The Harper government knew prison conditions were appalling long before The Globe and Mail published a series of stories last April detailing the abuse and torture of prisoners turned over by Canadian soldiers to Afghanistan’s notorious secret police, documents released this week show.
The heavily censored documents also show that at the same time as senior ministers were denying evidence of abuse, officials on the ground in Afghanistan were collecting first-hand accounts from prisoners of mistreatment.
In addition to routine reports by diplomats citing widespread torture and abuse, Canadian officials were also delivering first-hand accounts showing how grim the prisons were.
In one, Linda Garwood-Filbert, the newly arrived leader of a Correctional Service Canada inspections team, asked for better boots in February, 2007, months before the published reports, because she was “walking through blood and fecal matter” on the floor of cells as they toured Afghan prisons.
No explanation of why the floors were covered in blood is given.
Another report noted that the warden of the main prison in Kandahar, where many prisoners handed over by Canadians soldiers were held, had been fired after charges that he raped juvenile detainees. Cosmetics and hashish were found in his office. He was exonerated because an Afghan military judge said it was “impossible for a drunken man in his 50s to commit an act of rape,” reported a Canadian official in a cable to Ottawa.
Other reports detail conditions far outside internationally acceptable norms. At one Kandahar secret police prison, all inmates are shackled in leg irons around the clock. Some have been kept that way for more than a year.
skdadl nails it in comments over @ POGGE:
I think we call this the banality of evil. I have to walk through blood and fecal material, so I need better boots. This is the road to Nuremberg, folks. And this is being done in our name. Everyone happy to sit here quietly and be a “Good Canadian”?
I need a drink–and to reread Eichmann in Jerusalem.
Related: Amnesty International report on how countries participating in the NATO-led ISAF mission in Afghanistan (including, obviously, Canada) have been (knowingly) complicit in the transfer of detainees to Afghan security officials, despite evidence that doing so put prisoners at risk of being tortured.
Are we ready to deal with this yet? Could we please get some grown-ups on this?
Look, we have a lot of serious and difficult issues to deal with in Canada : important stuff like fixing our debt to First Nations, stopping the sell-off of Canadian companies and the flow south of our resouces, getting serious on the environment, to name just a few.
Canada is already a signatory to the Geneva Conventions. We simply don’t have time to go back and re-fight and re-argue all the battles for the some semblance of civilization we have already won.
And we certainly don’t have time for any government that hasn’t figured that out yet.
You goddamn right.