Canadian general dismisses diplomat's testimony

AP News
Posted: Nov 25, 2009 7:37 PM

Two of Canada's former top generals denied they ignored evidence that prisoners handed over to Afghanistan's intelligence service a few years ago were tortured.

Gen. Rick Hillier testified at a hearing in Parliament on Wednesday that he didn't see any substantive evidence of torture. Gen. Michel Gauthier backed Hillier's claim.

They said reports by a former senior diplomat in Afghanistan never mentioned that prisoners were at risk of torture in 2006.

Richard Colvin, a Canadian intelligence officer who was working in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007, alleged last week that he sent several reports to senior military and government officials, which he said were ignored.

Colvin said Hillier, once Canada's top military commander and main spokesman for the war in Afghanistan, knew detainees faced torture.

"I saw nothing that would have caught my attention," Hillier said.

Opposition parties called for a full public inquiry after Colvin alleged that captives taken by Canadian troops and handed over to Afghan authorities were subjected to beatings and electric shocks in 2006 and early 2007.

Canada has about 2,800 soldiers in the volatile southern Afghan city of Kandahar on a combat mission that is due to end in 2011. Canadian troops first began transferring detainees to Afghan authorities in late 2005.

The Red Cross tried for three months in 2006 to warn the Canadian army in Kandahar about what was happening to prisoners, but no one would take their phone calls, said Colvin, who is now an intelligence officer at the Canadian embassy in Washington.

According to the intelligence officer, Canada took roughly six times more prisoners than British forces and 20 times more than the Dutch. He said the vast majority of the prisoners were ordinary Afghans, many with no connection to the insurgency.

"Nothing could be further from the truth," Hillier said. "We detained under violent actions people trying to kill our sons and daughters who had in some cases done that."

Hillier said Colvin's allegations that nearly all prisoners handed over to Afghanistan's intelligence service were tortured is ludicrous.

Colvin also said he was told in 2007 by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's foreign affairs adviser, David Mulroney, to leave no paper trail about the allegations. Mulroney is scheduled to testify on Thursday.