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Canada fails to answer rights challenge on Afghan detainee transfers

[JURIST] The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) [advocacy website] said Wednesday that it may file for an injunction to prevent the Canadian military from transferring Afghan detainees to Afghan police custody after the Canadian government failed to meet a court-ordered deadline Tuesday to answer claims that its transfer policy exposed detainees to torture. Amnesty International Canada [advocacy website] and the BCCLA had filed an application in Federal Court in Ottawa seeking judicial review of the transfer policy, saying that it violated Canada's obligations under international human rights law [Geneva Convention text] and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [text]. Both the Canadian Justice Department and the Department of National Defence [official websites] declined to explain their silence, although BCCLA president Jason Gratl [BCCLA profile] expressed hope that the government might still voluntarily end the practice.

In filing for a judicial review of the legality of Canada's detainee policy, Amnesty and BCCLA said that the current Canada-Afghanistan Detainee Agreement [text] did not do enough to ensure detainees would not be tortured by Afghan forces [BCCLA press release, PDF; JURIST report]. The two groups say that the Canadian military should build a prisoner-of-war camp in Afghanistan to hold battlefield detainees rather than turn them over to Afghan secret police. Legal experts have suggested that the government's silence may indicate an intent to argue that the Charter of Rights doesn't apply to Canadian military operations overseas rather than dispute whether torture is widespread in Afghanistan's prisons. The Globe and Mail has more.

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