Former MP Craig Scott's petition demand the Liberals call an inquiry into allegations of torture in Afghanistan. (Photo: CP)Scott, in an interview with The Canadian Press, said he expects Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion, who battled the former Conservative government for answers on the issue while in opposition, to take seriously the call for an inquiry.
He described it as a "parallel system" separate from the one that caused the Conservative government so much trouble during the war. At that time, it was alleged that suspected Taliban prisoners, captured by Canadian troops during the routine course of operations, were handed over to possible torture by Afghan intelligence and law enforcement. Each of those detainees were duly registered and notice of their existence provided to the International Red Cross. The notion that there might have been a separate category of unregistered detainees adds a new, potentially troubling, wrinkle to the long-dormant controversy that has consumed a lot of political oxygen. At the onset of the Kandahar combat mission, Paul Martin's Liberal government signed an agreement with Kabul that required prisoners to be transferred into Afghan custody, but unlike Britain and the Netherlands, Canada had no right to check on their condition afterwards.
"We have fragmented and poor knowledge about everything that transpired around the question of Afghan detainees."
Craig Scott said Stephane Dion battled the former Conservative government for answers on the issue while in opposition. (Photo: CP)Any state that knowingly hands over a prisoner to torture is guilty of a war crime under international law. Stephen Harper's government grudgingly moved to fix the flaw after published reports revealed abuse may have taken place, but it also installed a rigorous system of monitoring that lasted well after the combat mission ended in 2011. Concurrently, the Conservatives fought multiple legal battles with Amnesty International Canada and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, which tried to have the system of transfers halted. It also faced a public hearing into the conduct of military police, who were in charge of the transfer system. The refusal by Harper's government to hand over related documentation almost cost the Conservatives power in 2009 when the Liberals were prepared to move a motion of contempt. The Liberals have staked their reputation on openness and transparency, and were prepared to bring down a government over this particular question of principle, Scott said. If they are not prepared to act, he said, some in the legal community are willing to petition the International Criminal Court at the Hague to investigate.
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