Thursday, March 08, 2007

It's time for a new Defence Minister

liberal catnip has been all over this for some time now. And now, the International Committee of the Red Cross has confirmed that Canadian Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor does not have his facts straight.
The International Committee of the Red Cross confirmed Wednesday that it has no role in monitoring the Canada-Afghanistan detainee-transfer agreement, in direct contradiction to assurances Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor has made to the House of Commons.

The Red Cross also said that it would never divulge to Ottawa any abuses it might identify in Afghan prisons.

"We were informed of the agreement, but we are not a party to it and we are not monitoring the implementation of it," Simon Schorno, a spokesman for the ICRC, said in an interview.

In his most explicit statement to the House of Commons on May 31, Mr. O'Connor said: "The Red Cross or the Red Crescent is responsible to supervise their treatment once the prisoners are in the hands of the Afghan authorities. If there is something wrong with their treatment, the Red Cross or Red Crescent would inform us and we would take action."

That's not the truth.

It now puts into question the entire process of dealing with prisoners captured by Canadian Forces in Afghanistan. The truth is, the ICRC monitors the treatment of prisoners under international guidelines. If they detect prisoner abuse they issue a report, usually in a confidential manner, to all parties involved. The ICRC would be violating the mandate set out for them if they were to enter into any specific agreement with any belligerent involved.

O'Connor's suggestion that the ICRC supervises the treatment of prisoners is patently false. The ICRC monitors conditions under which prisoners are held and issues public reports while confidentially reminding the belligerent parties of their obligations under Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions.

O'Connor is a retired brigadier-general. He knows all this. Or, at least he should.

This has been the ICRC mandate in this regard for as far back as I can remember:

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is mandated by the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions to monitor the full application of and respect for the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions regarding the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty. The ICRC reminds the High Contracting Parties concerned, usually in a confidential way, of their humanitarian obligations under all four Geneva Conventions, in particular the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions as far as treatment of persons deprived of their liberty is concerned and under Protocol 1 of 1977 additional to the Geneva Conventions, confirmed and reaffirmed rules of customary law and universally acknowledged principles of humanity.
Whether O'Connor is demonstrating a lack of knowledge of the ICRC position, or whether he is deliberately misleading Canadians is of little concern at this point. It is enough to demand his resignation as Minister of National Defence.

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