Ottawa June 27, 2012 -- The Military Police Complaints Commission has made recommendations to improve military police investigations in its response to a complaint about the conduct of Canada’s Military Police in Afghanistan.
The Commission’s report is in response to a complaint made by Amnesty International Canada (AIC) and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) on June 12, 2008. The two organizations alleged a failure on the part of certain Military Police officers to investigate the Canadian Task Force Commanders in Afghanistan for directing the transfer of detainees in the face of known risk of torture during the timeframe May 3, 2007 to June 12, 2008.
While the Commission found that the complaints against the eight individual Military Police subjects were unsubstantiated, it identified serious problems regarding reporting, accountability and information sharing in the Military Police, and made recommendations to improve the work of policing when MPs are deployed on missions. The Commission also made two recommendations designed to remove serious obstacles related to document disclosure and witness access during Public Interest Hearings conducted by the Commission.
“While the Commission has dismissed the complaint against eight individual senior Military Police officers, we have made a number of recommendations that we believe will improve the quality of policing services delivered by the Military Police,” said Commission Chairperson Glenn Stannard in releasing the 535 page report. “Despite the limitations imposed by its legal mandate, this inquiry was the most exhaustive yet held into the subject of detainee transfers by the CF in Afghanistan,” he said.
As noted in the report, the Commission’s legal mandate did not extend to making findings and recommendations concerning the Government of Canada and Canadian Forces’ policy on detainee transfers.
In the course of its investigation, which lasted nearly four years, the Commission determined that senior military commanders in Afghanistan did not believe that post-transfer issues were part of the mandate of the Military Police, and that MPs were “marginalized” when it came to discussions and information related to post transfer issues. Information on detainee abuse, including reports on site visits conducted by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade to Afghan detention facilities, stayed within a small group of people in Afghanistan that excluded the Military Police. Furthermore, the Commission found that “MP input into post-transfer detainee issues or the status of the transfer process would have been perceived as unwelcome.”
The Commission concluded, from the evidence as a whole, that none of the eight subjects of the complaint should have investigated the Task Force commanders while in theatre, or should have caused such an investigation to occur, and that their actions under the circumstances prevailing at the time “met the standards of a reasonable police officer.”
The Commission also found, however, that significant problems did exist with
respect to continuity of knowledge, accountability and information sharing
within the Military Police.
The report also contains a lengthy description of the obstacles experienced by the Commission related to procedural matters, and includes recommendations on improving the process for future public interest investigations and hearings. The obstacles experienced by the Commission when it came to document production, witness access, parallel court proceedings and claims of national security were significant, and, in the Commission’s view, largely unnecessary and avoidable.
The Commission heard testimony from 40 witnesses, including the eight subjects of the complaint, during 47 days of public hearings from 2008 to 2011. The Commission also reviewed thousands of documents in its investigation.
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