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Shared in accordance with the "fair dealing" provisions, Section 29, of the Copyright Act.


Detainee briefings routine in '05

Issues relating to Afghan captives were a high priority during his tenure as defence minister, Graham says

Paul Koring, Globe & Mail, 9 Feb 07

Article Link


Official Canadian documents show that General Rick Hillier and former defence minister Bill Graham were routinely briefed in 2005 on the transfer and medical condition of Afghan detainees.


The documents -- originally marked "Secret (Canada/USA Eyes Only)" -- have been declassified, and although heavily edited, released under access-to-information legislation.


"These would have been routinely received in my office," Mr. Graham confirmed yesterday. The documents include not only details of the capture and transfer but also the detainee's medical condition and whether he had been injured.


The Canadian Forces didn't respond yesterday when asked whether Gen. Hillier, the Chief of Defence Staff, and current Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor were similarly briefed 10 months ago about the injured detainees, now at the centre of a criminal investigation into possible abuse by Canadian soldiers.


This week, Mr. O'Connor said: "Senior management is not aware of every activity going on inside the department."


However, if documents detailing briefings from Gen. Hillier to the then Liberal defence minister represent a pattern that continued once the Conservatives took office, then both the Chief of Defence Staff and the minister would have been briefed within days of the capture and transfer of suspected Taliban fighters.


"If there was a lapse in a process or policies, we'll find that out and correct it," Gen. Hillier said this week after ordering a military board of inquiry to probe the handling and transfer of detainees.


Mr. Graham said not every detainee transfer came to his personal attention. "If there was a red flag, it would have come to me," he said.


At least one of three Afghans captured on April 7 near Dukah suffered injuries while in Canadian military custody. The military says only "appropriate force" was used.


Two investigations are under way: a criminal probe by a special military police unit into possible detainee abuse and a broader board of inquiry.


A third investigation, a public-interest inquiry, may be launched today by the Military Police Complaints Commission.


Mr. Graham said yesterday that he didn't recall seeing every "detainee-transfer situation report" but that detainee issues were a high priority.


The pattern of documents and briefings, at least as recently as 2005, suggests that the highest-ranking officers and their political masters were advised about detainee issues in a timely fashion.


Mr. O'Connor and Gen. Hillier indicated this week that they knew nothing about the suspicious patterns of facial injuries on three detainees at the centre of the investigations until Ottawa law professor Amir Attaran brought them to the attention of the MPCC.


Prof. Attaran has been accused of behaving "unprofessionally" by a senior Canadian Forces spokeswoman, Commander Denise LaViolette, a judgment the military declined to disavow yesterday despite written questions from The Globe and Mail asking whether Gen. Hillier shares those views.


The hundreds of fragmentary documents released under access law to Prof. Attaran don't include any ministerial briefing notes from Gen. Hillier pertaining to the April 8, 2006, transfer of the three detainees.


The Canadian Forces didn't answer written inquiries from The Globe asking whether the same briefing pattern that existed for Mr. Graham continued for Mr. O'Connor.


However, another document suggests that information on detainee transfers remained a high priority and were brought to the attention of high-ranking officers at Defence headquarters.


A briefing note, dated April 12, 2006, and originally marked "Secret," but since declassified, notes the transfer to Afghan National Police of the three detainees captured in Dukah. Under the heading: "Task Force Afghanistan; Commanders Comments" a note reads: "Detainee transfer went well, even through it was not as fast as we would have liked. All regulations were followed and all reporting is now complete."


There is no mention of injuries.


And despite the commander's notation that all reporting was complete, the document trail is missing several usual items.


The medical report is blank. The normal procedure is for detainees to be pronounced "fit for transfer" or "fit for release."


Similarly, the inventory of one of the detainees' personal belongings wasn't completed. A notation says it wasn't done because the Afghan was injured.

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