- Published on Thursday, 17 December 2009 00:37
- Written by Bill Broderick
- Hits: 1466
For most of us, torture is something the "bad guys" do. When we read about torture in history or novels, it's always the villains who do it, such as Nazis, the Inquisition, or some other group of nasties. The good guys, us, are always squeaky clean. We don't do those things.
But as revealed over the last few years, we do. A year or three back, the news was all about Abu Ghraib and other prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the rendition of prisoners to countries that had no compunctions about compelling prisoners by whatever means to give vital information if they had any.
Torture takes many forms: sleep deprivation; severe beatings and whippings; electrical shock; waterboarding; fingernail pulling; burning cigarettes; boiling hot water; psychological torture such as listening to somebody else being tortured; and much more. Sleep deprivation, waterboarding, and psychological torture are favoured in democratic countries because they do not leave any visible marks or injuries on the victim's body. The term for the use of torture is "enhanced interrogation techniques." All torture is illegal.
Former Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin, who served in Afghanistan from 2006 to 2007, has come forward to say that Canadian troops in Afghanistan handed over prisoners to Afghan security authorities for almost certain torture, in violation not only of official Canadian policy but also in contravention of international law. He claims that he alerted the Canadian Forces, Foreign Affairs officials, and senior Canadian government ministers, including the Prime Minister's Office, about the detainee situation in 2006 and even sent at least one letter directly to General Rick Hillier.
It seems strange that today, in the 21st century, so-called enlightened countries and governments are still either using torture or turning a blind eye to it. But in Canada's case, perhaps not so strange. After all, ours is the country that leaves its own citizens, like Brenda Martins, Suaad Hagi Mohammud, and Abousfian Abdelrazik to languish in foreign jails for months and even years. We allowed the U.S. to arrest Canadian citizen Maher Arar and rendition him to Syria for torture. And child soldier Omar Khadr is left to the mercies of the U.S. justice system while Britain and other NATO countries have taken their citizens home.
Although, we are told that the practice of handing over prisoners to the Afghans has been discontinued, some ask why we should worry about what Afghans do to the Taliban or other Afghans. The answer is, we have both a moral and legal responsibility under international law to keep prisoners from harm. It's a responsibility we ignore at our peril. Do we want our soldiers handed over to those who might torture or mistreat them? What about the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would they should do unto you"?
Even in time of war, we should not forget our humanity.