Thursday, June 16, 2016

NDP renews call for inquiry into Afghan detainee abuse

By: Amanda ConnollyiPolitics 

The NDP repeated calls Wednesday for a full public inquiry into the Afghan detainee abuse scandal amid fresh allegations by former military police officers who served in Afghanistan in a letter to La Presse.

Canadian soldiers with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) walk during a patrol in Panjwayi district 30 km in the west of Kandahar province on March 28, 2008.
“We’ve called for a public inquiry for a number of years and the Liberals supported that call when they were in opposition,” said NDP defence critic Randall Garrison. “When we asked the minister of defence on Monday, there was no response so we’re repeating the call today for a full public inquiry.”

La Presse posted the letter online Wednesday morning (it can be read here) alleging that almost half of the Afghans captured and detained by Canadian soldiers had nothing to do with the Taliban.

It also says that most of them were released for lack of evidence after spending an average of two months in detention.

The former Conservative government had said the prisoners were held by Canadians for between 48 and 96 hours.

“What we have here is a potential stain on Canada’s international reputation through possible violations of international law, and also a stain on the reputations of all those Canadians who went there and served,” Garrison said.

Garrison, along with NDP foreign affairs critic Helene Laverdiere, called for an inquiry focused on whether there was a clear policy created to deal with the transfer of detainees after the lack of one was identified as a problem, and how the Afghans held in Canadian custody were treated.

Conservative defence critic James Bezan said Wednesday he doesn’t think there is evidence to suggest the need for an inquiry, calling the letter in La Presse “one person’s opinion.”

“It all comes back that our troops have conducted themselves honourably,” said Bezan. “I don’t believe that the evidence is there. As you know, there was a special parliamentary committee that went through all the documentation and again came up that there was no reason to pursue any further inquiry.”

The Liberals and NDP both called for an inquiry while in opposition during the Conservatives’ minority mandate in 2009.

The government formed an all-party committee to go through documents on the issue but refused to release unredacted records to the committee.

The government was ultimately voted in contempt of Parliament by the opposition parties for their refusal and Prime Minister Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament before disbanding the committee after their 2011 majority win.