[Ppnews] Amnesty slams Canada over Afghan detainees & torture
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Feb 22 11:37:36 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.
The Freedom Archives
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San Francisco, CA 94110
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