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Juvenile, adult militants separated in Afghan jails: Tories

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

CBC News (Canada)

Defence Minister Peter MacKay says he believes juvenile soldiers captured by Canadian troops in Afghanistan are kept separate from adults when they are sent to prison.

Opposition parties pounded the Conservative government Monday after documents released by the Foreign Affairs Department last week indicated that officials have been discussing the issue of what to do with the young fighters.

“My understanding is that there are current provisions within the Afghan detention system to segregate or keep juvenile prisoners separate from others,” MacKay told the House of Commons.

“Similarly, with respect to detainees taken by Canadian Forces, we take a similar practice. They’re not housed in proximity to other detainees. Under this new arrangement they have increased ability to monitor and track detainees.”

Jay Paxton, a spokesman for the minister, said in an e-mail to the Canadian Press that “juvenile prisoners are held in a designated wing of the prison in Kandahar, which is where any juveniles detained and transferred by the Canadian Forces would be held.”

Canadian diplomats have also reported back to Ottawa on the arrest and firing of the warden at the main prison of Kandahar, accused of raping young detainees. He was exonerated after an Afghan judge ruled a “drunken man in his 50s” couldn’t commit rape.

Another set of released documents, obtained by Liberal defence critic Denis Coderre, suggests the military dispatch juveniles to the care of the Afghan forces as quickly as possible.

Allegations of torture

“Temporarily detained persons who appear to be less than 18 years of age will be treated with care … in most instances they shall be transferred expeditiously to the Afghan National Security Forces,” reads a copy of military standing orders dated February 2006.

Since that time, the Afghan prison system has come under intense fire over allegations of torture, from opposition parties and human rights organizations.

Last week, the Foreign Affairs officials told a media briefing that they had come across “credible evidence of mistreatment” during their latest investigation.

The government was also forced by a federal judge to release more than 1,000 pages of provocative documents detailing what it knew about allegations of abuse last year. The documents revealed that Canadian officials were reporting back to Ottawa about appalling conditions in Afghan prisons last April, and on claims of mistreatment and torture they had heard first hand.

At the same time officials were wiring back those reports, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and senior cabinet ministers were calling high-profile newspaper reports on the same issue “baseless,” and even suggesting there were no “specific allegations of torture.”

‘Saw nothing, heard nothing’

Harper was blasted on the discrepancy on Monday, accused by the Liberals of misleading the Commons and Canadians.

“In April, the government stuck to the mantra as far as torture was concerned that it saw nothing, heard nothing and knew nothing but we now know from federal court documents that it knew the truth all along,” said deputy Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff.

“It deceived Parliament and deceived Canadians and that is unworthy of the people serving in Afghanistan.”

Harper did not address his statements of last spring, instead focusing on what the Department of Foreign Affairs had said last week.

“The honourable member is wrong in his assertion, as the government has already said that we learned of evidence of abuse in one recent case in the past couple of weeks,” Harper told the Commons.

“That is being investigated according to the arrangement we have with the Afghan government.”

Canada first sent troops to Afghanistan in early 2002 and currently has about 2,500 soldiers deployed as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.

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Written by afghandevnews

November 21, 2007 at 3:57 pm

Posted in Security

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