[News] Amnesty slams Canada over Afghan detainees & torture

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Feb 22 11:54:34 EST 2007

Amnesty slams Canada over Afghan detainees



Globe and Mail Update

Canada's practice of turning detainees over to 
Afghan security forces, widely accused of torture 
and abuse, violates international law and the 
Charter of Rights, Amnesty International and the 
British Columbia Civil Liberties Association say.

The two groups will Wednesday file an application 
in Federal Court in Ottawa seeking judicial 
review of the military's controversial policy. 
Named as respondents in the action are Defence 
Minister Gordon O'Connor, General Rick Hillier, 
Canada's Chief of the Defence Staff, and Attorney-General Robert Nicholson.

The legal action will be announced today by Alex 
Neve, Amnesty International Canada's 
Secretary-General, and Shirley Heafey, a B.C. 
Civil Liberties Association board member.

“There's a very strong chance of it winding up in 
the Supreme Court,” said Paul Champ, who is 
acting on behalf of Amnesty and the BCCLA.

The case will raise significant constitutional 
issues, including whether Canadian soldiers 
fighting abroad are legally bound by the Geneva 
Conventions even if generals insist that “enemy 
combatants” aren't entitled to Geneva rights, and 
whether Charter guarantees of due process extend 
to captives apprehended on battlefields halfway around the world.

“They are turning those people over to states 
that are likely to torture,” Mr. Champ said yesterday.

Under a deal Gen. Hillier and Afghanistan's 
Defence Minister signed in December, 2005, all 
terrorism suspects and Taliban fighters that 
Canadian Forces capture in Afghanistan are turned 
over to the Afghan police or military. Canada 
informs the International Committee of the Red 
Cross about the handover, but unlike other NATO 
countries in Afghanistan, notably Britain and the 
Netherlands, makes no effort to check on the condition of detainees.

“The current Canada-Afghanistan Detainee 
Agreement does not provide adequate safeguards to 
ensure that detainees will not be tortured by 
Afghan forces,” Amnesty and the BCCLA said yesterday.

Canada's treatment of captives is already under 
scrutiny. Last month, allegations of detainee 
abuse arose after the discovery that several 
Afghans suffered an odd pattern of injuries in 
the custody of Canadian soldiers in April.

A criminal investigation, a board of inquiry 
ordered by Gen. Hillier, and a probe by the 
independent Military Police Complaints Commission were all launched this month.

Now, the human-rights groups want Canada's courts 
to review the legality of turning detainees over 
to a country with a notorious record of torture 
and abuse, and a nascent government whose remit 
often extends only tentatively beyond the capital Kabul.

Handing detainees over to Afghan security forces 
violates “the Canadian Charter of Rights and 
Freedoms, the National Defence Act and Canada's 
international obligations amongst others under 
the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against 
Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or 
Degrading Treatment or Punishment,” Amnesty and the BCCLA said.

Gen. Hillier has called the policy part of 
helping Afghanistan rebuild itself as a nation.

What happens to detainees once they are in Afghan 
hands remains largely unknown. But the murky 
network of Afghan jails ­ where some prisoners 
disappear, others are released after payment of 
bribes and only a few seem to be charged and 
tried ­ has been harshly criticized.

The most recent assessment of the UN High 
Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, 
said there were “reports of prolonged detention 
without trial, extortion, torture, and systematic due process violations.”

The U.S. State Department annual report was similarly harsh.

“Afghanistan's human-rights record remained poor. 
There continued to be instances in which security 
and factional forces committed extrajudicial killings and torture,” it said.

Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights 
Commission, in its own report last year, 
concluded, “The incidence of torture on detained 
or imprisoned persons was still occurring 
throughout the past year,” albeit at a declining rate.

The filing today will start a 30-day clock running.

By then, Amnesty and the BCCLA must file evidence buttressing their claim.

Then the government has 30 days to file its evidence.

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