt to block testimony from Colvin -- who nevertheless went on to tell the commission that he had warned federal officials detainees were being sent to torture and abuse -- the feds had also tried to have thousands of pages withheld from the panel.
After a contempt of Parliament ruling, the government eventually relented. But the number of documents ultimately handed over is still believed to have only been a fraction of those in the federal government’s records.
The issue was a particularly contentious one for Stephen Harper's Conservative government until December of 2009, when he effectively quieted the controversy by proroguing Parliament.
Opposition calls for a full public inquiry went unheeded.