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No room for two inquiries: Military complaints chairman

Expresses 'concerns' over Hillier's decision to probe alleged abuse of Afghans

Mike Blanchfield, National Post, p. A6, 10 Feb 07

Article Link


OTTAWA - The head of the Military Police Complaints

Commission said yesterday he has "significant concerns" over General

Rick Hillier's decision to convene his own board of inquiry into

allegations of prisoner abuse by Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan

because it might interfere with his own probe.


Commission chairman Peter Tinsley expressed that view in a letter

to the Chief of the Defence Staff and in an interview as he

announced he would launch a "public interest" investigation into

allegations soldiers abused three Afghan detainees last April near



"I’m not wanting to go to war with the Chief over this," Mr.

Tinsley said. "It's simply a concern that I'm expressing in terms of

the timing"


Gen. Hiller has already said publicly he is not inclined to believe

the allegations against his troops.


Though Mr. Tinsley won't call evidence --for now --in a

courtroom-type setting, he said he would resort to subpoenas and

other "additional powers" if he does not have the Defence

Department's full cooperation. Eventually, he said, he wants the

military to release photos that depict injuries to at least one, if

not all, of the Afghan detainees in question.


Mr. Tinsley said one of the deciding factors in pursing this third

avenue of investigation -- the military has announced two of its own

probes in the past week -- is that the Canadian Forces did not

investigate the 10-month-old incident until a University of Ottawa

professor went forward with a public complaint last week.


"I share the complainant's concern that the relevant military

authorities have already had considerable opportunity to initiate

internal processes but have waited until this public complaint to do

so," Mr. Tinsley said in a letter to Gen. Hillier and others

released yesterday.


On Tuesday, Gen. Hillier announced his own board of inquiry when

the incident became public, while the military police's National

Investigations Unit has launched its own criminal probe.


Mr. Tinsley said the NIS investigation, though started "belatedly,"

should take precedence but the law allows for his "public interest"

investigation to proceed concurrently.


He said he has spoken with the military police chief, Provost

Marshal Captain Steve Moore, and has been assured of co-operation.


Amir Attaran, a University of Ottawa law professor, requested the

investigation after he obtained Defence Department documents under

Access to Information that he said showed a pattern of possible

abuse of three Afghans taken prisoner by Canadian Forces personnel

near the village of Dukah, in southern Afghanistan, last April.


Heavily censored documents obtained by Mr. Attaran showed the three

Afghan detainees had similar upper body injuries but they did not

indicate how the injuries were inflicted.


The documents also showed that at least one of the men was in

possession of bomb-making equipment, including a large amount of

fertilizer, and that he was belligerent and resisted arrest.



Third probe of detainee treatment

Bruce Campion-Smith, Toronto Star, p. A04, 10 Feb 07

Article Link


Senior military officers "belatedly" looked into a report

that Canadian troops may have mistreated Afghan prisoners, and now

that investigations are under way, have made "unfortunate" public

comments that suggest they've already decided nothing was done



Those are two reasons cited by Peter Tinsley, chair of the Military

Police Complaints Commission, as he announced yesterday that he was

launching his own "public interest" probe into possible misconduct

of military police officers in their handling of three detainees

last April.


While the military's top cop had appealed to the commission to

delay its probe, worries about public confidence in the armed forces

and concern about the seriousness of the allegations dictated the

commission act now, Tinsley said.


"The possible abuse of defenceless persons in (Canadian Forces)

custody, regardless of their actions prior to apprehension and the

possibility that military police members may have knowingly or

negligently failed to investigate such abuse ... are matters of

serious concern," Tinsley said in a letter to senior military



The commission, which looks into complaints about the military

police, will also examine whether officers "failed to follow proper

protocols for the treatment of detainees."


And Tinsley said he's ready to hold a public hearing, if needed, to

exercise subpoena powers to summon witnesses as he examines the

"possible abuse" of three prisoners detained by Canadian troops near

Dukah in Kandahar province.


"If I have to, well, we'll move to that. But I sure hope it's not

required," Tinsley said in an interview.


In launching the investigation, *Tinsley* bypassed the normal

practice of letting the military police branch first do its own

investigation into complaints.


"I think in this case the circumstances required us to move," he

said, noting that Canada's Somalia mission in 1993 - when several

Canadian soldiers were accused of torture and cover-up - is "still

fresh in many minds."


"Those thinking Canadians that care want to be assured that this is

not a Somalia event," he said.


Canada has about 2,500 troops as part of an international military

force in the Kandahar region of southern Afghanistan.


The revelations that detainees had been injured came to light this

week after Ottawa law professor Amir Attaran obtained defence

department documents detailing the injuries.


