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Foreign Affairs

Just the facts: This week’s Afghan detainee revelations

Posted on December 4, 2009

The government continues to stonewall requests for a public inquiry into the torture of Canadian transferred detainees, despite mounting evidence that the Conservative government refused to act on warnings of torture.  Here’s what we learned this week alone:

1. The Red Cross warned Canada of torture and complained of notification delays. In May and June 2006, Richard Colvin and at least two other Canadian officials were twice warned by the Red Cross that torture was a serious risk in Afghan prisons.  The Red Cross also complained that it took up to two months for Canada to report prisoner transfers to them.

2. The government pressured soldiers to transfer detainees faster. Top Canadian commanders in Kandahar testified to the Military Police Complaints Commission that officials in Ottawa pressured them to transfer detainees before proper medical treatment or paperwork could be administered.  As Canadian official Linda Garwood-Filbert said, “It’s out of sight, out of mind.”

3. Afghan intelligence stopped accepting Canadian detainees due to a lack of evidence. Complaints about the quality of evidence provided by Canadian troops left Afghan prosecutors with little admissible evidence to use in judicial proceedings, and resulted in a halt of detainee transfers at their request.

4. Many Canadian transferred detainees were not high-value Taliban targets. Backing up testimony by Richard Colvin, a Canadian commander in Afghanistan told the Military Police Complaints Commission that they were “detaining the local yokels and handing them off.”

5. No human rights monitoring in Kandahar prisons. In spring 2007, Richard Colvin told the Prime Minister’s advisor for Afghanistan, David Mulroney, that the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission charged with monitoring Canadian-transferred detainees had little or no access to the Kandahar prison run by the National Directorate of Security – contrary to assurances provided by then-Defence Minister Gordon O’Connor.

6. Canadian officials did not view a braided electrical cable as evidence of torture. Linda Garwood-Filbert, a Corrections Canada official who visited Afghan prisons, did not consider the discovery of a braided electrical cable in the office of the director of Afghan investigations as evidence of torture.

7. Conservatives refuse to release unredacted documents. The government has only provided incomplete and redacted documents to members of the House of Commons Special Committee on Afghanistan, refusing to provide unredacted copies of Richard Colvin’s reports, detainee memos, and the annual human rights report of the Canadian Embassy in Afghanistan.

8. Canadian officials did not investigate torture allegations. Eight months after the new detainee agreement was put in place, Canadian official Kerry Buck said in a court document, “It is not our role to determine the credibility of the allegations, to determine the veracity of the allegations. We don’t investigate those allegations.”

9. The International Criminal Court is examining the treatment of Afghan prisoners. The body charged with investigating potential violations of international human rights law is engaged in a preliminary investigation into the Afghan detainee issue – which could be expanded into a full investigation.

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