Canada generals deny ignoring Afghan abuse warning

Wed Nov 25, 2009 6:33pm EST
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Two former Canadian military commanders denied accusations on Wednesday that they had ignored warnings that Afghan authorities might torture and abuse detainees handed over to them.

The two also said they had moved to tighten monitoring of prisoners once credible reports of abuse finally arrived.

The Conservative government has come under heavy pressure following allegations by a senior diplomat that Canadians had handed over Afghan detainees even after hearing his warnings of abuse -- a war crime if true.

Diplomat Richard Colvin testified last week that he had sent 17 reports to senior officials in the defense and foreign ministries in 2006 and 2007 about the chances of abuse and said he thought most, if not all, of those handed over had been tortured by Afghan officials.

But retired Lieutenant-General Michel Gauthier, who at the time was responsible for deploying Canadian troops abroad, said Colvin had not specifically mentioned the torture risk in his reports until June 2007.

Gauthier told a special House of Commons committee on Afghanistan that although he could not recall having read any of Colvin's reports at the time, he had looked at them recently.

"I can very safely say there is nothing in any of these 2006 reports that caused any of the subject matter experts on my staff, nor by extension me, to be alerted to either the fact of torture or of a very high risk of torture. Nothing," Gauthier said.

"Moreover, there was nothing in these documents that would have caused me to speak to the chief of defense staff, nor for him to speak with our minister."   Continued...