Damn lying Afghanis. Always claiming to be tortured. We all know there’s nothing really going on.
Canada’s top general defends prisoner policy
By SUE BAILEY AND BOB WEBER
OTTAWA (CP) - The chief of defence staff vigorously defends the practice of Canadian troops handing over Afghan prisoners to local authorities despite one estimate that about 30 per cent are later abused or tortured.
Gen. Rick Hillier stands behind an agreement he signed with the Afghan government last December. It obliges Canadian soldiers to turn prisoners over to local police or the army.
It’s their country, Hillier said of Afghan authorities after a ceremony Saturday for about 240 new Canadian Forces recruits.
"Under their laws and their government, we hand the prisoners to them.
“It’s the right thing to do and we take steps to try and ensure in all the best ways we possibly can that their treatment is absolutely right and appropriate. We’re confident in that.”
The Kandahar office of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission isn’t so sure. It estimates that about one in three prisoners handed over by Canadians are beaten or even tortured in local jails.
Spokesman Abdul Noorzai says his organization has photos of victims who were repeatedly hit in custody, sometimes for hours. He estimates there are about 200 Taliban suspects in Afghan jails.
Canadian soldiers have stepped in at least twice to prevent the executions of prisoners captured during operations with the Afghan army. In those cases, Canadians held on to the detainees until they could be safely delivered to calmer officials.
“In the heat of the moment, after an action where perhaps some of those locals have lost their colleagues . . . or their buddies in a firefight, we’ve detained somebody who perhaps was the cause of losing those soldiers,” Hillier said.
"The emotions run high and sometimes in history, as you know, bad things have occurred.
“I think the professionalism of our soldiers has been demonstrated during those incidents. And they’ve done the right thing to help ensure that detainees are treated with all our Canadian values, and treated appropriately.”
Canadian troops also alert the International Committee of the Red Cross to track treatment of such prisoners, Hillier said.
Abdul Rahim Wardak, the Afghan minister of defence, flatly denies that detainees are at risk.
“Those reports (of Afghan soldiers wanting to kill prisoners) are totally rejected,” he said in Afghanistan. "It is not true. We will never do that. Even in the old days when we were fighting the Soviets, we would never do that. We were always nice and kind.
“Sometimes I think there might be some misinterpretation in the translation. I think someone has taken it wrongly that they wanted to kill.”
The most recent incident occurred last week in the Panjwai district, the scene of intense fighting since mid-May.
Canadian troops feared that Afghan soldiers would kill a detainee on the spot after a raid at a compound where a Canadian vehicle had been ambushed the day before.
“They want to execute him here,” a Canadian soldier said in a radio conversation recorded by a CTV News crew.
“I am obviously not for that. He’s probably of low (military intelligence) value, but either we take him or he gets executed.”
The prisoner was taken to other Afghan authorities.
Minister Wardak said such reports will be investigated.
Mohammed Farooq, an Afghan police officer, talked about the challenge faced by police and soldiers dealing with those suspected of fighting against them.
“We have to keep our emotions calm and we have to try to work through minds, not hearts.”
CP reporter Sue Bailey is based in Ottawa; colleague Bob Weber is currently embedded with Canadian troops in Kandahar, Afghanistan.