Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Liberals Expand Directives on Using Torture-Tainted Info to Military, Diplomats

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Liberals Expand Directives on Using Torture-Tainted Info to Military, Diplomats

Article excerpt

Military issued orders on using tainted info

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OTTAWA - The Liberal government has expanded its directions covering the use of foreign intelligence likely obtained through torture to include the Canada's military, diplomatic service and electronic spy agency.

The move means the Canadian Forces, Communications Security Establishment and Global Affairs Canada are being prohibited from using information gleaned from torture, unless it means saving lives.

That includes preventing a terrorist attack or protecting Canadian soldiers on overseas missions.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland say the directives are designed to ensure Canadian officials have clear guidelines and are not complicit in any abuse.

The directives "clarify and strengthen the measures on the disclosure or requesting of information that would result in a substantial risk of mistreatment," Sajjan said in a statement issued Thursday.

"They also prohibit certain use of information likely obtained through mistreatment, except when it is absolutely necessary to prevent loss of life or significant personal injury."

The measure has sparked mixed reactions, with NDP defence critic Randall Garrison describing it as a "public-relations exercise" that will have little real effect because of the exception allowing torture-tainted intelligence.

"In the end, the Canadian government remains complicit with torture," he said. "The prohibition on the use of torture. It's not: sometimes we do, sometimes we don't."

Amnesty International Canada called the new directives a welcome change from those issued by the previous Conservative government, although the group expressed concern with the fact that some torture-tainted info would still be allowed.

That concern was particularly acute when it came to the military, said Alex Neve, Amnesty Canada's secretary-general, given its recent history in Afghanistan and Iraq of partnering with groups that have questionable records.

Canada soldiers "may therefore be faced with decisions about what to do with information that bears the taint of torture on a regular basis," Neve said, so "the need for extra vigilance to ensure that the Canadian military is not implicated in torture is all the greater. …

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