Army chief `covered up' torture

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The Independent Online
An attempted cover-up of several incidents, including the torture and death of a Somali teenager while a prisoner of Canadian peace-keepers in Somalia, may have been directed by the chief of the defence staff and the top civilian official in the Department of National Defence. New evidence has come this week before a judicial inquiry investigating the breakdown of discipline in the now-disbanded Canadian Airborne Regiment.

Earlier this year , there was evidence before the inquiry that documents were destroyed and others hidden. But on Monday, Justice Gilles Letourneau, chairman of the inquiry, announced investigators had discovered that computerised records of communications between the regiment in Somalia and the operations centre at defence headquarters had been modified and partly erased.

Experts believe only the most senior officials could have approved such erasures. All communications logs from the regiment in Somalia during the crucial two months in question have also disappeared, the judge said.

A colonel headed the defence department's information services has said the plan to destroy the documents was approved by General John deChastelain, who just retired as chief of defence staff in December, General Jean Boyle, who succeeded him, and Robert Fowler, Canada's ambassador to the United Nations who was then deputy defence minister.

The behaviour of the Airborne Regiment during February and March of 1993, when it was stationed in Belet Huen as part of the UN attempt to restore order in Somalia has blotted Canada's reputation for peace-keeping. A corporal and two privates have been convicted of torturing and killing a youth. In another incident, a patrol shot and killed two unarmed civilians as they ran away from the Canadian compound.

The regiment was disbanded about a year ago following the broadcast of an amateur video of a ritual in which white soldiers smeared a black member with excrement and led him around on a chain like a dog.