Saturday, February 02, 2008
That Tricky Torture File
Posted by It's Called Appeasement on Sunday, January 27th at 10:15 AM
That tricky torture file
Jan 22, 2008 04:30 AM
U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins found it "offensive." Israeli Ambassador Alan Baker was "shocked."
And Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier quickly pushed the panic button when he found Canada's diplomats are being trained to keep an eye open to torture not only by 'pariah states' like Iran and Syria, but also by what the Harper Regime refers to as "close allies".
That vigilance won Canada credit from Amnesty International, which praised us for being alert to rights abuses.
But the howls of outrage from Washington and Jerusalem at finding themselves on the foreign affairs watchlist next to "axis of evil" Iran sent Bernier lunging for the delete key faster than you can say "welcome to Gitmo." It was all a big, regrettable mistake, he said.
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?
(And the undo influence of foreign politicians on our policies ... ?
Canada Puts Israel, US on Torture List-But Then Bows to Pressure
Either Israel and the US have suddenly stopped using torture, or the Harper Regime doesn't want its diplomats making decisions based on the facts.
Torture awareness manual 'wrongly' lists Cdn allies, to be rewritten: Bernier
at 14:27 on January 19, 2008, EST.
By Pat Hewitt, THE CANADIAN PRESS
TORONTO - Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier found himself backtracking Saturday over his department's training manual that lists the U.S. and Guantanamo Bay as sites of possible torture - alongside such countries as Iran and Syria (and Israel).
In a statement, Bernier said he regretted the embarrassment caused by the public disclosure of the manual, adding that it contains a list that "wrongly" includes some of Canada's closest allies.
(But not because they don't use torture, 'wrong' as in we're not allowed to talk about them doing it.)
Bernier said the manual is neither a policy document, nor a statement of policy, and that he has directed it to be reviewed and rewritten.
(Even though it is, because it's a training manual for diplomats.)
Along with the U.S. prison camp in Cuba and the United States, the list includes Afghanistan, China, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Mexico and Syria.
The workshop manual, which was used in the Foreign Affairs department's torture awareness training, was produced about two years ago while Justice Dennis O'Connor was investigating the case of Maher Arar.
Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian engineer, was imprisoned and tortured in Syria for almost a year after he was detained and sent there by U.S. authorities in 2002 after he was wrongfully accused of having terrorist ties. A Canadian judicial inquiry, led by O'Connor, later cleared him. Ottawa awarded Arar $10.5 million in compensation after the inquiry concluded faulty information passed by the RCMP to American officials likely led to his deportation to Syria.
William Sampson, who holds a dual British-Canadian citizenship, was imprisoned and tortured in Saudi Arabia where he was arrested in 2001, accused of involvement in a string of bombings in Riyadh. He was among seven foreigners granted amnesty and freed in 2003.
(None of the criminals who passed false information to the Americans, however, have been held responsible for their crimes.)
The workshop manual offers a section on laws prohibiting torture and what to do when cases are suspected.
The Canadian Press first reported the manual's existence on Wednesday after it had been inadvertently released to lawyers working on a lawsuit involving allegations of abuse of detainees in Afghanistan when they asked the federal government what kind of training is available for its employees on torture.
"I regret the embarrassment caused by the public disclosure of the manual used in the department's torture awareness training," Bernier said in the statement.
"It contains a list that wrongly includes some of our closest allies. I have directed that the manual be reviewed and rewritten. The manual is neither a policy document nor a statement of policy. As such, it does not convey the government's views or positions," the statement added.
('Positions and views' that include looking the other way when 'allies' of the Neo-Conservative Harper Regime violate international law ...)
In Toronto, Liberal foreign affairs critic, Bob Rae, told The Canadian Press the government is in damage control.
"There's a question of competence. I mean, to me, I don't think I've ever seen a situation, or a government where the management of the foreign policy was handled in such an amateurish way on a number of fronts," said Rae.
(And directed by foreign Governments, and their ability to silence legitimate, legal criticisms.)
"The minister goes to the Middle East and can't answer any questions when he's in Israel because, you know, he's not allowed to answer any questions, " Rae added. "They attempt to control everything from central casting but sometimes things happen and then they immediately try to do the damage control on a Saturday morning."
