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Turmoil in Canada over Alleged War Crimes in Afghanistan

A veteran Canadian foreign service officer has charged the government with hiding war crimes in Afghanistan. Goldstone has not commented.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 11/23/2009, 12:35 PM / Last Update: 11/23/2009, 12:50 PM

Israel news photo

A veteran Canadian foreign service officer charged the government with hiding war crimes in the war in Afghanistan. Military and government leaders denied the accusations as unsubstantiated.

If proven, Canada may face charges similar to those leveled against Israel for alleged crimes in fighting terrorists in Gaza, but Judge Richard Goldstone, who authored the United Nations report condemning Israel, has not commented on the latest charges.

Richard Colvin who has was the former diplomatic head of the Canadian reconstruction team in Afghanistan, testified in a parliamentary committee that Canadian forces handed over detainees to the Afghan national security agency while knowing that some of them may be innocent but still would face torture for up to several months.

“Colvin was careful not to lay blame with the military police who were charged with transferring prisoners to the Afghan torturers,” wrote International Law Professor Errol Mendes in the Ottawa Citizen. “He asserted that there was an astonishingly loose framework created by the highest military and civilian ranks on the transfer of detainees that created the danger of Canada and Canadian officials becoming complicit in torture."

Colvin testified that Canadian officials refused to accept his phone calls warning of war crime violations while British and Dutch officials reported transfers of detainees to their legislatures.

Colvin, now head of Canadian intelligence in Washington, revealed that when the Red Cross tried for months to warn Canadian officials about the torture of detainees, no one would even take his phone calls.

“In the same 17 months that Colvin was sending his reports to dozens of officials,… the [Canadian] government was denying in Parliament and the media that there were any substantial reports of Canadian detainees being tortured,” Prof.Mendes added.

“These allegations, if proven, go beyond the detainee abuse,” he continued. “It goes to what is the most sacred in our constitutional and democratic society in Canada. The rule of law requires that no one is above the law and if there is any actual or potential evidence of wrongdoing or illegality, it must be brought to the attention of the appropriate authorities to either stop it or prevent any future occurrence.”

However, Colvin admitted in his testimony that he had little first-hand testimony, causing Defense Minister Peter MacKay to dismiss the allegations as “nothing short of hearsay, second- or third-hand information, or that which came directly from the Taliban.

"There has not been a single, solitary proven allegation of abuse involving a transferred Taliban prisoner by Canadian Forces," MacKay asserted.