Critics are blasting the Canadian government and calling for the defence minister's resignation over new allegations that Afghan prisoners had been tortured.
"If this report is accurate, Canadians have engaged in war crimes, not just individually but as matters of policy," said Michael Byers, a professor of international law, on Monday.
"Canadian forces cannot be turned into a collection agency for torturers, and Mr. O'Connor and Gen. Hillier have let it become that," added law professor Amir Attaran.
He was referring to Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor and Gen. Rick Hillier, chief of defence staff for the Canadian Armed Forces.
War crimes as policy? Attaran is particularly blunt, saying Canada (that is, Stephen Harper and the Conservatives) must shoulder all the blame:
Byers and Attaran told The Canadian Press that the only solution is for the Conservatives to build their own detention centre overseas.
"These are the most serious allegations, they cast Canada's reputation into a serious shadow," said Byers.
"They raise issues of criminal prosecutions, both here and abroad."
Byers and Attaran both raised the possibility that Canadian troops could be prosecuted in foreign countries, or even in Canada, if they were found to knowingly have been transferring detainees into a situation where torture would be used.
Attaran told CTV that Canada is to blame for the situation.
He said Hillier essentially set up a "nudge-nudge, wink-wink" situation with the Afghan authorities.
"We knew the Afghans were torturing people but we wanted to hand the detainees to the Afghans so that they could be tortured and intelligence could be wrung out of them. ... we're outsourcing it."
Who is Amir Attaran?
Dr. Amir Attaran is a lawyer (LL.B., University of British Columbia) and immunologist (DPhil, Oxford) who writes on public health and global development issues. He has been published in journals such as Nature, the Lancet, the Journal of the American Medicial [sic] Association, the Yale International Law Journal, and also in the New York Times, the Globe and Mail, and other publications.
Dr. Attaran is also a forceful human rights advocate, having called for international prosecutions to end the crimes against humanity perpetuated by the regime in Zimbabwe, and recently having joined with NGOs to criticize Canada's military for failing to protect the rights of detainees they arrest during their mission in Afghanistan, including to expose those detainees to the risk of torture or transfer to Guantanamo Bay.
Funny how Attaran criticizes Guantanamo Bay but then demands that Canada build its own internment centre.
You can almost imagine Stephen Harper taking Attaran's advice and building a camp to hold Taliban prisoners, only to be on the receiving end of even further criticism from Attaran for yet more problems.
As if Stephen Harper couldn't do anything right.
But then that's a way an opposition politician would act, not an academic.
Which got me thinking...so I checked into Attaran's background:
[Amir Attaran] is currently Associate Professor of Law and Population Health, and the holder of the Canada Research Chair in Law, Population Health and Global Development Policy at the University of Ottawa, Canada. Previously he was an adjunct lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard University, publishing research as part of the Center for International Development and the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Wait, isn't that where Michael Ignatieff, second-in-command of the Liberal Party, taught during his years as a professor? Sure, but then there are a lot of professors and other staff at the Carr Center. I mean, what are the odds that Attaran and Ignatieff crossed paths in a meaningful way, in a way that would suggest that Attaran would want to help the Liberals undermine the Conservatives?
Fernande Raine, the centre's executive director, says Mr. Ignatieff was someone she instantly trusted, someone who cared about the people he worked with and their personal lives and families...
"That was very rare at Harvard," she says. "He was probably the least political person in a tactical way of thinking at the Kennedy School."
Amir Attaran, now Canada research chair in law, population health, and global development policy at the University of Ottawa, was a research fellow at the Kennedy School during Mr. Ignatieff's time at the Carr.
He ran afoul of an influential faculty member and the school's administration over a line of academic inquiry he insisted on pursuing, and found himself about to be booted out.
He brought his troubles to Mr. Ignatieff, who gave him office space and mentoring support until he could find another academic home. "Michael stuck up for me against some extremely nasty attacks," Prof. Attaran says.
Well, I'd say that counts.
Call me cynical, but it sure sounds like Attaran owes Ignatieff a favour in return. A big favour.
And so when the Liberals start taking heat from the Conservatives for being so concerned about murderous Taliban (who as an irregular guerilla force are not covered by the Geneva Conventions), suddenly out pops Amir Attaran to give the Liberal attacks the veneer of academic respectability. More importantly, Amir Attaran can accuse Canadian soldiers of committing war crimes, something no Liberal member of parliament could do and still hope to be re-elected. Liberals can still prattle on about how they "support" Canadian troops, even as Attaran, a close personal friend of Michael Ignatieff, calls Canadian soldiers, their commanders, and the government of Stephen Harper a bunch of war criminals.
Pretty good plan, when you think about it.