Canada takes close allies U.S., Israel off torture watchlist
Training manual for diplomats caused uproar with its list of countries where prisoners risk being tortured.
Canada's foreign ministry, responding to pressure from close allies, said on Saturday it would remove the United States and Israel from a watch list of countries where prisoners risk being tortured.
Both nations expressed unhappiness after it emerged that they had been listed in a document that formed part of a training course manual on torture awareness given to Canadian diplomats.
Canadian Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier said he regretted the embarrassment caused by the public disclosure of the manual, which also classified some U.S. interrogation techniques as torture.
"It contains a list that wrongly includes some of our closest allies. I have directed that the manual be reviewed and rewritten," Bernier said in a statement.
"The manual is neither a policy document nor a statement of policy. As such, it does not convey the government's views or positions."
The document - made available to media outlets - embarrassed the minority Conservative government, which is a close ally of both the United States and Israel.
"We find it to be offensive for us to be on the same list with countries like Iran and China. Quite frankly it's absurd," U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins told The Associated Press. "For us to be on a list like that is just ridiculous."
He said the U.S. does not authorize or condone torture. "We think it should be removed and we've made that request. We have voiced our opinion very forcefully," Wilkins said.
A spokesman at the Israeli embassy said Israel forbids torture."Israel's Supreme Court is on record as expressly prohibiting any type of torture. If Israel is included in the list in question, the ambassador of Israel would expect its removal," spokesman Michael Mendel said.
Asked why the two countries had been put on the list, a spokesman for Bernier said: "The training manual purposely raised public issues to stimulate discussion and debate in the classroom."
The government inadvertently released the manual to lawyers for Amnesty International who are working on a lawsuit involving alleged abuse of Afghan detainees by local Afghan authorities, after the detainees were handed over by Canadian troops.
No one from Amnesty was immediately available for comment.
Under "definition of torture" the document lists U.S. interrogation techniques such as forced nudity, isolation, sleep deprivation and blindfolding prisoners.
It also mentions the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, where a Canadian man is being held.
The man, Omar Khadr, has been in Guantanamo Bay for five years. He is accused of killing a U.S. soldier during a clash in Afghanistan in 2002, when he was 15. Canada has long publicly said it accepts U.S. assurances that Khadr is being treated humanely.
One of Khadr's lawyers, Dennis Edney, said the document shows Canada says one thing publicly but believes something else privately.
"Canada was well aware that Omar Khadr's allegations of being tortured had a ring of truth to it. Canada has not once raised the protection of Omar Khadr when there are such serious allegations," Edney said. "What does that say to you about Canada's commitment to the rule of law and human rights. It talks on both sides of its face."
Other countries on the watch list include Syria, China, Iran, Afghanistan, Mexico and Saudi Arabia.
The foreign ministry launched the torture awareness course after Ottawa was rapped for the way it handled the case of Canadian engineer Maher Arar, who was deported from the United States to Syria in 2002.
Arar says he was tortured repeatedly during the year he spent in Damascus prisons. An official inquiry into the affair showed Canadian diplomats had not been trained to detect whether detainees might have been abused.
Like us on Facebook and get articles directly in your news feed