Canada: Defense Department Covers Up Report On The Killing Of Four U.N. Observers By Israeli Forces

Wife says soldier’s death a coverup (The Windsor Star, Dec 26, 2012):

The Defence Department has quietly removed from the Internet a report on the killing of a Canadian military officer by Israeli forces, a move the soldier’s widow says is linked to the Conservative government’s reluctance to criticize Israel for any wrongdoing.

Maj. Paeta Hess-von Kruedener and three other United Nations observers were killed in 2006 when the Israeli military targeted their small outpost with repeated artillery barrages as well as an attack by a fighter aircraft.

In early 2008, the Defence Department posted on its website a 67-page report from the Canadian Forces board of inquiry into the killing. The board found Hess-von Kruedener’s death was preventable and caused by the Israeli military.

But less than a year later, the report was quietly removed from the DND website and has since remained off-limits to the public through official channels.

Hess-von Kruedener’s widow, Cynthia, told Postmedia the decision to remove the document from the public domain was made by DND and the government in an effort to protect Israel’s reputation.

“It’s embarrassing to the Israelis, and, as we know, Prime Minister (Stephen) Harper has given his unconditional support to the Israelis.”

The circumstances surrounding Hess-von Kruedener’s death and the attempts by DND and the Canadian Forces to limit access to the board of inquiry report are outlined in an article in the new edition of Legion Magazine, an Ottawa-based publication sent to members of the Royal Canadian Legion.

DND originally refused to provide the magazine with the report, claiming the publication needed to use access to information law to obtain a copy.

Legion Magazine obtained a copy of the report by other means. It has now posted the report on its website.

In an email sent to the Ottawa Citizen, DND confirmed it had removed the board of inquiry report from its website in early 2009 for security reasons “after it was discovered that some of its content is considered protected information.”

The Legion Magazine article also raises questions about the disappearance from DND of a United Nations report into the killing. The document was used by the Canadian Forces for its board of inquiry, and the UN report is cited in the Canadian report. But DND’s access to information branch claims it has done a thorough search of records and no such report could be found.

The Israeli attack on the UN outpost began July 25, 2006. Artillery barrages hit the outpost. That was followed by another 16 artillery rounds hitting the base, destroying most of the buildings above ground and blowing the door off the underground bunker where Hess-von Kruedener and his fellow peacekeepers had taken refuge.

Later that day, an Israeli fighter pilot directed a precision-guided bomb through the door of the UN bunker. The blast from the massive bomb killed the four men.

Gen. Rick Hillier, then chief of the defence staff, later described the major’s death as a “tragic accident.”

The base had been included in the Israeli military’s “targeting list” which they acknowledged was an error on their part.

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