Rather than the rogue, hysterical diplomat lacking credibility whom the Conservatives have tried to portray, Richard Colvin is in fact just one of many voices trying to tell a little bit of the truth. The real "open secret" in Afghanistan is that torture is part and parcel of this occupation, and has been since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. The so-called war on terror has in fact been a war of torture, among other things.
The Toronto Star reports that the head of the International Red Cross met with Peter MacKay and two other senior Ministers back in 2006 in order to "[try] to focus Canada's attention on alleged abuses in Afghan prisons."
But the scandal of torture goes back all the way to 2001, and too often this torture scandal is discussed in isolation from the scandal of the occupation itself. A letter sent today from Lawyers Against War to the Parliamentary Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan provides some historical context that is well worth remembering:
"Evidence that Canada was, and is, violating Canadian and international law by transferring people taken captive in Afghanistan to either U.S. or Afghan authorities has long been part of the public record. Since November 13, 2001, the world has known that the U.S. intended to illegally detain non-Americans taken prisoner in Afghanistan and to deny them access to properly constituted courts and other due process in violation of international law. The world has known since February 7, 2002 that such prisoners transferred into U.S. custody would be denied the protection of the Geneva Conventions and subjected to whatever treatment, including torture and/or other prohibited treatment, the President of Secretary of Defense arbitrarily determined was 'required by the exigencies of the war on terror.' By the end of September 2004, concerned people and those in positions of responsibility knew, from the report of the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Afghanistan, that prisoners were routinely subjected to torture and other internationally prohibited treatment in both Afghan-run and U.S.-run prisons within Afghanistan."
The plight of Omar Khadr, a child of 15 when he was captured in Afghanistan and shipped to Guantanamo, is also part of this sordid recent history. Recent news suggests Khadr will be moved, from the 'soon-to-be-closing' gulag on occupied Cuban soil, to an extra-legal gulag in Illinois. The shame of his languishing for years without a word of protest from the Canadian government cannot be overstated. Khadr's likely trial by military tribunal "will be the first time a child soldier has been tried for war crimes in modern history."