Ken Watkin

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Brigadier General
Kenneth "Ken" Watkin
Born Template:November 3rd, 1954
Kingston, Ontario, Canada[1]
Residence Ottawa, Canada[2]
Nationality Canadian
Alma mater
Known for Former Judge Advocate General of the Canadian Forces
Notable work
Predecessor Maj.-Gen. Jerry Pitzul
Successor Brig.-Gen. B. Blaise Cathcart
Spouse(s) Maureen[1]
Children three daughters[1]

Brigadier General Kenneth "Ken" Watkin, OMM, CD, QC (born 1954) was Judge Advocate General (JAG) of the Canadian Forces from 2006 to 2010.[1] He is an expert on military law.[2][3]

He was promoted to Brigadier General and appointed JAG effective April 2006, for a four-year term.[4] In that position he was the top legal advisor to Canada's Governor General, Defence Minister, and the Canadian Forces.[5]

In June 2010, the Israeli government appointed Watkin to be one of two international observers serving on an Israeli commission of inquiry looking into the events surrounding an Israeli raid on the Mavi Marmara.[6]

Early life and education[edit]

Watkin was born in Kingston, Ontario, a non-identical triplet, along with a brother (Kerry) and sister (Kathy); he also has an older brother (Robert).[7] He and his siblings attended Loyalist Collegiate.[7]

Watkin is a graduate of the Royal Military College of Canada (B.A., 1976) and Queen's University Law School in Kingston, Ontario, where he received Bachelor of Laws and Master of Laws degrees. From 2002 to 2003, Watkin was a Visiting Fellow at the Human Rights Program of Harvard Law School.[8]


Skulls of victims of Rwandan Genocide


Ken Watkin started his career as an infantry officer in the Royal Canadian Regiment. His first tour of duty after graduating from The Royal Military College was with the Royal Canadian Regiment battalion in Gagetown New Brunswick.

Watkin served as a Canadian Forces legal officer, starting in 1982, for 24 years prior to his appointment to JAG. He was trial counsel at courts-martial and appellate counsel before the Canadian Court Martial Appeal Court.[1][4] From 1993 on, he specialized in the field of operational law. He was counsel for a number of national and international investigations arising from the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, and gave legal advice to Canadian commanders in Bosnia and to the Canadian Navy during a turbot dispute with Spain.[1][4] He has published widely on operational law, the law of armed conflict, discipline, and human rights.[4]

Somalia shooting inquiry[edit]

In the summer of 1994 when he was a Lieutenant-Colonel he wrote a legal review in which he said there was reason to question the investigation by Canadian Airborne Regiment Battle Group Col. Serge Labbe of a March 4, 1993, shooting by his men of two Somalis who were shot in the back as they ran away from the Canadian compound in Belet Huen, in what became known as the Somalia Affair.[9] He also questioned Labbe's "openness in reporting to higher headquarters."[9] One Somali died, and the other was injured.[9] memo was later used in an inquiry regarding allegations that Labbe and others in the chain of command tried to obscure or downplay the shooting.[9] Watkin also testified that Lt.-Col. Carol Mathieu, who was charged with negligent performance of duty for allegedly ordering soldiers to fire on looters, that he was disturbed by comments Mathieu made to him. Watkin had been asked to brief the soldiers on the rules of war, and testified that Mathieu said, "All that doesn't matter, you just throw down some loose rounds".[3]

As Judge Advocate General[edit]

The Judge Advocate General is the principal legal advisor to the Governor General, the Minister of National Defence, the Canadian Forces, and the Department of National Defence on military law matters.[4] The JAG also his responsible for the administration of military justice.[4] The JAG also has command over all Canadian legal officers who provide legal services, other than military judges.[4]

Afghan detainee issue[edit]

