Feds ask former judge to decide on Afghan documents
Published Friday, March 5, 2010 6:37PM EST
Ottawa is asking a former Supreme Court judge to make a ruling on a whether controversial classified documents relating to the Afghan detainee issue can be released to MPs.
Justice Minister Rob Nicholson says Frank Iacobucci will review the papers and decide how much of the documents can be released.
"In the case of injurious information, he will report to me on whether the information or a summary of it can be disclosed and report on the form of disclosure or any conditions on disclosure," Nicholson told the House of Commons.
Liberal justice critic Ujjal Dosanjh called the move a "half step."
"We don't know what (Iacobucci) will be able to do, when he will able to report, whether it will before the next election," he told reporters Friday.
The documents in question deal with the transfer of Taliban prisoners to Afghan jails, and whether Canada knew they were at risk of torture.
Liberal, NDP and Bloc Quebecois members of the House of Commons foreign affairs committee demanded to see uncensored records last fall. The Tories released heavily-censored versions, citing secrecy laws.
During its investigation, the special commons committee looking into the issue heard from witnesses that the government received warnings about torture, but continued to hand over detainees to Afghan authorities.
The committee was dissolved when Prime Minister Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament at the end of December.
The House of Commons voted to demand the release of all the documents in December, but the Tories did not follow through.
CTV's Roger Smith told CTV News Channel that today's move by "the government is an attempt to buy time for some sort of compromise."
Liberal MP Derek Lee has threatened to bring forward a motion to hold the government in contempt of Parliament over the matter.
Lee said he welcomed Nicholson's decision, but his preference is still for the government to agree with the opposition that Parliament has the power to release the documents.
The opposition parties have demanded a full public inquiry into the Afghan detainee issue.
Iacobucci, 72, served on the high court from 1991 to 2005. He headed an inquiry into the overseas torture of three Arab-Canadians, which filed its report in 2008.