(In other words, he can't answer questions, because he's not allowed to speak to the reality of the situation.)
"This is a very strange way to run a government," he suggested, adding any list of this kind can't be politically controlled.
"It's a list that has to be based on the evidence from Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, agencies of the United Nations and so on."
Rae said he hopes the government gets on with the review quickly and reveals the criteria that will be used to determine which countries should be on the list.
"The idea that you would equate the government of the United States with the government of Iran with respect to the treatment of prisoners is a little hard to fathom," said Rae.
(Why? Because the US does much more damage and violates the law more than Iran ... ?)
"But the fact that both Senator (John) McCain and Senator (Barack) Obama had to speak so strongly on the issue of torture during the questioning of the former attorney general of the United States shows that the question of the treatment of prisoners in the United States is a live question," said Rae.
"But it is impossible to justify comparing it to what is going on in a country like Iran, where we have documented evidence of systematic torture of prisoners," said Rae.
(Evidence also proves systematic torture of prisoners by the US and Israel. On a much grander scale. Not suprised that Rae would also be so cowed on the issue ...)
U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins said the U.S. found it offensive to be on the same list with countries such as Iran and China. He said the U.S. requested it be removed from the list and added the U.S. does not condone torture.
(Actions speak louder than words.)
An Israeli Embassy spokesman said the ambassador of Israel would expect his country to be removed from the list.
(Then we 'expect' Israel to forego the practice of torturing prisoners, political or otherwise.)
(With files from The Associated Press)
Canada puts U.S. on torture watch list: CTV
Updated Wed. Jan. 16 2008 11:02 PM ET
Omar Khadr's lawyers say they can't understand why Canada is not doing more to help their client in light of new evidence that Ottawa has put the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on a watch list for torture.
Khadr -- a Canadian citizen who was just 15-years-old when he was captured in Afghanistan more than five years ago and taken to Guantanamo -- has claimed that he has been tortured at the prison. Now, CTV News has obtained documents that put Guantanamo Bay on a torture watch list.
Khadr's U.S. military lawyer says the new documents contradict Harper's assurances that his client is receiving fair treatment.
"Omar has certainly been abused, his rights have been violated under international law, and apparently the Canadian government has reason to believe that's true, and yet, they've acted not at all to assist him," William Kuebler told CTV News.
Khadr's lawyers say suspicions of torture undermine claims that he can get a fair trial from the military commission in Guantanamo Bay. They want him sent back to Canada to face justice here. But the government has said he's charged with serious crimes and they are waiting for the U.S. judicial process to play itself out.
Canada's new focus on torture was ordered by the inquiry into Maher Arar's nightmare in Syria. U.S. authorities sent Arar -- a Canadian of Syrian ancestory -- to Syria after he made a brief stopover in New York in 2002. They wrongly accused him of having links to terrorism in large part because of information provided by the RCMP.
Arar was sent to a Syrian prison where he was tortured for nearly a year. An inquiry into the Arar affair ordered a new focus on torture, and CTV News has learned that, as part of a "torture awareness workshop," diplomats are now being told where to watch for abuse.
The aim of the workshop: to teach diplomats who visit Canadians in foreign jails how to tell if they've been tortured. It also listed countries and places with greater risks of torture. The list includes Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, and China. But surprisingly, it also included the United States, Guantanamo Bay, and Israel.
It notes specific "U.S. interrogation techniquies," which include "forced nudity, isolation, and sleep deprivation." The U.S. has repeatedly denied allegations by international groups that it tortures prisoners captured in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. However, U.S. officials have refused to comment on the Canadian list.
But international observers say they are heartened by the specificity of the Canadian list. Alex Neve of Amnesty International says he is surprised that Canada would risk offending allies by naming countries that potentially torture prisoners.
"These are countries where, sadly, the record is clear -- torture and ill treatment happens," said Neve.
But it appears that Ottawa may have had second thoughts about being so explicit. After the documents were released as evidence in a court case relating to Afghan detainees, the government tried to get them back. Sources say that Ottawa apparently wanted to black out sensitive parts that may anger allies.
Khadr -- who was born in Toronto -- was captured in 2002 after a battle with U.S. forces in which an American soldier died. He's accused of war crimes, but critics have alleged the U.S. military court that is trying him violates U.S. and international law. Khadr is the only Western citizen remaining at Guantanamo Bay.
