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


Detainee whistle blower's 'agenda' attacked

Naval officer tried to intimidate him, law professor says

Paul Koring, Globe & Mail, 8 Feb 07

Article Link


The Ottawa law professor who sparked an investigation into the possible abuse of Afghan detainees by Canadian soldiers says he was contacted by a senior naval officer yesterday who tried to intimidate him and impugn his motives.


The officer, Commander Denise La Violette, a communications specialist for the military legal-affairs department and for the Provost Marshal, the military's chief of police, confirmed that when she returned a telephone call from Amir Attaran, she called him "unprofessional," questioned whether he "had a personal agenda" and eventually hung up on him after an acrimonious conversation.


Cdr. La Violette's querying of Prof. Attaran's motives came a day after Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor assured Canadians that the government takes the abuse charges seriously.


Prof. Attaran had called Navy Captain Steve Moore, the Provost Marshal, to seek information related to the case.


"It sounded like she wanted to manage the problem by trying to intimidate me," Prof. Attaran said, adding that he found it insulting. "She was impugning my motives and believing that it was inappropriate of me" to have raised the issue of detainee abuse, he said.


Cdr. La Violette, a veteran media specialist, denied her telephone call was an attempt to intimidate.


"I have never made any threats or tried to intimidate anyone," she said in an interview.


But in an e-mail, she confirmed telling Prof. Attaran, who holds a Canada Research Chair at the University of Ottawa, that "he was not behaving like a professional."


The Canadian Forces media office provided no response to written questions from The Globe and Mail about whether Cdr. La Violette's views reflect the official position of the Chief of Defence Staff General Rick Hillier or the Canadian Forces.


Only a day earlier, in announcing that he was ordering a full-blown board of inquiry into the incidents questioned by Prof. Attaran, Gen. Hillier said "the allegations of misconduct and detainee abuse are taken very seriously by both myself and my subordinate commanders." Gen. Hillier sent Prof. Attaran a copy of that letter. It was a formal reply to the Military Police Complaints Commission, which had received the file outlining the allegations from Prof. Attaran.


Capt. Moore ordered another investigation by a special police unit known as the National Investigative Service, "into potential offences related to the treatment of detainees." Capt. Moore also asked the Military Police Complaints Commission to delay any public-interest probe it might launch until the NIS investigation was complete. He sent Prof. Attaran a copy of that letter.


Prof. Attaran said that he had tried to contact Capt. Moore after receiving his letter to better understand the call for delay before making the submission to the MPCC that he had been requested to make by its chairman, Peter Tinsley. He left a telephone message at the Provost Marshal's office late Tuesday evening.


"Out of the kindness of my heart, I called him back," Cdr. La Violette said yesterday. She said "nobody knew I was calling him back." Cdr. La Violette said she asked Prof. Attaran whether "he had an agenda" because he had been saying he "didn't trust" the military to investigate itself.


Cdr. La Violette said she had a witness to her half of the conversation but declined to provide any details except to say "that person is a member of my staff." In her e-mail, Cdr. La Violette said she told Prof. Attaran "it would not be appropriate at this time for [the Provost Marshal, Capt. Moore] to speak with him as he is the complainant in an ongoing MP investigation and that [Capt. Moore] is ultimately responsible for the investigation."


Cdr. La Violette said she was unaware that Capt. Moore had sent Prof. Attaran a copy of his correspondence with the MPCC.


Prof. Attaran insists that he has no agenda other than to alert the appropriate authorities to the possibility of wrongdoing.


"I have an obligation as a citizen," he said. "I also have a super-added obligation as a lawyer to be vigilant of possible illegality; lawyers are officers of the court. And I have a further obligation as a professor, when it comes to sharing my research and educating policy makers and the public; research and education is what professors do."


Cdr. La Violette wasn't the first to sound a disparaging note about Prof. Attaran's efforts this week.


A day earlier, Mr. O'Connor said, "That's apparently his life. He does that sort of thing."


The minister also said senior officers didn't know about the documents showing a pattern of suspicious injuries that Prof. Attaran found and that led to the criminal investigation and the board of inquiry.


"There are many, many activities going on inside the Defence Department and senior management is not aware of every activity going on inside the department," he said.

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