Civil liberties lawyer to opposition: stop politicizing detainee abuse
For many Canadians, the ongoing controversy surrounding the treatment of Afghan detainees has been an irritating issue.
It shouldn't be said that there's no cause for any outrage. Proper-thinking Canadians of all political stripes recognize that torture is a barbarous act, and aren't prepared to tolerate it.
But by the same token, the issue -- alleging that Afghan detainees transferred to Afghan custody by Canadian soldiers were later tortured -- has, in many senses, proven to be utterly insipid.
Canada's opposition parties -- and various left-wing commentators and bloggers -- have attempted to use the issue to tar the Conservative government, and accuse them of being guilty of war crimes.
But to those Canadians who have seen this issue for what it really is, the matter at hand is utterly, crystal clear. This isn't really an issue about what Canadian soldiers have done, it's about what another country's soldiers have done.
It actually makes the drive to use the issue to portray Prime Minister Stephen Harper as George W Bush seem even more comical.
Bush was declared to be a war criminal because he had authorized the US military to use "coercive interrogation techniques" (torture) -- so, in point of fact, George W Bush is a war criminal.
But in the case of Stephen Harper, he's accused of war crimes because the soldiers of another country tortured detainees, after Canadian soldiers had transferred them under an agreement negotiated by his governmental predecessor.
In the rush to paint Stephen Harper as George W Bush, even as it pertains to torture, the best these people can do is to establish Harper as Bush-tres-lite.
But it's against the partisan abuse of the issue that Paul Champ, a lawyer for Amnesty International and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, has entered the fray. And he has a message for these people:
Stop politicizing the issue.
“My clients believe this is an issue that should be totally depoliticized,” Champ recently insisted, and noted that it's actually the lack of a standing military policy on detainee handling that is at the heart of this issue.
Champ notes that part of what led to this sorry state of affairs is a poor approach to the issue of detainee treatment in the first place, one that waited for proof as opposed to assessing risk.
“Basically [the politicians] are saying they want absolute proof in some way that someone has been tortured when it should be about what is the risk of torture,” Champ continued. “We think this has broader implications, not simply for the Afghan theatre but a judicial inquiry could provide guidance to the military for any future deployments that we’re engaged in.”
Champ will testify before a hastily-called meeting of Canada's special committee on the mission in Afghanistan, and plans to tell opposition MPs to stop trying to profit politically off the matter.
Paul Champ's stand on the matter is long overdue. So long as Canada's opposition parties continue to find any way to use this matter as a political club against the government, many of the answers will continue to be elusive.
Needless to say, there is no incentive for the government to help uncover facts that will unfairly be used to attack it. De-politicizing the issue will go a long way toward solving that problem.