A war crimes trial has never been held against anyone under the age of 18. International observers have questioned Ottawa's decision not to help Khadr, who many believe is no different than child soldiers victimized in Africa.
With a report from CTV's Roger Smith in Ottawa
US, Israel on Canadian torture watch list: report
Thu Jan 17, 7:00 PM
OTTAWA (AFP) - The United States and Israel are on a Canadian Foreign Affairs Department watch list of countries where prisoners risk being tortured, CTV television reported Thursday.
The document cited the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as a place where prisoners could be tortured. Guantanamo holds Omar Khadr, a Canadian accused of killing a US soldier with a hand grenade in Afghanistan when he was 15 years old.
CTV said the document is used in a workshop to teach Canadian diplomats how to tell if a Canadian held in a foreign jail has been tortured, CTV reported.
The document lists a series of countries where the possibility of torture is high, including Syria, Iran, Afghanistan and China. But it also includes the United States and Israel.
It highlights US torture techniques including forced nudity, isolation and sleep deprivation, CTV said.
Questioned by email by AFP on the reported document, Foreign Affairs Department spokesman Neil Hrab said "the training manual is not a policy document and does not reflect the views or policies of this government."
In an interview with CTV, Khadr's lawyer, Bill Kuebler, said he was surprised the Canadian government has done nothing to protect his client if there are suspicions he may have been mistreated in Guantanamo.
Kuebler said other western countries have successfully pressed for the release of their citizens held at Guantanamo.
Human rights groups and prominent Canadian citizens are calling for 21-year-old Khadr's repatriation so he can benefit from normal due process of law.
Training diplomats to make them more aware of torture began after Syrian-Canadian Maher Arar in 2002 was deported by the United States to Syria, where he was imprisoned for nearly a year and said he was tortured.
A Canadian inquiry cleared Arar of all suspicions of terrorism and the Canadian government issued an apology and awarded him a substantial compensation.
Torture watchlist 'wrongly' names Canadian allies: Bernier
Last Updated: Saturday, January 19, 2008 | 12:38 PM ET
Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier has issued a statement in an effort to pacify allies angry over a training manual for Canadian diplomats that lists the U.S. and Israel as countries where prisoners risk torture and abuse.
Bernier said the manual "contains a list that wrongly includes some of our closest allies."
(Wrongly how, exactly? Just because Harper has decided to ally himself with these criminals doesn't change the fact that they routinely engage in torture.)
Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier, right, who met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert last week, has been forced to clarify why a Canadian dliplomatic document listed Israel and the U.S. as sites of possible torture.
(Amos Ben Gershom/Associated Press) "I regret the embarrassment caused by the public disclosure of the manual used in the department's torture awareness training," he said in a statement released Saturday.
"The manual is neither a policy document nor a statement of policy," he said. "As such, it does not convey the government's views or positions."
Bernier said he has directed the manual to be reviewed and rewritten, but he did not provide details.
The torture awareness training manual was inadvertently released on Friday to lawyers working on a lawsuit involving allegations that detainees were abused in Afghanistan.
The document singles out the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay as a site of possible abuse. It also names Israel, Afghanistan, China, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Syria as places where inmates could face torture.
U.S. ambassador to Canada David Wilkins told the Associated Press that it's "absurd" and "offensive" to place the United States on the same list along with countries like Iran and China.
Michael Mendel, a spokesman for the Israeli embassy in Ottawa, said Israel's Supreme Court "is on record as expressly prohibiting any type of torture."
(So is the US. But both countries still practice torture.)
Torture stance reversed
It's well-known that the U.S. turns a blind eye to friendly governments that torture. We even have documented proof that the U.S. subcontracted torture in the Maher Arar case, and that it trained and supported torturers in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, etc.
Innocent people released from Guantanamo Bay have testified that they were subjected to torture. Many of those detained in the U.S. after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 also testified to being tortured.
The Israeli press has been documenting Israeli interrogation tactics for decades, and many credible reports of torture have been made by Amnesty International and Human Right Watch.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper should inform the U.S. and Israel that he would be overjoyed to remove them from the list of torturers when they stop – just exactly as he should advise Iran, Egypt, China, Afghanistan and others.
George Haeh, Toronto
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