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Canadian Watchdog clears troops, slams brass in Afghan torture case


From The Globe and Mail:

A military watchdog has rendered its long-awaited verdict on transfers of Canada’s battlefield prisoners to torture-prone jails in Afghanistan, saying eight soldiers can’t be held responsible because they were largely kept in the dark by senior Canadian Forces brass.

The Military Police Complaints Commission fought a losing battle with Defence Minister Peter MacKay and the rest of the Harper government as it tried to investigate allegations the military knew the detainees it turned over to Afghan officials would face abuse and mistreatment.

Mr. MacKay’s Conservatives battled the watchdog in court and succeeded in significantly limiting the scope of its investigation. The Defence Minister also refused to extend the term of the original chair of the commission so he could finish his probe.

The commission’s report, released Wednesday, offers recommendations to improve information-sharing among military police when they are deployed on missions such as Canada’s six-year deployment in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

The watchdog was investigating whether eight members of Canada’s military police failed to adequately investigate the decisions of Canadian commanders to transfer detainees to Afghanistation’s notorious National Directorate of Security between May 2007 and June 2008.

It found, however, that senior Canadian defence officials kept a tight lid on information about detainee abuse and kept military police out of the loop.

“The Commission discovered in the course of its proceedings that key information with respect to detainee abuse ... tended to stay within a closed circle of individuals at CEFCOM,” the watchdog said, speaking of Canada’s Expeditionary Force Command.”

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