Canada's former ambassador to Afghanistan asked a diplomat to erase two bluntly worded sections from an April, 2007, report on how Ottawa's delays in notifying the Red Cross of prisoner transfers to Afghan authorities left these detainees vulnerable to abuse.
The Globe and Mail has learned that Arif Lalani asked for the edits from Richard Colvin, a diplomat at the centre of an unfolding controversy over whether Canada turned a blind eye when handing prisoners to Afghanistan's torture-prone authorities.
This editing took place in April, 2007, only days after a Globe investigation revealed disturbing allegations of abuse and torture among prisoners transferred by Canadians to Afghan detention - stories that kicked off a stormy debate in Ottawa.
In one of the sections he was requested to delete, Mr. Colvin remarked on a pattern observed by the Red Cross: that abuse took place almost immediately after prisoners were transferred to the Afghans - timing that meant Canada's tardiness made it very hard for the human-rights monitor to guard against torture.
"[A Red Cross official], who had read The Globe and Mail's reporting, said that the allegations of abuse made by those Afghans interviewed by [reporter] Graeme Smith fit a common pattern," Mr. Colvin wrote in text that was cut out....
he Globe and Mail has also learned that Mr. Lalani also asked Mr. Colvin to dramatically scale back the number of people in Foreign Affairs who would be e-mailed this same late April report on detainees - chopping the recipient list to about five from more than 70.
"Richard, please go with my distr[ibution list] - Arif," Mr. Lalani wrote on a printout of the draft e-mail, a heavily censored copy of which was obtained by The Globe and Mail. The edited and final version of this report was e-mailed from Kabul on April 30, 2007.
Here is the reaction from foreign affairs to justify deleting:
"Reporting is expected to be factual, objective, collaborative and subject to rigorous assessment. Mr. Lalani applied these same standards during his time as ambassador in Kabul."
If you buy this argument, then you have to conclude that the most well respected international human rights organization, THE RED CROSS, doesn't pass the credibility sniff test. That's the justification, which is beyond lame.
Colvin begins to report on torture concerns, and suddenly he is asked to trim his email list, to a small group approved by the ambassador. This revision, IN AND OF ITSELF, denotes CONCERN and an attempt to manage his reports. If there is nothing of concern, nothing substantive, you don't make this request to revise. This is behavior akin to people that want to muzzle information.
Limiting access to who can see Colvin's findings, and on top of that, DELETING material which challenges the detainee transfer arrangement. So, a reduced(once 70, now 5) number of people are allowed to receive the reports, and the Ambassador will delete what those select people actually see. That suggests a concerted effort to SUPPRESS what Colvin was reporting. Why?