Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Well... They always said sunlight is the best disinfectant...

I should have mentioned this earlier, but I've been a bit down about personal stuff makes it a little hard to keep up with my bloggerly duties.

No excuse I know...

But anyway, it seems that under pressure, America has been removed from the Canadian list of countries that torture.

Interestingly the editorial board of the Toronto Star thinks that's a good thing...

That tricky torture file


In future, Canada's "Torture Awareness Workshop Reference Materials" will be carefully purged of references to the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, and of any other mention of the U.S. or Israel that might give offence. On balance, that's probably just as well. The checklist was not a brilliant idea. Only nine countries were named. Far more dabble in torture. Diplomats shouldn't need a list to be watchful.

But Bernier's scramble to say sorry for "the embarrassment caused" raises the question of who really deserves that fulsome apology.

The U.S., which only recently outlawed waterboarding? Israel, which reserves the right to use "moderate physical pressure" during interrogations? Prime Minister Stephen Harper's risk-averse government, for being caught with its pinstripes down? Or Canadians, who were mortified by this bungling and abject backflip?


I guess it's understandable... There's this mention from the Seattle Post Intelligencers board of Trudeau famous sleeping next to an elephant analogy...

Torture: Sad but true


The list is included in the internal government manual intended for Canadian diplomats to guide them in cases where Canadians have been tortured by foreign governments (it happens. See: Maher Arar). But oh, they didn't mean to list the U.S., with whom neighborly relations are tricky (former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau likened being next door to the U.S. to sharing a bed with an elephant) but must nonetheless be maintained. U.S. and Israeli ambassadors were shocked and offended to be on the same list as Iran and China. And so began the process to take the U.S. -- and possibly other countries -- off the list. Hey, Iran also calls the list biased. Our government maintains that it doesn't torture anyone. Funny thing about those who condone torture while under the guise of fighting a war to spread freedom and democracy around the world -- they're reluctant to admit to said torture.


This topic seems to be generating a lot of editorial opinion... Here's another one from The Hartford Courant:

Turning A Mirror On U.S.

Neatly summarizing what needed to be said in the last line:


The Bush administration got an unexpected glimpse in the mirror and didn't like what it saw. But instead of addressing the problem, it's arranging to have the mirror removed.

The Globe and Mail has a report that should be read all the way through:

Detainee torture remains a reality, reports show
Document tells of Canadian official finding instruments of torture beneath a chair in interrogation room of an Afghan police prison


January 22, 2008

Compelling evidence that Canadian-transferred detainees are still being tortured in Afghan prisons emerged yesterday from the government's own follow-up inspection reports, documents it has long tried to keep secret.

In one harrowing account, an Afghan turned over by Canadian soldiers told of being beaten unconscious and tortured in the secret police prison in Kandahar. He showed Canadian diplomats fresh welts and then backed up his story by revealing where the electrical cable and the rubber hose that had been used on him were hidden.

"Under the chair we found a large piece of braided electrical cable as well as a rubber hose," reads the subsequent diplomatic cable marked "secret" and distributed to some of the most senior officials in the Canadian government and officers in the Canadian military.


Another report on that from The Canadian Press:

B.C. Civil Liberties release documents detailing alleged Afghan torture

VANCOUVER - The B.C. Civil Liberties Association is releasing documents it says were sent to federal government officials detailing reports of torture against Afghan detainees.

The heavily censored documents describe interviews with several detainees who claimed they had been "whipped with cables, shocked with electricity and/or otherwise hurt" after they were transferred from the Canadian military into Afghan custody in Kandahar.

The association says the papers leave no doubt that Ottawa knows that Canadian-transferred detainees are subsequently tortured by Afghan authorities.

The government documents were released as part of court attempts by Amnesty International and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association to stop transfers of prisoners taken by Canadian troops in Afghanistan.


The Toronto Star:

Documents reveal evidence of Afghan prisoner abuse

OTTAWA–His name is shielded from the public, but proof of his abuse at the hands of his Afghan jailers was literally right before the eyes of Canadian officials.

According to newly released documents from a court case brought by human rights groups, a Canadian human rights officer discovered last Nov. 5 an electrical cable and rubber hose alleged to have been used by Afghan jailors in the torture of a prisoner turned over by Canadian forces. The officer, in an interrogation room at the secret police facility in Kandahar, examined a 10-centimetre bruise on the man's back.

"He ... pointed to a chair and stated that the implements he had been struck with were underneath it," reads the court document in the case brought by rights groups seeking to halt the transfer of Canadian detainees to Afghan prisons. "Under the chair we found a large piece of braided electrical wire as well as a rubber hose. He then showed us a bruise on his back that could possibly be the result of a blow."


And The Jurist has the nitty gritty at:

Canada documents detail continued Afghan mistreatment of transferred detainees

I guess freedom of the press isn't totally dead...

I'd also like to point your attention to a heartfelt piece by Ralph Lopez:

20 Years: What Political Prisoners Can Expect in the Future

The Bush administration has managed to carve out an illegal authority to pick anyone up off the street, lock us up incommunicado for at least a few years, and send us to trial knowing that, after what they did, we'd be pretty much useless in our own defense.  Today's sentencing of Jose Padilla is not about Padilla.  This is about you.  After the next terror attack, it will be easy to include any bothersome political diarists, who keep raising inconvenient facts or whose words manage to rile people up against the gummint, when they sweep a few hundred American citizens suspected of harboring sympathies for the Taliban.  If they're against the US goverment in time of war, who knows what else they did?  Better lock them up.

Of course they'll be able to lie about you.  You don't even have the right to see a lawyer, never mind defend yourself in the press.  As long as the allegations are related to terrorism, and the gummint invokes Bush's doctrine of wartime powers in a war defined as having "no end," they can waterboard you...


Although I would like to point out that on a very real level, it's not about you or me, it's about them, the people who have been tortured and are being tortured right now.

Whether the privileged like you or I are at risk of being tortured has no bearing on the unconscionable reality that anyone anywhere is being tortured...

Anymore than that being rich and privileged and thus being free of the fear of starvation mitigates the horror that tens of thousands of people die of starvation every day.

With rising food prices, it is getting to the point where us privileged are quite literally taking the food from their mouths even more so than it ever was.

Historically, at least within this capital driven era, most famines have not being caused by the lack of food but rather the inability of people to afford it. If you look, you'll find that even during the worst of famines the areas suffering famine were still exporting food for profit even as people starved.

Nevertheless, this is a small point and shouldn't detract from an excellent piece that should provoke some empathy even from the most hardened and bitter.

Ralph Lopez has his own website Ralph Lopez World which is an excellent resource. I'd suggest paying attention to it.

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