Tories under fire again over detainee controversy
Published Thursday, June 14, 2007 6:17PM EDT
Opposition parties are blasting the government on the Afghan detainee controversy once again, this time over the question of who will have access to results of a probe into torture allegations.
Afghan detainees captured by Canadians have made allegations that they're being abused after being handed over to local authorities.
Canadian officials heard the complaints while visiting prisons under the agreement signed in early May that allows Canadians greater access to prisoners.
Since signing a revised prisoner transfer agreement, the Conservatives have insisted the International Red Cross will be informed of the results of the investigation by Afghan authorities.
But the Red Cross says it has no such role in the war-torn country and isn't expecting a report of any kind.
Liberal Leader Stephane Dion said the Red Cross contradicted the government's claims that the organization is kept informed of the progress of Afghan authorities' investigations into allegations of detainee abuse.
Dion said the head of the Red Cross, in Kabul, confirmed that his organization "does not have access to inquiries into torture in Afghanistan."
"Will the prime minister admit that today the only ones who are investigating allegations of torture in afghanistan are the afghan authorities?" said Dion.
Government House Leader Peter Van Loan said the revised agreement put the onus on the Afghans to investigate abuse complaints, to take corrective action and to advise both Canada and the Red Cross.
Van Loan said the Red Cross has a right to visit detainees "at any time" and that right "derives from international law."
"And I think everyone in this House is well familiar with our supplementary agreement that we entered into with the government of Afghanistan, and that reaffirms a role for the Red Cross," Van Loan told the House.
"But of course in that agreement -- and everybody knows because it was tabled in this House -- sets out quite clearly that the onus is on the government of Afghanistan to advise Canada."
Dion then accused the government of censoring passages of a report outlining the realities of the detainne situation in Afghanistan in order to avoid further embarrassment on the issue.
He said the prime minister's own office produced a report last November that the threat of the Taliban in Afghanistan could "split the country in two." This report was never published, said Dion, and the Harper government instead published a very "rosy" report that indicated the situation on the ground was better than it was.
"This is no way to support troops in Afghanistan, how could the prime minister let the report be tabled when he knew it was false?" said Dion.
"You would have to be living under a rock not to realize that our troops are meeting great challenges in Afghanistan," responded Van Loan. "And we are very proud of the work that they are doing and we are quite sure that the Liberal leader is aware of that as well. Something he never talks about is the progress in Afghanistan..."