General Rick Hillier

In the Canadian Afghan detainee issue, Watkin as Judge Advocate General wrote a May 2007 memo to Canadian military brass (then-chief of defence staff Gen. Rick Hillier and Lt.-Gen. Michel Gauthier) telling them that it would be a crime to ignore allegations of prisoner abuse and not investigate them.[10] He advised the Canadian Forces command that they could be "criminally negligent" if they were to transfer detainees to a risk of torture in Afghan hands. Watkin declined to answer questions on the basis of solicitor-client privilege when called to testify in Canada's House of Commons, saying that the privilege owed to the Government of Canada prevented him answering a number of the House's questions.[10][11] Craig Scott, an Osgoode Hall Law School professor of international human rights law, said: "If there's this paper trail of good legal advice going against what the government is doing, it's even more likely (the federal government violated its obligations under international law)."[10]

Turkel Commission of Inquiry[edit]

Routes of Gaza-bound flotilla (green) and Israeli Navy (orange)
For more details on this topic, see Legal assessments of the Gaza flotilla raid.

On June 14, 2010, he was appointed as an observer to the Israeli special independent public Turkel Commission of Inquiry into the Gaza flotilla raid.[12][13]

The Commission will investigate whether Israel's actions in preventing the arrival of ships in Gaza were in accordance with international law.[13] It will focus among other things on the security considerations for imposing a naval blockade on the Gaza Strip and the conformity of the naval blockade with the rules of international law; the conformity of the actions during the raid to principles of international law; and the actions taken by those who organized and participated in the flotilla, and their identities.[13]

On the Commission are former Israeli Supreme Court Justice, Jacob Turkel, and former Technion University President, Amos Horev, as well as two other members added in July 2010. (Shabtai Rosenne, Bar Ilan University Professor of International Law, also served on the Commission from its establishment until his death on 21 September 2010.[14]) In addition, the Commission has two foreign observers, Watkin and former First Minister of Northern Ireland, David Trimble, who will take part in hearings and discussions, but not vote on the final conclusions.[15][16]


Select works[edit]




  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Brigadier-General Ken Watkin, OMM, CD, QC | National Defence and the Canadian Forces". Retrieved June 28, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b Singer, Zev (June 14, 2010). "Israel appoints Ottawan to Gaza flotilla inquiry". Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved June 28, 2010. [dead link]
  3. ^ a b "Rules of war joked about, inquiry told". The Toronto Star. June 4, 1994. Retrieved June 28, 2010. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "Appointment of New Judge Advocate General for the Canadian Forces". April 10, 2006. Retrieved June 28, 2010. 
  5. ^ "Judge advocate general not Canada's top military judge". The Toronto Star. November 22, 2007. Retrieved June 28, 2010. 
  6. ^ Barak Ravid, Haaretz, PMO officially announces internal Gaza flotilla raid probe panel, 14 June 2010 (accessed online).
  7. ^ a b "Kingston man asked to join inquiry". The Whig Standard. Retrieved June 28, 2010. 
  8. ^ "Biography of Brigadier-General Ken Watkin". Government of Canada Department of National Defence. March 12, 2010. Retrieved June 14, 2010. 
  9. ^ a b c d "Commander may have tried coverup: memo". The Toronto Star. February 7, 1997. Retrieved June 28, 2010. 
  10. ^ a b c "Military told to heed abuse claims". The Toronto Star. February 25, 2010. Retrieved June 28, 2010. 
  11. ^ "Detainee affair won't go away". The Toronto Star. February 26, 2010. Retrieved June 28, 2010. 
  12. ^ Zrahiya, Zvi (June 17, 2010). "Israeli members of flotilla inquiry panel meet for first time". Haaretz. Retrieved June 17, 2010. 
  13. ^ a b c "Cabinet asked to approve independent public commission". Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. June 13, 2010. Retrieved June 17, 2010. 
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Gaza flotilla inquiry panel members", BBC
  16. ^ "Who's who on Israel's committee on the Gaza flotilla raid", Haaretz, June 10, 2010
  17. ^ Larry May (2007). War Crimes and Just War. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-87114-X. Retrieved June 28, 2010. 

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Maj.-Gen. Jerry Pitzul
Judge Advocate General
Succeeded by
Brig.-Gen. B. Blaise Cathcart