Where were we? Oh yes. Torture.
On Friday Justice Minister Rob Nicholson announced the government was appointing Frank Iacobucci, a former Supreme Court judge with no legal hold over them, to determine what documents pertaining to the Afghan detainee issue could be released without compromising national security, national defence, and/or international relations. The scope and terms of Iacobucci’s appointment are not known and he will report directly to Nicholson.
A number of bloggers have already weighed in on Iacobucci’s suitability to the task. Steve at Far and Wide in particular points to Iacobucci having already previously agreed to omit information — at the Minister’s request — from the public version of his October 2008 inquiry into the illegal renditioning of three Canadian citizens, Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad el-Maati, and Muayyed Nurredin to Syria and Egypt where they were tortured before being deemed innocent.
In light of Prof. Amir Attaran’s explosive allegations on CBC that Afghan detainees were handed over to Afghan authorities with the precise purpose of having them tortured, and Sunday’s news that CSIS was involved in the interrogation of Afghan detainees, it’s worth looking at what was omitted from Iacobucci’s 2008 report.
What was included in the initial report was bad enough:
In September 2001, the RCMP described Mr. El Maati to Syria and Egypt as an Al Qaeda associate and an “imminent threat to public security.”
CSIS decribed him as “involved in the Islamic Extremist movement” and “an associate of an Osama Bin Laden.”
They then shared his travel plans with the CIA, who passed them on.
Mr. El Maati was detained in Syria for two months and Egypt for two years, where he was tortured with electric shock to his hands, back, and genitals, and sleep deprivation while being subjected to excruciatingly painful stress torture for days on end.
In 2003, CSIS sent Egypt a “statement of concern” about Mr. El Maati should he be released from custody.
Iacobucci said he could not stress sufficiently that these three must “be presumed innocent of any wrongdoing.”
In June 2002, CSIS agents advised Egyptian authorities that El Maati was involved in a plan “to commit a terrorist act in Canada.” They did not say, and maintain they could not have known, that this “confession” was derived from his torture in Syria.
In December 2002, CSIS went to Egypt with a list of questions “to which it wished to obtain answers.”
While we the public were prevented from seeing this latest information till two weeks ago, Justice Iacobucci knew it all along and sought to have it made public. And yet in his summation to his 2008 report he still concluded:
“The inquiry did find that the three men were tortured in foreign prisons and that the mistreatment may have ‘resulted indirectly from several actions of Canadian officials.’
“I found no evidence that any of these of these officials were seeking to do anything other than carry out conscientiously the duties and responsibilities of the institutions of which they were part.”
And that, as I said at the time, is the most damning part of all.
I offer this blogpost just to run to ground the discussion on Iacobuccu’s suitability as a beard for the Cons. In truth, I’m with Pogge and Eugene Forsey here — Nicholson can talk to anyone he likes — it doesn’t matter. Parliament has demanded the documents. The Cons are currently in contempt of Parliament. Ultimately they must be forced to give the documents up. It’s the law here.