I don’t know if the tribunal has the authority to do that or not, but if they do, that’s what I hope they do if these witnesses pull this stunt as ordered by the Conservative Federal Government’s Justice Department. Heck, throw some of the Justice Dept lawyers in jail for contempt as well, for ordering this stunt:
Federal lawyers are trying to block government witnesses from testifying before a military watchdog investigating the treatment of Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan, The Canadian Press has learned. The Justice Department has invoked national security and told the Military Police Complaints Commission that subpoenaed witnesses will be allowed to appear at the inquiry, but they will be instructed to say nothing when hearings begin next month. The position was laid out during a meeting among inquiry lawyers on Sept. 25, said the commission’s lead attorney, Freya Kristjanson.
Lawyers representing both the commission, as well as complainants Amnesty International and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, are aghast. “I’ve never seen something like that in all of my life,” said Kristjanson, who was counsel to the commission that investigated the Maher Arar deportation and torture case. “It seems to me the government has never had any intention of co-operating.”
The Conservatives are even going so far as to attempt to block a witness who WANTS to testify to the Tribunal from doing so:
A former Canadian diplomat with intimate knowledge of what the army may have known about alleged torture of Taliban prisoners in Kandahar has been barred from testifying at a public inquiry, The Canadian Press has learned…. Colvin’s lawyer, in a letter obtained by The Canadian Press, says her client has pertinent evidence. “For greater clarity, Mr. Colvin does have personal knowledge of what the military police subjects knew or had the means of knowing,” Lori Bokenfohr wrote in a response to the Justice Department on Sept. 28. Freya Kristjanson, the commission’s lead counsel, said Colvin was identified early on as a valuable witness, one who signalled that he was prepared to be interviewed by investigators ahead of his testimony. But Justice Department lawyers squelched the meeting just before it was to take place by invoking the national security clause, which barred him from speaking – either formally or informally. “The commission believes he has highly relative, credible and important evidence to provide on the issues,” Kristjanson said Wednesday. Colvin is the only government witness who agreed to meet commission investigators. She also said Colvin has documents which relate “to the risk of torture resulting from the transfer of detainees to Afghan authorities.”
This is an obvious attempt to stonewall the proceedings and prevent the truth from getting out as to what Canadian diplomats and government officials knew about whether Afghan prisoners were getting tortured when turned over to Afghan authorities. There is no “national security” at stake here; this is all to do to with trying to prevent the Conservative government from being embarrassed with potentially damaging revelations.
So, if the witnesses do this, I say (on condition the commission can actually do contempt charges) let them rest up in a holding cell until they change their mind or the government is embarrassed into allowing them to testify, so that half their staff aren’t guests of the Crown.