Madam Speaker, I cannot wait to read it.
I was saying that since 2001, a number of countries—the United States first and foremost, but also NATO, which is growing larger with the addition of the eastern European countries—have plunged into another world. That means that we have to review and take a fresh look at the principles that will apply. I say “we” because I am putting everyone in the same boat to start.
It is not easy, because this is not a traditional war. We are fighting a dirty war over there. We therefore have to develop principles that are going to allow us—we are still thinking about that—not necessarily to win the war, but to enable the Afghans to regain control of their country and develop it with our help.
By the way, I am anxious for us to talk about this. We are supposed to discuss it in committee first, and then in Parliament, but we must do so. How are we going to keep going after 2011? We have to carry on, not to wage war, but to help Afghanistan develop.
Canada sent soldiers into this situation and was supposed to know how to comply with the Geneva conventions. I do not know to what extent they were studied. It may be that they were not studied at all. It seemed that what was most important was to be strong, to win the war and to help the people.
We hear ministers and generals talk about how hard they have worked. I do not doubt that, but the fact remains that the Geneva conventions were drafted to tell countries how to treat detainees in war time, or if they are in a war zone and they are taking detainees.
We have to read the Geneva conventions. We certainly have all the documentation we need right here. The respect we owe the detainees, from the accommodation we provide them to the way we treat them, in every way, shape or form, is nothing less than respect for their rights, even if we view them as criminals before they even go trial. That is the rule.
And the rule is such that if a country responsible under the Geneva conventions—either the country providing assistance or the country receiving assistance—detains someone, transfers him and suspects that the detainee will be mistreated or tortured, that country has no right to transfer the detainee.
Does that pose real problems? I am sure it does. We have been told repeatedly that Afghan prisons are poorly built and poorly equipped and that the prisoners are malnourished. This has been well documented. We have also been told, and this too has been amply documented, that the conditions in the prisons are conducive to torture and there is indeed torture. These are standard practices. Just read the report of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. The commission conducted a major study on a sample of 398 prisoners. Of those, 57 detainees from Kandahar were identified as having been tortured. That is a substantial percentage.
Was it difficult to manage under these conditions? I think it was extremely difficult. Other countries have taken a different approach and have not agreed to transfer detainees to the Afghan authorities, knowing the state of the prisons and how the detainees are treated there.
That is not the purpose of this debate. However, it does help explain our anger. This is a false debate. We are right in saying that, in most situations, the signs were there and the government should have stopped transferring detainees. The government has said that, at first, it relied on the Red Cross. However, in the first agreement that was quickly negotiated and signed by General Hillier, Canada did not have full access, nor did the Red Cross.
Full access was necessary. In other words, they should have had access to the detainees at any time. There was a responsibility to keep exact written records of the detainees in order to know what happened to them. We should not forget that, in the Afghan prisons, these detainees could meet guards whom they had fought, or relatives of the guards might have been killed or injured by the detainees. When exact written records of detainees are required, there must be access to them. Without access, you cannot keep the records.
I tried to read the redacted documents we received. The bits that are visible at least allow us to understand that there was a great deal of discussion about transferring the detainees, under what conditions, and about the fact that they were unable to keep records. Someone said—and these were the exact words—“We have not tracked them for two months. Imagine what can happen in two months.” Someone wrote that.
There was no follow-up between December 2005 and May 3, 2007. There may have been good intentions, but there was no follow-up. Who can guarantee, in such cases, that the prisoners were not tortured after being transferred, even though we placed our trust in the process? After all, someone also wrote that Afghanistan was assuming responsibility for them.
This is explicitly prohibited in the Geneva convention. The country that is transferring the prisoners remains responsible and cannot transfer that responsibility.
Since that country remains responsible, if prisoners are transferred and the conditions are what they are, if there is a serious risk that the prisoner could be tortured, this contravenes the Geneva convention. That means that we could be penalized for contravening the convention.
I tried to paint a general picture. When I was young, I was a history teacher. I always made an effort not just to learn, but also to understand. What has been going on for the past few weeks? The government prevented Mr. Colvin from handing over documents that he had sent to a number of people as warnings. He had sent 18 or 19 documents all over to say that this or that could not be done. I think he said that it made no sense and that Canada would probably tarnish its reputation.
I hope that after this debate we will be able to see the documents in question.
We also heard testimony from individuals without any admission that a mistake had been made.
It makes sense that this issue would become explosive during oral question period in the House of Commons. But that is not what we want. What we want is to find a way to allow Mr. Colvin to testify, to get the documents and to restore Canada's reputation.