The CIA torture report gave us some definitive proof of what we already know: torture by the US in “black sites” all over the world, is widespread, brutal and provides absolutely nothing in the way of security or intelligence against attack.
Only 10 per cent of the report was released, suggesting that there is much more that we may never hear about. The Obama administration is working overtime to try and limit what is to be exposed. They also continue to fight against the release of more than 2000 photos from Abu Ghraib.
People across Canada are used to that lack of transparency. When Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament in 2010 it was because the house speaker at the time had ordered the conservatives to release the Afghan detainee files, which would have shown the government knew that Canadian forces in Afghanistan were sending people to torture.
In his testimony at the time, former Canadian diplomat in Afghanistan, Richard Colvin told the House of Commons that torture in Afghan prisons was routine—including the use of beatings, whipping, electric shock and rape. Again we have only seen a small portion of the more than 36,000 documents related to the case.
But we do know that the government of Canada—starting under the Liberals but now under the Conservatives—have no qualms about using information gained by torture. This is despite mountains of evidence that information gathered by torture is thoroughly unreliable. When someone is being tortured, they will tell you anything you want to hear. It often leads intelligence agencies on wild goose chases which can result in erroneous suspicion and further violations of civil liberties for those accused.
But again, the Conservatives have little problem with violations of civil liberties. In fact, they continue to support the use of solitary confinement in Canadian prisons despite the fact that it has been labeled as torture by the United Nations. Of course, they don’t call it torture but refer to the practice as “administrative detention”.
Either way, at any given time there are more than 800 people in solitary in Canadian prisons. Most are kept in isolation for much longer than the UN Convention, which considers any detainment of more than 2 week to be torture.
Torture doesn’t make us safe. It is used to strike fear into opponents. Given that this Harper government sees Canadians who oppose his agenda as opponents, we must demand accountability for any brutality used against detainees everywhere—from “black sites” to Abu Ghraib to Canadian prisons.