Sunday, May 2, 2010

"I didn't know, I didn't see, I don't recall..."

So we're still dealing with people trying to smear Richard Colvin. That includes Christie Blatchford and Tim Powers at the Globe and Mail. The major objection seems to be that Buchan and Grant didn't get equal time in the press, compared to Colvin. According to Ms. Blatchford, the evidence presented refuted Mr. Colvin's.

I thought that was very unlikely, given the LiveBlog of the event by Karina Roman of the CBC, but to make sure (the CBC being closet Liberals), I went back through the fabulous resources of Parliament on the internet, to see it, the whole freaking thing. Here it is:

AFGH Meeting No. 7
Centre Block - 253-D
Event Date
Wednesday, Apr 28, 2010
03:31 PM - 05:20 PM
1 Hour 49 Minutes
Actual Start Time
Wednesday, Apr 28, 2010 03:31 PM
Actual End Time
Wednesday, Apr 28, 2010 05:20 PM
Actual Duration
1 Hour 49 Minutes
Meeting No. 7 AFGH - Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan

Nothing, nothing at all, refutes anything said by Mr. Colvin. Mr. Buchan as far as I can see contradicted himself by saying there was nothing in his multitudinous contacts with various august Afghan authorities that would have led him to believe that Canadian prisoners transferred to Afghan custody were subject to the abusive conditions that were, by his own admission Standard Operating Procedure for Afghan prisons extending, if I heard Mr. Buchan correctly, back to the time of Alexander (the Great, not Chris), but he didn't hear anything specific, and on review of records that neither the Afghanistan Committee nor the Canadian public can see, didn't see anything specific either.

It was in fact very mysterious to Mr. Buchan that Graeme Smith of the Globe and Mail, a person of no official position, turned up evidence of abuse, but then the allegations were promptly investigated, found to be true, and led to a new "transfer agreement" which was much more robust than the first agreement, the question of whether either agreement was worth anything at all being unasked, and the answer obvious. Neither agreement was worth anything, just like the Brits' "Memorandum of Understanding" wasn't worth anything, either.

Neither Mr. Buchan, in his descriptions of plans for prisoners made at DND, nor General Grant, in his supervision of transfers on the ground during his time in Afghanistan, gave any indication of having read the Third Geneva Convention (or the Fourth) which Theatre Standing Order 321A states is the standard for Canadian Forces in Afghanistan, and which the Bulletin of the Secretary-General of the United Nations (of August 12, 1999, exactly 50 years after said Geneva Conventions were signed, by Canada and the United States if not Afghanistan) says is the standard for UN forces in the field whether peace-keeping or peace-enforcing (Section 1.1). Article 12 of that much undiscussed Convention, particularly before the Afghanistan Committee, states:

Art 12. Prisoners of war are in the hands of the enemy Power, but not of the individuals or military units who have captured them. Irrespective of the individual responsibilities that may exist, the Detaining Power is responsible for the treatment given them.

Prisoners of war may only be transferred by the Detaining Power to a Power which is a party to the Convention and after the Detaining Power has satisfied itself of the willingness and ability of such transferee Power to apply the Convention. When prisoners of war are transferred under such circumstances, responsibility for the application of the Convention rests on the Power accepting them while they are in its custody.

Nevertheless, if that Power fails to carry out the provisions of the Convention in any important respect, the Power by whom the prisoners of war were transferred shall, upon being notified by the Protecting Power, take effective measures to correct the situation or shall request the return of the prisoners of war. Such requests must be complied with.

Now, to me, a citizen, that looks a lot like due diligence. Even if we accept that the Government of Afghanistan is legitimate and has actually signed up for the Statute of Rome, and really meant to honour its agreements with the Canadian military, we - the "Detaining Power" - are obliged - the onus is on us - to satisfy ourselves of the ability and willingness of the "Accepting Power" to apply the Convention.

And we did that, did we? Oh, come on. Pull the other one. Conditions in Afghan prisoners were known. Canada had the onus to satisfy itself that Afghanistan could apply the Convention to any transferred prisoners. Hello? Where is the evidence for such due diligence? A piece of paper signed by Hillier and some other guy? Mr. Buchan made it clear that Afghan prisoner conditions weren't going to change overnight. Therefore transfer was always illegal, was it not?

If that isn't enough evidence we have the Department of National Defence "Campaign Against Terrorism Detainee Transfer Log", which although redacted, and after May 2006, obliterated, makes clear that Canadian troops believed they were obligated to report all prisoners taken to the Central Tracing Agency of the ICRC, as they are obligated to do under the Third Geneva Convention. The troops on the ground knew the law and the right thing to do. Where were Mr. Buchan and General Grant?

Finally - I mean, I could go on for as long as those two guys went on - two guys who gave every impression of covering their asses, having watched the whole thing Ms. Blatchford, and in startling contrast to Richard Colvin who has everything to lose and nothing to gain in his tetimony before the same committee - General Grant tells us that the "Canadian chain of command" was "not interested" in caring for prisoners in our own facilities. Since when does the Canadian military make Canadian foreign policy? And does the Canadian chain of command get to decide whether it complies with the Third Geneva Convention, or even reads it? Who, if anybody, brought up the Geneva Conventions at the DND policy sessions regarding prisoners that Mr. Buchan attended in 2005? Is it under the redactions?

As far as I'm concerned the appearance of Buchan and Grant made Mr. Colvin's testimony more rather than less compelling, and the need for a judicial inquiry even more urgent than it already is. What I don't understand is why Ms. Blatchford and Mr. Powers, among many others, seem to regard the weight Mr. Buchan's and General Grant's evidence to be equal to that of Mr. Colvin's, based on the time they spent before the committee. Had the press been in attendance with the requisite subsequent coverage desired by Ms. Blatchford and fellow government apologists, the same obvious and unfavourable comparisons with Mr. Colvin's testimony would have been inevitable.

People were hung at Nuremberg for not knowing the difference between right and wrong, and a guy from Rwanda was just put away for 25 years for war crimes by Quebec Superior Court. International law is not "a framework for discussion." I give the last word to the Secretary-General's Bulletin:

Section 4
Violations of international humanitarian law
In case of violations of international humanitarian law,
members of the military personnel of a United Nations force
are subject to prosecution in their national courts.