By their own standard, Liberal Party complicit in war crimes
Recently appearing on CBC news, Liberal Finance Critic John McCallum openly accused the Conservative government of war crimes.
"I think proroguing adds to the total character picture of Mr Harper, and the fact that they may have been committing war crimes, handing over detainees knowing that they were very likely to be tortured, that is a war crime," McCallum insisted. "And the fact that they're covering it up, I think many Canadians do care about those things as well as caring about economic issues."
When asked to clarify who he was accusing of war crimes -- the Conservative government or Canadian soldiers, McCallum answered quite clearly. "It's the government."
But as it turns out, there may be even more to this story than McCallum is telling -- one that undermines his party's clear efforts to mine this issue for partisan gain.
An article appearing in the April 28, 2007 issue of La Presse (which can be translated here), it was noted that the Liberal government of Paul Martin was warned on numerous occasions spanning 2003-05 that torture commonly occurred in Afghan prisons.
Prior to 2005, Canadian forces in Afghanistan transferred their detainees to American forces operating in Afghanistan. In response to the abuses taking place at Guantanamo Bay, however, the Liberal government decided to instead transfer prisoners to Afghan authorities.
Despite these reports, then-Minister of National Defense Bill Graham negotiated a prisoner transfer agreement and instructed General Rick Hillier to sign it on Canada's behalf. This prisoner transfer agreement became a notorious point of contention in Canadian politics, as it didn't allow Canadian soldiers with sufficient levels of oversight for the treatment of any prisoners they transferred.
In other words, it's the prisoner transfer agreement that Paul Martin's Liberal government signed with Afghanistan that was responsible for these abuses in the first place -- an error the Conservative government corrected by negotiating a new prison transfer agreement.
The Liberal Party cannot claim it wasn't warned about this state of affairs in Afghan prisons. They were warned by Canadian diplomats, just as the sitting Conservative government was.
The difference, of course, being that the pre-2006 Liberal government signed a shoddy prisoner transfer agreement that put Canadian soldiers at risk of complicity in war crimes -- as so defined by John McCallum.
At this point, the fairest question may be how, precisely, so many media outlets have overlooked this particular story amidst the partisan rush to brand the sitting government as war criminals, even as the Liberal Party knew full well the hand it had played in this affair.