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Hillier dodges questions about Afghan torture

Retired general claims problems were fixed

by Bruce Wark

Rick Hillier
Rick Hillier

Rick Hillier, former chief of the Canadian defence staff, dodged questions in Halifax on Saturday about the torture of prisoners handed over by the Canadian military to the Afghan intelligence service. Hillier was asked why the Canadian forces followed a cumbersome six-step method of informing the International Red Cross each time a detainee was transferred to the custody of the Afghans.

Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin told a Parliamentary committee last week in Ottawa that the six-step process took “days, weeks or, in some cases, up to two months” during which time nobody monitored what happened to the prisoners. He added that Canadian authorities also kept poor records making it almost impossible to trace transferred prisoners. According to Colvin, the Canadian military transferred six times more detainees than the British and all of them were likely tortured while in Afghan custody.

When asked why the Canadian military made monitoring what happened to prisoners so difficult, Hillier who originally signed the prisoner transfer agreement in December 2005, replied that the issue of monitoring prisoners was resolved over time.

“The agreement was changed to allow Canadians to have access to all the detainees as is necessary, so over a period of time, it was resolved,” Hillier said refusing to take further questions.

The retired general did not explain why it took more than a year to change the agreement. Under international law, it’s a war crime to hand prisoners over if they’re likely to be tortured.

Colvin testified that many of the Afghan men Canada rounded up were “just local people, farmers, truck drivers, tailors, peasants, random human beings in the wrong place at the wrong time, young men in their fields and villages, who were completely innocent but were nevertheless rounded up. In other words, we retained and handed over for severe torture a lot of innocent people.”

Hillier himself stirred up controversy in 2005 when he declared that Canadian forces would be ruthless in going after terrorists in Afghanistan. “These are detestable murderers and scumbags, I'll tell you that right up front. They detest our freedoms, they detest our society, they detest our liberties,” he said.

Because he refused to answer more than one question, Hillier could not be asked whether, as chief of the defence staff, his statements had encouraged Canadian soldiers to engage in the indiscriminate rounding up of Afghan men. He won’t be able to dodge questions so easily when, as expected, he’s summoned to testify before the Parliamentary committee looking into the torture allegations.

A longer version of this story that includes Hillier's comments to the Halifax International Security Forum can be found at The Coast.

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Topics: Peace/War
437 words


re: Hillier dodges questions about Afghan torture

I was against this whole thing in the first place, but now that we have stuck our foot in it, I wonder if pulling out mid stride would be more harmful than seeing it through. Obviously, better securities must be put into place to protect the innocent and to keep our soldiers from becoming the thing they are supposed to be fighting. But, leaving behind supportive and hopeful civilians (who believed in our cause and trusted in our promises) could cause a wound that might fester into a new generation of hate for westerners. The mentality of Rick Hillier is one of the main reasons I didn't support this action. Re-enforcing hate to motivate killing is still thought to be an efficient way to get the job done. Brutality, cruelty and retaliation are accepted bi-products (if the media doesn't get wind of it). I just hope that this would be resolved without using any payday loans.

I think if NATO forces stay,

I think if NATO forces stay, they will continue to screw people over. I believe Joya said in her speech over the weekend that it has gotten worse because of the government that NATO appointed. So not only do we have a pro-west government, but we have a relatively unknown death toll (but we know it is quite high), continued bombings, more troops being sent in, and so on. As with all occupations, they shouldn't happen in the first place, but to continue an occupation is not the answer. Whether NATO forces pull out or not, the inoccent people are suffering. There's no reason to continue the occupation.

Of course I don't know for sure, but I gotta say, that hope is also probably long out the window after so many years of bullshit promises of liberating women and what not.

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