Are Hillier and O'Connor War Criminals?

Are Chief of Defence Staff General Rick Hillier and Defence Minister Gordon O’Connor war criminals?

That’s the question that two international law professors are asking the International Criminal Court to investigate, in light of the revelations last week that prisoners taken by Canada and handed to Afghan authorities were tortured. In a letter they wrote (Byers and Schabas Letter to ICC),

“…we are concerned that Mr. O’Connor and General Hillier might wilfully be placing detainees at well-documented risk of torture, cruel treatment and outrages upon personal dignity. If so, they would appear to be violating Articles 8 and 25 (and perhaps Article 7) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).[1]

[1] For the Rome Statute, see: < >.

The authors of the letter are Prof. Michael Byers, Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law at the University of British Columbia, and Prof. William A. Schabas OC, Director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights at the National University of Ireland.

On April 25, 2007, they delivered their letter to Mr. Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in the Hague, Netherlands. They wrote,

“…we request that you open a preliminary examination under Article 15 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court to determine whether there are reasonable bases to investigate Mr. Gordon O’Connor, the Canadian Minister of National Defence, and General Rick Hillier, the Canadian Chief of the Defence Staff.”

Not surprisingly, O’Connor and Hillier deny any such accusation.

Earlier that week, I shared the stage at a press conference with Prof. Byers as well as Prof. Amir Attaran from the University of Ottawa. We have posted videos of the press conference on YouTube. You can also see Prof Byers’ op-ed in the Toronto Star.


Press Conference: April 23, 2007 Ottawa.

Part 1, Prof Byers’ remarks:


Part 2, Prof Attaran’s remarks:


Part 3, Questions from journalists:


Tags: Afghanistan, Defence policy