Natynczyk reversal adds to pressure for torture inquiry

General Walter Natynczyk (left) being briefed in Afghanistan, 12 July 2008. DND photo AR2008-M060-04.

General Walter Natynczyk (left) being briefed in Afghanistan, 12 July 2008. DND photo AR2008-M060-04.

Chief of Defence Staff General Walter Natynczyk dropped a bombshell in Ottawa on Wednesday, admitting that a prisoner taken by Canadian soldiers in 2006 had in fact been in Canadian custody prior to his transfer to and subsequent severe beating by Afghan authorities.  Earlier this week, Natynczyk had testified to parliament’s National Defence committee that the Afghan man in question had not been in Canadian custody prior to the transfer.

The issue is important because it proves that Canada had evidence by 2006 at the latest that prisoners transferred to Afghan custody were at risk of torture or other maltreatment following their transfer. Defence Minister Peter MacKay has maintained that the Canadian government had no proof of any mistreatment of Afghan detainees it was transferring to Afghan custody at the time.

It remains unclear whether the man in question was ever formally processed as a Canadian detainee. But the Natynczyk revelation adds credence to the charge made by diplomat Richard Colvin that such abuse was routinely taking place at the time and that the Canadian government was aware of the risk. Knowingly transferring a prisoner to torture or abuse is a war crime.

The new information adds to the growing pressure on the Harper government to establish a public inquiry or other form of formal investigation into the Canadian prisoner transfer policies of the time.

More coverage:

Steven Chase, “Top general’s detainee reversal hikes pressure for public inquiry,” Globe and Mail, 9 December 2009.

Richard J. Brennan, “MacKay: ‘We have never turned a blind eye’ to torture,” Toronto Star, 9 December 2009.

Don Martin, “Flip-flop hurt military on Afghan torture file,” National Post, 9 December 2009.

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