All Afghan detainees likely tortured: Canadian diplomat

Appearing before a House of Commons committee in Ottawa Nov. 18, Richard Colvin, a former senior diplomat with Canada’s mission in Afghanistan, blasted his country’s detainee policies, testifying that all detainees transferred by Canadians to Afghan prisons were likely tortured—and that many of them were innocent.

The detainees were captured by Canadian soldiers then handed over to the Afghan intelligence service, called the NDS. Colvin, who served in 2006-7, said Canada was taking six times as many detainees as British troops and 20 times as many as the Dutch. He said unlike the British and Dutch, Canadian forces did not monitor their conditions; took days, weeks or months to notify the Red Cross; kept poor records; and concealed their practices behind “walls of secrecy.”

“According to our information, the likelihood is that all the Afghans we handed over were tortured,” Colvin said. “For interrogators in Kandahar, it was a standard operating procedure.” He said the most common forms of torture were beatings, whipping with power cables, the use of electricity, knives, open flames and rape. (CBC, Nov. 18)

We have already noted the brutal conditions in Afghanistan’s prisons.

See our last posts on Afghanistan, Canada and the torture scandal.

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  1. Canada releases e-mails alleging torture of Afghan detainees
    The Canadian government Dec. 2 released more than 40 redacted e-mails sent by former diplomat Richard Colvin to then-foreign affairs minister Peter MacKay raising concerns about the torture of detainees who were transferred to Afghan prisons by Canadian authorities. The e-mails, which Colvin alleges were sent in violation of instructions to avoid written communication, were requested by the House of Commons Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan in order to corroborate testimony Colvin gave to the committee last month. Throughout the spring of 2006, Colvin relayed allegations made by the International Committee of the Red Cross that Afghan authorities were routinely torturing detainees, and that by refusing information requests and failing to provide timely notice of transfer to Afghan custody, the Canadian military was hindering efforts to track Afghan detainees and monitor their treatment. Peter Tinsley, Chair of the Military Police Complaints Commission (MPCC), also released redacted copies of the e-mails Wednesday at the request of Amnesty International and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) after finding that the contents had already been selectively leaked to media organizations. (Jurist, Dec. 3)

  2. Canadian general admits Afghan torture complicity
    From the New York Times, Dec. 9:

    OTTAWA — Canada’s top soldier, in an unexpected contradiction of both the government’s position and his own testimony the previous day, said Wednesday that the country’s military had been aware that prisoners it handed over to Afghan authorities risked being abused.

    The acknowledgment by the chief of the defense staff, Gen. Walter J. Natynczyk, was a major embarrassment for the Conservative government, undermining an unusually vigorous campaign by the government against politicians, diplomats and human rights advocates who have contended that Afghan prisoners are in jeopardy after being transferred to their government.

    Opposition politicians demanded a public inquiry into the prisoner transfer system and called for the resignation of Peter MacKay, the defense minister, who has largely led the government’s attacks on its critics. Prime Minister Stephen Harper rejected an inquiry and ignored questions in the House of Commons about Mr. MacKay.