Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Another 'Day' of Confusion

One of the many Conservative responses to allegations of detainee torture in Afghanistan has been that they have never seen any specific allegations. According to Government House Leader Peter van Loan, the Tories have "yet to see one specific allegation of torture". Sounds pretty definitive eh? And it would be - if it was true.

As the Globe & Mail reports today, Stockwell Day was informed of specific abuse allegations last week. You can read about it here.
"We've actually had a couple of incidents where detainees said they were [tortured]" said Day.

PM Harper meanwhile continues to insist that he is satisfied by assurances from Afghan authorities that prisoners are not being abused by Afghan authorities.

Over at the National Post, Jonathan Kay has written an editorial about the "headline-hogging" story of prisoner abuse. He complains that the good news stories - such as the decline in infant mortality rates since the ouster of the Taliban - are being buried in favour of those detailing the government's response (or lack thereof) to torture allegations. He rightly admonishes suggestions that our politicos should be investigated as war criminals - idiocy and incompetence are not crimes - but goes on to suggest that we "are treating the whole exercise like one big human rights grad seminar". He misses the point. True, we should all celebrate our triumphs in Afghanistan. The Taliban were a group of animalistic tyrants whose deeds were a stain on humanity. The decline in infant mortality in Afghanistan is likely one of many admirable after-effects of their removal from power. But the fact that war is "messy" and the enemy dishonourable should never give us license to turn a blind eye to torture and mistreatment of prisoners, be they Taliban or otherwise. We owe it to the very people we free from tyranny that we adhere to principles of fundamental human rights. If we don't demonstrate to the Afghan people that we take basic human rights seriously (and that these rights apply to everyone), who else will?

No comments: