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Canada secretly halted Afghan detainee transfers over torture allegations: letter

[JURIST] The Canadian government ceased transferring Afghan detainees from Canadian to Afghan custody in November [press release, PDF] after Canadian monitors in Afghanistan discovered evidence of torture, according to a Canadian Justice Department letter [PDF text] sent this week to two advocacy groups suing the government to halt further transfers. In the letter, made public Wednesday, a Justice Department official wrote:

Canadian authorities were informed on November 5, 2007, by Canada's monitoring team, of a credible allegation of mistreatment pertaining to one Canadian-transferred detainee held in an Afghan detention facility. As a consequence there have been no transfers of detainees to Afghan authorities since that date. The allegation is under investigation by the Afghan authorities. Canada will resume transferring detainees when it believes it can do so in accordance with its international legal obligations.
The disclosure comes in a case where the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) and Amnesty International Canada [advocacy websites] are seeking assurances from the Canadian government that the transfers will be stopped indefinitely or that notice will be provided before they are resumed. On Monday, BCCLA released internal Canadian government documents [PDF text] detailing evidence of continued mistreatment and abuse [JURIST report] of detainees. The documents, originally distributed to senior officials of the Canadian government and officers of the Canadian military, detail an investigation conducted by Canadian officials last November which found circumstantial evidence that detainees were abused at a facility belonging to the Afghan National Directorate of Security in Kandahar.

Last November, the Federal Court of Canada ruled [JURIST report] that Amnesty International [advocacy website] and the BCCLA should be granted public interest standing to seek judicial review of actions or potential actions of Canadian military personnel deployed in Afghanistan, rejecting the Canadian government's motion to strike the groups' application on the grounds that they lacked standing and the issue was political in nature. The rights groups allege that Canadian forces deployed in Afghanistan are bound by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [text] and that Canadian personnel transferring Afghan prisoners at risk of torture by Afghan authorities have violated the Charter's prohibition against the deprivation of life, liberty, and security. Also in November, Canadian opposition parliamentarians called for the government to stop detainee transfers [JURIST report], after documents [text] released by the Canadian government appeared to confirm allegations that transferred suspects had been subjected to abuse. Last May, Canada and Afghanistan entered into an agreement allowing for the monitoring of prisoners [JURIST report] transferred from Canadian to Afghanistan custody. The Globe & Mail has more. AP has additional coverage.

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