The Military Police Complaints Commission’s report made public last week — the latest chapter in the Afghan detainees controversy — makes an important point, one that ought to have been obvious: Canadian military police officers on foreign missions should be enabled by their superior officers to understand what is going on around them, to help them navigate the pitfalls of human-rights violations, international law and, in a word, a foreign country’s complex politics.
Frustratingly, the underlying issues — the most compelling questions — of whether Afghan detainees were handed over to be tortured by some of their fellow Afghans, and whether Canadians were negligent in letting that happen, remain mysterious. In other words, it is still unknown whether Canadians were involved in war crimes.
The MPCC is what it is: a commission to deal with complaints against military police. The eight officers against whom two civil-liberties organizations made complaints have all been cleared.
The report concluded, however, that the Canadian commanders in Afghanistan, as well as another authority called the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal, who is an adviser to the Chief of the Defense Staff on policing matters, had not given adequate guidance to the military police. They had not sufficiently communicated to the officers the principles and policies they needed to know in order to do their job well.
All this was clouded by the MPCC’s own difficulties in obtaining documents from the federal government. The commissioners complain that the government behaved like a difficult opposing lawyer in civil litigation, using the discovery process as “a litigation tool.”
The MPCC was created as a result of the Canada Forces’ troubles in Somalia in the 1990s, in the hope of avoiding future problems, or at least remedying them. It is unfortunate that, as yet, the Canadian public is very little the wiser about the disturbing matter of the Afghan detainees controversy, even after the efforts of the Military Police Complaints Commission.
The Globe and Mail, Toronto
Hong Kong powering on
The heckling of Hu Jintao in Hong Kong is a reminder that it retains its distinctive style 15 years after being handed back to the mainland. The Chinese president was in the former British colony for the inauguration as chief executive of Leung Chun-ying, a property surveyor who has been accused of clandestine membership of the Communist Party and of illegal building at his home on Victoria Peak. Mr Hu’s inaugural address was interrupted by a member of the audience shouting, “End one-party rule.” At the same time, a mass demonstration aired dissatisfaction with both the mainland and local governments.
Both incidents provide heartening evidence that Hong Kong continues to play an important role in pushing for political liberalization in China.
That may be uncomfortable for the leaders in Beijing, but against it must be set the value to them of the Special Administrative Region created in 1997 — with its financial and legal expertise and a triple-A credit rating — as a gateway into the mainland for foreign capital. Despite its transformation over the past 20 years, Shanghai cannot match that record.
Less encouraging is the disillusionment of Hong Kongers with Chinese rule, as witnessed on the streets and in two recent opinion polls. Among complaints are the widening gap between rich and poor, made worse by a property market inflated by excess capital from the mainland, and the ever-distant prospect of being able to elect the chief executive by universal suffrage. As Beijing prepares for a new leadership after a decade of repressive rule under Mr Hu, the situation is unlikely to improve. But Hong Kong should never despair of its influence on China that its autonomy provides — not just as a model for doing business but also as a catalyst for political change.
The Telegraph, London