Canada commission to go ahead with public hearing on Afghan detainee transfers

[JURIST] The Canadian Military Police Complaints Commission (MPCC) [official website] decided [PDF text] Tuesday to move forward with a public hearing investigating the country's military detainee transfer process in Afghanistan despite a move from the Canadian Department of Justice [official website] to block the inquiry [JURIST report]. MPCC Chair Peter A. Tinsley, issuing the decision pursuant to the National Defence Act [250.38 text], rejected the government's arguments that the MPCC's reach is limited to military policing issues and thus lacks jurisdiction to conduct the investigations that involve military operational decisions regarding detainee treatment:

I find, based on principles of statutory interpretation, that the Complaints Commission has jurisdiction over the second Detainee Complaint pursuant to section 250.18(1) of the National Defence Act and section 2 of the Complaints About the Conduct of Members of the Military Police Regulations (the “Conduct Regulations”). The allegations relate to the policing duties and functions of the military police, which includes “custody”. This interpretation is consistent with the purpose of the provisions establishing the Complaints Commission, which is to provide independent oversight of the conduct of members of the military police when engaged in policing duties or functions. The Attorney General's interpretation, if accepted, would significantly restrict, and perhaps eliminate, the scope of review by the Complaints Commission of essentially all military police conduct, without regard to the clear language and purpose of the Act. This is not consistent with the legislative purpose of the Act.
Tinsley also cited the "threat to public confidence in the military police" as a public interest justification for the hearings. MPCC spokespersons said that interviews in connection with the inquiry will begin immediately, with the hearings tentatively scheduled for December. The Ottawa Citizen has more.

The investigation began in February 2007 as Amnesty International Canada and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association [advocacy websites] filed complaints against the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal [official website], alleging complicity in torture by Canadian personnel serving in Afghanistan as part of the NATO International Security Assistance Force [official website]. The MPCC opened its own investigation, and in March announced public hearings [JURIST report] to issue subpoenas and compel disclosure, saying that it was unable to complete its investigation because several departments in the Canadian government were refusing to hand over key information. In April, the Canadian Department of Justice filed papers in Canada's Federal Court [official website] to contest the MPCC's jurisdiction to hold the hearings. No decision has yet been rendered.


 

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