Note that this rather blunt opinion of Canada or Canadian officials possibly being in breach of international law comes from a 3rd party, not an opposition political party. Here’s an excerpt of an article posted at Macleans by Professor Michael Byers, “who holds the Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law at the University of British Columbia, and has He has taught the laws of war at UBC, Duke University, Oxford University, the University of Cape Town and the University of Tel Aviv”:
‘Elements of a war crime seem to be present’
According to UBC’s laws of war expert, Canadian officials may be in breach of the Geneva Convention
…The actual facts are still emerging, but all the elements of a war crime seem to be present. The prohibition of torture ranks with the prohibitions of genocide and slavery as one of the most fundamental rules of international law. Torture—and complicity in torture—is a “grave breach” of the 1949 Geneva Conventions.
If Canadian officials allowed detainees to be transferred to Afghan custody despite an apparent risk of torture, and chose not to take reasonable steps to protect them, they are as guilty of a war crime as the torturers themselves. They could be prosecuted in Canada under the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act. Or they could be hauled before the International Criminal Court. Canada has ratified the ICC’s statute, giving it jurisdiction over Canadians who commit war crimes anywhere. However, the International Criminal Court will not intervene if Canadian officials are willing and able to investigate and prosecute. We must hope that the will to investigate and prosecute is present.
Given Peter MacKay’s attempt (as well as the rest of the Conservative government) to besmirch and smear Richard Colvin’s testimony, as well as the man himself (calling him a Taliban dupe, amongst other things) I have my doubts that at the moment this government is “willing to investigate and prosecute” on its own. It may need some prodding from the ICC to do so.
This is a serious matter, and the government should be calling for a public inquiry to get to the bottom of things one way or the other; not engaging in a witch-hunt against a whistleblower who well knew his career might be in jeopardy for coming forward with his testimony. As the author of the above piece writes at the end of his column:
It’s time for Canadians to rally behind this brave and principled diplomat. It’s time to insist that any war criminals be investigated and prosecuted, regardless of who they are.
I might also add that a public inquiry will determine if there WERE violations or not, and whether there is grounds for prosecution. All the more reason to have an independent judicial inquiry so that we can find out the truth of things. The Conservatives came in promising more open accountable government; it’s about time they practised what they preached.
In the meantime, I hope a few lawyers of some human rights organizations are giving the ICC a call to inform them of these allegations.