Colonel who Accused Officials of Cover-Up Now Facing Court Martial
TORONTO (AP) _ A Canadian army colonel who claimed top defense officials agreed to alter and destroy evidence related to abuses by soldiers in Somalia now faces a court martial on charges of lying and altering documents.
Col. Geoff Haswell alleged last week that two military chiefs of staff and the former deputy defense minister were involved in a cover-up concerning abuse by soldiers against Somalis during the 1992-93 peacekeeping mission.
On Wednesday, the military charged Haswell with seven violations, including making a false statement and altering documents with an intent to deceive.
The military did not specify which documents Haswell is accused of changing. He was not arrested and no date has been set for his court martial.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported that two other senior officers face similar charges. No further details were available.
Haswell, the former director of public relations for the Defense Department, was transferred last fall to a less powerful post that he calls a ``fictitious job.″ He claims the military is trying to make him into a scapegoat.
``I’m still confident that at the end I’m going to walk away from this,″ Haswell told The Canadian Press late Wednesday.
The controversy over a possible cover-up is the latest twist in a long-running scandal arising from Canada’s deployment in Somalia as part of an international peacekeeping force. Canadian soldiers killed three Somalis in questionable circumstances, including a teen-ager who was tortured to death by soldiers photographed gloating beside his bloody body.
As the abuses came to light, the government disbanded the elite Airborne Regiment, whose soldiers committed the worst abuses. The scandal has hurt army morale and eroded public confidence.
The alteration or disappearance of key documents could hinder the work of a federal inquiry panel midway through an investigation of the Somalia mission.
The head of the Somalia inquiry, Justice Gilles Letourneau, said Monday there were gaps in evidence presented to his panel. The missing documents include the Airborne Regiment’s daily logs for February and March 1993 _ when the three Somalis were killed.
In an interview published Saturday in The Globe and Mail, a leading Canadian daily, Haswell said the cover-up was approved by Canada’s chief of staff, Gen. Jean Boyle; his predecessor, John de Chastelain; and former deputy defense minister Robert Fowler, now Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations.
Boyle and Fowler have denied any wrongdoing. De Chastelain has not commented publicly.
On Wednesday, Boyle ordered the entire military to drop everything but ``essential services″ on April 9 to search for the missing documents.
Opposition leaders criticized the order as ludicrous, with legislator Jim Hart of the right-wing Reform Party dubbing it ``the Great Easter Egg Hunt.″
Haswell’s cover-up allegations have prompted opposition legislators to call for the resignation of Defense Minister David Collenette, who has stood by his choice of Boyle as chief of staff. Before his promotion, Boyle’s duties included coordinating the military’s response to the Somalia affair.
Collenette says he is confident the federal inquiry will find the truth, but he has suggested the Royal Canadian Mounted Police could be called to in take over the probe if there is further obstruction.