On February 4 the Globe and Mail featured a web exclusive editorial titled “Our Afghan detainees deserveCharter protection.” Written by Alex Neve of AmnestyInternational and Jason Gratl of the BC Civil Libertiesassociation it argues that the protections of Canada’sCharter of Rights and Freedoms should apply to all personswhich the Canadian government deals with, whether inCanada or not. It is a good argument if one believes inhuman rights and the treaties and conventions that havebeen put in place since World War II to prevent a repeat of the Nazihorrors of that era. That anyone would oppose this is mindboggling unless of course they approve of terrorism, tortureand other abuses of human rights.
From the acts of most governments since the war crimestrials following World War II it is apparent that concern for humanrights is entirely situational. Human rights are an issue forgovernments when they can use them to their benefit, andnot an issue if they become inconvenient. The examplesare numerous. Human rights become an issue when wewish to find an excuse to conquer Afghanistan. The Talibanare bad, they disrespect women, deny free speech, usecruel punishments and so on. Conquest will rectify this weare told.
This rational, however, is proven a lie by the way that we actin regards to the puppet regime that the U.S. has establishedin that country. Women are still abused and denied theirrights. Such treatment is rationalized by saying that weneed the abusers to help us fight the Taliban. In otherwords we need to condone the abuse of women, of torture,and so on in order to fight against people who abusewomen, engage in torture in so on. If there is any clearmessage that comes from the official logic, it is that we arenot in Afghanistan, or probably anywhere else for thatmatter, to protect people and promote human rights. In factwe have chosen a path that may put us closer to the Nazisthan those who died fighting against them.
Recently a journalism student in Afghanistan was sentenced to deathfor the crime of blasphemy after it was alleged that he wrotean article questioning the Prophet Muhammad’s respect forwomen’s rights. Since the prime minister has not orderedour troops to withdraw from the country unless this sentenceis nullified and the right of free speech is affirmed by ourAfghan allies, which would include the right to criticize andchallenge religious beliefs, one can only infer that in practicethe government of Canada does not take these rightsseriously.
Canada’s lack of concern for human rights in its foreignpolicy is also exemplified by the way that it has handled thecase of Asadullah Khalid, Governor of Kandahar. Credibleevidence has come to light that Khalid’s governmentengages in torture and that the governor himself hasparticipated directly in the abuse of prisoners.
Furthermore it has come to light that the Harper government has knownabout this for about a year and has kept the informationsecret. One has to ask if we are fighting a war againstterror and torture, why hasn’t Governor Khalid beenapprehended as a terrorist and confined like so manyAfghans and others, some on less credible evidence? Bydoing business with people like Khalid the government ofCanada becomes an accomplice to some of the very thingsthat it says that it is against, and that it has signedagreements to prevent.
Back in 2006 Ehab Lotayef of Montreal published a piece inthe Toronto Star titled “Canada’s Mideast Policy should bebased on international law.” He challenges the practice ofpolicy being based on the interest of lobby groups whichturn a blind eye to violations of law when it suits theirpurpose. His issue primarily is Canadian policy towardsIsrael, but the premise holds true for all foreign relations.Why isn’t all Canadian foreign policy based on internationallaw?
Canada is party to the Universal Declaration of HumanRights, the Geneva Convention, and the InternationalCriminal Court. These are important documents that set theparameters for a fairer and more humane world. Canadiansshould be asking their MPs and other officials why we donot adhere strictly to these agreements, and why we allywith and support countries that either refuse to sign them orsign, then ignore them?