Canada to Rewrite Manual US Criticized

By CHARMAINE NORONHA
The Associated Press
Saturday, January 19, 2008; 5:07 PM

TORONTO -- Canada's foreign ministry said Saturday that it will rewrite a training manual used by Canadian diplomats that lists the United States as a site of possible torture following pressure from its closest ally.

The department document, released Friday, singled out the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay. It also names Israel, Afghanistan, China, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Syria as places where inmates could face torture.

"I regret the embarrassment caused by the public disclosure of the manual used in the department's torture awareness training," Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier said in a statement issued Saturday.

"It contains a list that wrongly includes some of our closest allies. I have directed that the manual be reviewed and rewritten. 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 statement added.

Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Marina Wilson said Saturday that she could not say yet how long it would take to review the manual or what the process might involve.

The document prompted a sharp response from the U.S., a key NATO ally and trading partner, which asked to be removed from the manual.

"We find it to be offensive for us to be on the same list with countries such as Iran and China. Quite frankly it's absurd," U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins told The Associated Press on Friday. "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.

An Israeli Embassy spokesman also said that the ambassador of Israel would expect his country to be removed from the list.

A Canadian citizen, 21-year-old Omar Khadr, is in custody at Guantanamo on charges that include killing a U.S. medic with a grenade during a July 2002 firefight in Afghanistan.

He has claimed in the past that he's been abused, but Canadian Foreign Affairs officials have said they accept U.S. assurances Khadr has been treated humanely. Human rights groups believe Canada has not done enough to ensure Khadr, who has been in custody since he was 15, is being fairly treated.

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.

The document offers a section on laws prohibiting torture and what diplomats should do when cases are suspected. It cites interrogation techniques such as stripping prisoners, blindfolding and sleep deprivation.

Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International, said that he's unhappy with Canada's decision to rewrite the manual.

"It was commendable to see that manual, which seemed to include an important section that was an objective assessment of human rights concerns around the world," said Neve. "To see that now be undermined by concerns about embarrassing allies is very disappointing."

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Associated Press Writer Rob Gillies contributed to this report.

© 2008 The Associated Press