Alarming detention issues alleged by diplomat

A former Canadian diplomat warned the federal government in May 2006 of “serious” and “alarming” problems with the handling of Afghan prisoners in Kandahar.

Military Police Complaints Commission chair Peter Tinsley listens to remarks during the Public Interest Hearings into the allegations regarding Afghan Detainees in Gatineau

OTTAWA — A former Canadian diplomat warned the federal government in May 2006 of “serious” and “alarming” problems with the handling of Afghan prisoners in Kandahar.

Richard Colvin, deputy head of intelligence at the Canadian embassy in Washington, filed several reports during his roughly 18 months in Afghanistan.

He filed an affidavit with the Military Police Complaints Commission, which is investigating what military cops knew, or should have known, about the possible torture of prisoners.

The 16-page written statement was sealed last week for a national security review, but was released publicly today.

The Conservative government repeatedly said in the spring of 2007 that it had received no credible reports of prisoner abuse.

But Colvin said he warned the deputy commander of the provincial reconstruction base after he became aware of problems upon arriving in Kandahar in April 2006.

He visited Sarpoza prison before writing a detailed report a month later.

“Judging these problems regarding Afghan detainees to be serious, imminent and alarming, I made investigations and detailed my findings formally in my reporting from the PRT,” Colvin wrote.

The report was submitted to the Foreign Affairs Department, but cc’d to senior military officers — both in Kandahar and Ottawa.

Colvin said he sent it through specific “action address” channels, “which ensured it would not only be received and read, but should be acted on.”

He still has the report, but has not yet turned it over to the commission.

It remains unclear in the affidavit whether the stark warnings were passed along to either Defence Minister Peter MacKay, who was in the foreign affairs portfolio at the time, or former defence minister Gordon O’Connor.

Paul Champ, the lawyer for Amnesty International and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, was startled to read about Colvin’s report.

He said the May 26, 2006, report was not disclosed in previous court actions launched by the human-rights groups, which have been trying to halt transfers of Afghan prisoners.

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