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Cablegate: Canadian Forces' Investigation Finds Afghan Detainee

DE RUEHOT #0980/01 3561935
O 221934Z DEC 09



E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) Summary: On December 21, the Canadian Forces National
Investigation Service (CFNIS) -- the independent investigative arm
of the Canadian Forces Military Police (CFMP) -- cleared the
Canadian Forces (CF) of almost all allegations of mistreatment of
Afghan detainees while in CF custody between 2006 and 2009.
Despite the Christmas parliamentary recess, the opposition parties
nonetheless appear determined to flex their muscles against the
minority government and not to let the detainee controversy lag.
Opposition members of the House of Commons Special Committee on
Canada's Mission in Afghanistan (AFGH) met unofficially (without
government members) on December 22 in Ottawa to hear testimony from
a retired diplomat and an NGO representative. Speculation grows
that the government may prorogue (temporarily suspend) Parliament
until March to cool off the debate and to halt the committee's
investigation. End summary.

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2. (U) Late on December 21, the Canadian Forces Military Police
(CFMP) announced the results of Canadian Forces National
Investigation Service's (CFNIS) investigations into allegations of
mistreatment of Afghan detainees in CF custody between 2006 and
2009. In all investigations completed to date, the CFNIS found
allegations of mistreatment by CF members "unfounded" and commented
that CF members had "acted appropriately when interacting with the
detainees." The CFMP documented each complaint with a separate
occurrence report. Examples of the allegations received by the
CFMP included complaints from detainees of forced adoption of a new
religion and not being afforded the time to go to the washroom or
perform ablutions for religious rituals.

3. (U) The CFMP filed one occurrence report in 2006, and two in
2007. In all three cases, the CFNIS determined that the
allegations were unfounded. The Military Police Complaints
Commission (MPCC) and a Board of Inquiry conducted separate
investigations into one of the 2007 incidents. Both bodies
supported the findings that allegations of mistreatment by CF were
unfounded, although the MPCC continues to address the conduct of
the CFMP as part of a separate investigation. The CFMP initiated
six occurrence reports in 2008. CFNIS found the allegations
unfounded in five of the six cases; one investigation is ongoing.
With respect to the ongoing investigation, CFNIS cleared CF members
regarding mistreatment of detainees, but continues to examine other
remaining allegations. In 2009, the CFMP filed three occurrence
reports. In all three cases, CFNIS determined that the allegations
were unfounded. The CFMP statement announcing these findings
underscored that the CFMP "takes allegations of alleged detainee
mistreatment and abuse seriously and investigates to determine the
facts, analyze the evidence and, if warranted, lay appropriate

4. (U) Separately, court martial proceedings will begin on
January 25 against a CF captain accused of killing a severely
wounded Taliban fighter in Afghanistan's Helmand province in
October 2008. The enemy combatant's wounds were reportedly judged
too severe to treat on the battlefield. Captain Robert Semrau
faces charges of second degree murder in the case. Semrau is the
first Canadian soldier to face charges in relation to the death of
an alleged enemy fighter in Afghanistan.


5. (U) Members from the Liberal Party, New Democratic Party, and
Bloc Quebecois on the House of Commons' Special Committee on
Canada's Mission in Afghanistan (AFGH) met informally (without
members from the ruling Conservative Party) in Ottawa on December
22 to continue hearings into the Afghan detainee issue (reftels).
The House of Commons had adjourned on December 10, until January
25, but individual committees may continue to meet during recess at
the written request of at least four committee members. Opposition

OTTAWA 00000980 002 OF 002

members had previously tried to convene the AFGH on December 15,
but all Conservative members skipped the meeting, depriving it of a
quorum. Committee rules allow meetings to function without a
quorum with as few as three (out of a total 12) members, but at
least one government member must be present to make a meeting
official. Under House of Commons rules, in these unofficial
committee meetings, proceedings are not recorded or transcribed,
members cannot exercise any of the powers of the committee (e.g. to
order or subpoena documents or witnesses), are not bound by regular
committee rules and practices, and are not entitled to any of the
privileges (such as immunity from prosecution for libel) associated
with formal parliamentary proceedings. In contrast, when
parliament is prorogued, all Committee functions -- formal and
informal -- terminate.

6. (U) Liberal Vice Chair Byron Wilfert chaired the December 22
informal AFGH meeting, while accusing the government of "thwarting"
the House of Commons' resolution of March 2008 to provide
parliamentary oversight over Canada's Afghan mission. The informal
AFGH meeting heard from two witnesses: civil rights lawyer Paul
Champ (who represents Amnesty International Canada and the British
Columbia Liberties Association -- BCLA) and Gar Pardy, a retired
diplomat and former head of consular affairs at the Department of
Foreign Affairs). (Amnesty International Canada and BCLA's 2007
complaint to the MCPP of alleged abuse of detainees and a separate
suit before the Federal Court to halt detainee transfers had
spurred the original debate on detainees; Pardy coordinated the
signatures of more than 100 former Canadian diplomats on a recent
public letter condemning the government's treatment of diplomat
Richard Colvin, who testified before the AFGH earlier this month.)
Prior to the meeting, Champ promised to urge the committee members
to move the detainee investigation away from the "hyper partisan
process" on Parliament Hill to an independent commission that could
provide guidance for a clear military policy on detainee transfers
procedures in any war theatre.


7. (U) On December 21, Conservative MP Laurie Hawn (parliamentary
secretary for national defence) notified the AFGH committee clerk
in a letter that Conservative members would not attend the December
22 meeting. Hawn argued that "only the most serious of
emergencies" should interfere with time spent with family over the
holidays and "there is presently nothing urgent needing study on
the subject of Taleban [sic] prisoners." Hawn insisted that
Canada's improved, post-2007 detainee transfer policy "remains the
"gold standard of our NATO allies."

8. (SBU) Comment: The tactical skirmishes over AFGH hearings are
an opportunity for the opposition to flex its muscles against the
minority government, but the detainee debate is still largely
confined to Parliament Hill and media circles. Opposition tactics
- and Conservative hardball against them -- are feeding increasing
speculation that the government may prorogue Parliament (as it did
one year ago to avoid losing a confidence vote) to try to lower the
temperature on detainees and to head off a January confrontation
over detainee documents. In year-end interviews (taped but not yet
aired), PM Stephen Harper reportedly did not rule out prorogation,
while pledging to bring forward a federal budget in March (not in
January, as in 2009). The clear CFNIS findings that allegations of
mistreatment of Afghan detainees by CF were unfounded were good
news for the CF in the midst of the detainee controversy, but are a
bit of a red herring, since the allegations of mistreatment have
been against Afghan authorities, not the CF, in cases where the CF
had transferred detainees to Afghan security forces. All political
parties have taken pains to underscore that the conduct of the CF
is not at issue in the detainee controversy.

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