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Canada signs new detainee transfer agreement with Afghan government

[JURIST] Lawyers for the Canadian government said in an affidavit Thursday that Canada and Afghanistan have formally signed a new agreement allowing for monitoring of prisoners transferred from Canadian to Afghan custody as a safeguard against torture and abuse. Following submission of the affidavit, a Federal Court judge in British Columbia halted an injunction [JURIST report] action brought by Amnesty International and the BC Civil Liberties union which had sought to suspend any additional transfers until effective monitoring was established. CTV News has more.

The Canadian government has been deeply embroiled in controversy over the torture issue since the Toronto Globe and Mail reported [text] late last month that thirty terror suspects were tortured by Afghan security forces after being transferred from the custody of Canadian troops belonging to NATO's ISAF [official website] mission. The detainees gave accounts of being beaten, electrocuted, starved, and left in freezing temperatures while detained in Kandahar province jails. The report prompted calls for the resignation [JURIST report] of Canadian Defense Minister Gordon O'Connor [official profile], for an end to the prison transfers, for a public inquiry, and even for an International Criminal Court investigation of "possible war crimes" [JURIST report] committed by Canadian officials.

In 2005, Chief of Defense Staff Gen. Rick Hillier [official profile] signed an initial Canada-Afghanistan Detainee Agreement [text] authorizing prisoner transfers, but critics said the agreement did not give Canada the power to inspect detainees [JURIST report] after their transfers, thus allowing broad latitude for torture to occur. Last week O'Connor said that Canada had made a new informal agreement with the Afghanistan government [JURIST report] to monitor the condition of transferred prisoners after their release.

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