When diplomat Richard Colvin urged a March, 2007, meeting of Canadian officials to stop handing prisoners to Afghanistan's notorious intelligence service, a federal government note-taker put her pen down and stopped recording the meeting, an inquiry into detainees heard today.
"You know the NDS tortures people. That's what they do," Mr. Colvin said, recounting what he told an Ottawa meeting on Afghanistan with up to 15 officials from across the Canadian government.
"And if we don't want our detainees tortured we shouldn't give them to the NDS."
The diplomat told the Military Police Complaints Commission the note-taker's reaction showed him what he was "up against" in trying to draw Ottawa's attention to the torture risks facing Canadian-captured prisoners.
Mr. Colvin, the foreign service officer who reignited the long-simmering detainee controversy last fall, said Ottawa made it effectively impossible for human-rights inspectors to monitor any prisoners it handed over to Afghan's notorious intelligence agency in the early days of the Kandahar mission.
The diplomat, who has previously said nearly all of Canada's captives were abused after transfer, told a detainee inquiry today he was hearing reports of maltreatment within a month of his arrival in Kandahar.
"The information was conveyed that there was mistreatment of detainees."
Mr. Colvin, who was posted in Afghanistan for 17 months, told the Military Police Complaints Commission today that in 2006, Ottawa was stymieing follow-up monitoring by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
"In practice we were blocking them from doing that," Mr. Colvin told the commission. "They were losing many, if not most, or possibly all, of our detainees."
The diplomat said when he arrived in Kandahar in spring, 2006, he found the Red Cross was unable to locate or interview the detainees Canadian soldiers handed over to the torture-prone National Directorate of Security.
The Red Cross had been designated responsible for monitoring detainees but Canada refused to give it timely identifying information for the prisoners, Mr. Colvin said. Timing was crucial because most torture or maltreatment is believed to take place in the first 48 hours of detention, when the NDS tries to determine the intelligence value of detainees.
Mr. Colvin said it was taking Canada weeks or even months to notify the Red Cross of transfers. Plus, Ottawa was regularly handing over less-than adequate information for detainees, such as merely their first name and the village where they resided.
The Geneva Conventions, which Canada has signed, make it a war crime to knowingly hand over prisoners to torture or maltreatment. The agreements also oblige Canada to take back any detainees that it believes are being abused.