Canada to take Israel off torture list

US will also be removed from list; Canadian foreign minister apologizes for inclusion of two allies.

nachshon prison guard (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
nachshon prison guard
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Canada plans to remove both Israel and the US from a list drawn up by the Foreign Ministry in Ottawa of countries where prisoners risk torture and abuse. On Saturday Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier issued a statement apologizing for the fact that the two Canadian allies were included in a training manual list on torture awareness distributed to Canadian diplomats and other organizations, including Amnesty International. "I regret the embarrassment caused by the public disclosure of the manual used in the department's torture awareness training," the foreign minister said. "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." A Foreign Ministry spokesman in Jerusalem noted that both Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met with Bernier in Jerusalem last week and Bernier did not raise the issue of torture and Israeli human rights policy during the discussions. Michael Mendel, the Israeli Embassy spokesman in Ottawa, commented on Israel's initial inclusion in the list by noting that 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," he said. The Canadian Foreign Affairs Department document, released Friday, singled out the US detention center at Guantanamo Bay. It also named Israel, Afghanistan, China, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Syria as places where inmates could face torture. The listing also drew a sharp response from the US, a key Canadian 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 like Iran and China. Quite frankly it's absurd," US Ambassador David Wilkins said. "For us to be on a list like that is just ridiculous." He said the US 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. The Canadian 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. AP contributed to this report.