Friday, December 22, 2006

Need Immunity for Your Crimes? Join JTF2

This is disturbing and should have been dealt with a long time ago:

OTTAWA–You can't charge someone you can't name, the Canadian Forces has found out.

A Federal Court judge yesterday rejected a request by the military to proceed with a court martial against a member of Canada's elite Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2) because the unit is protected by such secrecy that none of its members can be named.

The officer is alleged to have committed "serious offences of aggravated assault and ill treatment of a subordinate," Justice Judith Snider writes in her 57-page judgment.

Anything to do with those assigned to the JTF2 unit is classified as secret or confidential information – including the name, service number and rank of its personnel – and cannot be disclosed.

The military's director of prosecutions (akin to the Crown attorney's office) has tried but failed so far to pursue the charges.

Snider's ruling that the prosecution could not go ahead is based on the fact the military court system has been unable to draw up an order to convene a court martial because that would involve naming the officer. In her decision, Snider says a military judge could order the name and other information kept secret, but because there's no court martial, there's no judge in place.

"There is nothing in the National Defence Act that allows for the appointment of a military judge to consider preliminary matters such as the sealing of a charge. The parties agree that there is a gap."

It's a big loophole – one that may be soon closed if a bill the Liberals first put before Parliament, and the Conservatives are pursuing, eventually passes.

Why the delay? Allowing soldiers to be in a position of immunity from prosecution because their identities are classified is just unconscionable. How can their victims ever find justice?

This is one issue that supporters of all parties should be contacting their MPs about. No one is above the law - well, so we thought until now.

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