In his complaint to the commission, Attaran said it appeared the

men had been beaten. Yesterday, he expressed "delight" with the

latest investigation, but had sharp criticisms for the defence

department's response to the allegations.


"The nature of the injuries - no, it's not another Somalia,"

Attaran said yesterday.


"But the reflexive instinct of senior DND leadership and the

minister to first deny the flow of information to the public and

second to shoot the messenger is very Somalia-like," he said. "The

point here is transparency and accountability, which for reasons

that have to be explained by DND, are inadequate."


In a letter to Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor and Gen. Rick

Hillier, chief of the defence staff, *Tinsley* asks why senior brass

didn't launch their own probe sooner.


"I share the complaint's concern that the relevant military

authorities have already had considerable opportunity to initiate

internal processes but have waited until this public complaint to do

so," Tinsley wrote.


After news of the complaint broke, Hillier vowed to fix any lapses,

but also said there could be "nothing" to the concern.


Yesterday, Tinsley said comments by "senior military authorities"

could suggest a "predisposition" to find no wrongdoing.


Defence officials say at least one of the detainees - found in a

compound where bomb-making components were also uncovered - was

"very aggressive" and refused to comply.


"Appropriate physical use of force was necessary to bring him to

the ground," according to a military account provided to journalists

this week.


Liberal defence critic Denis Coderre (Bourassa) said he's happy

with the independent probe, but wants O'Connor to declare when he

first learned of the detainee injuries.


The Canadian Forces national investigation service is looking into

the matter, as is a board of inquiry, ordered by Hillier.


A third probe for Afghan abuse claims

Case could lead to wider review of detainee policy

Paul Koring, Globe and Mail, p. A20, 10 Feb 07

Article Link


The independent Military Police Complaints Commission yesterday

ordered a "public-interest investigation" into possible detainee

abuse by Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan, the third investigation

into the case announced in a week.


"The possible abuse of defenceless persons in CF (Canadian

Forces) custody, regardless of their actions prior to apprehension

and the possibility that military police members may have knowingly

or negligently failed to investigate such abuse . . . are matters

of serious concern," chairman Peter Tinsley said.


The investigation could expand beyond the narrow issue of whether

one or more detainees captured near Dukah, Afghanistan, in April,

2006, were beaten or abused in Canadian custody before being

turned over to Afghan security forces.


The murky issue of whether Canadian military police can lawfully

hand detainees to Afghan authorities without ironclad guarantees

that they will not be mistreated could conceivably become part

of the investigation, Mr. Tinsley said, adding it is too early

to know where his probe will lead.


"We are looking at a specific complaint, but the commission

is not restrained from (progressing) from the facts of a case

to systemic issues," he said in an interview.


Ever since Canada joined the U.S.-led war on terrorism, the

disposition of captives by Canadian soldiers to other parties

-- first to U.S. troops, then to Afghan forces since December,

2005 -- has caused widespread concern among human-rights



"I hope this might be a springboard for a wider review of Canadian

detention policy," said Alex Neve, secretary-general of Amnesty

International Canada.


"We have very serious human-rights concerns" about what happens

to detainees handed off by Canada, he said.


Mr. Tinsley said he had "been assured of full co-operation"

by Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor's staff.


The commission may hold public hearings if "our investigation

uncovers evidence" that warrants one, Mr. Tinsley said. It could

also, for the first time, lift the veil of secrecy obscuring

Canada's detainee practices.


Successive Canadian Liberal and Conservative governments have

refused to say how many detainees have been handed over in the

past five years. Incomplete logs suggest scores of captives

have disappeared into Afghan prisons.


Former Liberal leader Bill Graham, who was defence minister

when the 2005 pact on detainee handovers was signed between

General Rick Hillier and Afghan authorities, said he welcomed

the MPCC decision to probe abuse allegations.


"I am totally in favour of something as open as possible, and

I welcome it because it's clear they are taking it seriously,"

he said yesterday.


NDP defence critic Dawn Black also said she welcomed Mr. Tinsley's

decision. "Hopefully we will find out that there was no abuse,"

she said. "That will be good for the Canadian Forces."


Mr. Tinsley rejected a call from Captain Steve Moore, the Provost

Marshal, or chief of military police, to delay any outside investigation

until the criminal probe launched a few days ago was



The military was quick to order both a criminal investigation

and a broader board of inquiry within hours of learning that

the MPCC was considering a complaint about an odd pattern of

facial injuries suffered by detainees. But last month, it dismissed

questions from The Globe and Mail about those injuries being

listed in the same document as "appropriate force," even while

acknowledging that one of the detainees' hands was bound behind

his back.


In addition to the MPCC public-interest investigation and the

criminal investigation by a special unit of the military police,

Gen. Hillier has also ordered a board of inquiry to examine

the "policy and procedural safeguards" surrounding detainee


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