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Colvin readies new response to government on torture

Intelligence officer and ex-diplomat Richard Colvin, right, arrives at a commons special committee on Afghanistan hears witnesses on transfer of Afghan detainees on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday.

Sean Kilpatrick

The Canadian diplomat whose allegations of torture in Afghan prisons has set off a political firestorm on Parliament Hill is preparing another salvo at the federal government.

Richard Colvin's lawyer, Owen Rees, says a letter is being prepared for the special House of Commons committee that is investigating how Ottawa has managed the treatment of Afghan prisoners.

Mr. Rees says Colvin wants to correct what he deems to be inaccurate statements made in the aftermath of his testimony before the special committee on Afghanistan on Nov. 18.

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He wouldn't say what statements need correcting.

"Some questions have obviously been raised in the course of subsequent hearings after he gave his evidence and he will respond to some of those questions," Mr. Rees said.

Mr. Colvin has refused interview requests since alleging before the committee that the federal government was indifference to warnings that torture took place in Afghan jails after Canadian-captured prisoners were turned over to local authorities.

The Conservative government's initial response to the allegations was to attempt to discredit Mr. Colvin. That prompted a furious response from an ad hoc group of former ambassadors. Almost 50 ex-diplomats have now signed an open letter criticizing the federal government and suggesting that the attacks have sent a chill through the foreign service.

Mr. Colvin has also been targeted in some media columns, but Mr. Rees says the focus of the letter will be on public statements by officials.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay, who initially said there were "incredible holes" in Mr. Colvin's testimony, has been careful to note over the last few days that his attacks were not personal and aimed what he considered to be Mr. Colvin's hearsay evidence.

Some Conservative MPs were quick to paint his testimony as "ridiculous."

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It has since been revealed that the International Red Cross was also one of the groups warning of torture.

Mr. Colvin claimed that he was muzzled by superiors in Ottawa and was not allowed to write down information that contradicted the government's line on detainees and on the Afghanistan mission itself.

His former boss, David Mulroney, who is now ambassador to China, painted a more nuanced picture in testimony before the committee. Mr. Mulroney said once a collective decision was made on policy, he expected foreign service officers in the field to tow the line.

Mulroney described Colvin's warnings as opinion, rather than fact.

Retired general Rick Hillier, who also appeared before the Commons committee, was more. explicit He described Mr. Colvin's allegations of torture as "ludicrous."

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