POLITICS
02/13/2012 05:50 EST | Updated 04/14/2012 05:12 EDT

Canadian commander of Libya mission says West should lower expectations

OTTAWA - The Canadian commander of the NATO-led military mission in Libya says the West should lower expectations for full-fledged democracy in that country.

Reports of torture and prisoner abuse persist following the death of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

But Lt.-Gen. Charles Bouchard told the Senate security and defence committee on Monday he's optimistic the new Libyan transitional government will eventually put an end to further atrocities.

"Our western standards must be tempered by the cultural and social experiences," Bouchard said, adding he is aware of reports of torture in Libya.

He stressed the country appears to be moving toward what he called a "Libyan democracy."

"I do not wish to lighten the situation, because it's still a situation that's difficult," Bouchard said. "There is still work that needs to be done."

Two human-rights groups, Amnesty International and Doctors Without Borders, have sounded the alarm about widespread ill-treatment of Gadhafi loyalists.

Doctors Without Borders said it was pulling out of the city of Misrata because some detainees were brought for care only to make them fit for further interrogation.

Last month, the Conservative government took a sharper tone on torture allegations, a significant shift from the upbeat tone it has had toward Libya's provisional leadership.

"We are very concerned with these allegations. We will be raising these concerns with the interim Libyan government through official channels in Ottawa and Tripoli," Joseph Lavoie, a spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, said at the time.

"Canada will continue to help Libyans build a fair and democratic society that respects human rights and the rule of law."

The new leaders of Libya were helped to power by an air war waged by Canada and major allies, and have the backing of those western governments.

Canada's participation in the military mission, which aided in the overthrow of Gadhafi's regime, officially ended Oct. 28 after more than six months of operations.

Canadian warplanes flew hundreds of bombing missions over the North African country in the spring and summer, while Canadian frigates patrolled offshore.

Gadhafi was ousted from power last summer, and rebel troops captured and killed him in October.

Bouchard told the committee that Libya's vast stores of oil may help the new government create jobs, which would help instill democracy there.