Wednesday, February 28, 2007

will the cnd public ever see the agreement?

Canada signs deal with Afghan human rights body over detainees' treatment
MURRAY BREWSTER February 28, 2007

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CP) -
The Kandahar office of Afghanistan's Human Rights Commission has agreed to act as watchdog for detainees captured by Canadians to ensure that valid complaints of abuse are investigated, The Canadian Press has learned.

The agreement with military commanders addresses some of the concerns raised by human rights groups about the practice of handing captured Taliban prisoners over to Afghan authorities who have a reputation for torture. It could also take some of the fire out of a burning debate over allegations that Canadian troops abused detainees last spring.

"Canadians respect human rights very well," Abdul Quadar Noorzai, the Kandahar manager of the Afghanistan Human Rights Commission, said in an interview. He was eager to trumpet the agreement signed last Friday with Brig.-Gen. Tim Grant, commander of Canadian troops in Afghanistan.

"It is one of the greatest acts taken by them and I really appreciate it from the core of my heart," said a beaming Noorzai, who has worked for a year to carve out such an arrangement.

Although he would not produce a copy of the agreement saying it's up to Canadian authorities to do so, the respected human rights advocate said the deal allows him to investigate cases of suspected abuse involving detainees captured by Canadian troops.

There are well documented cases of torture in Afghan prisons.

On Monday, Canada's Military Police Complaints Commission opened a wide-ranging investigation into allegations that on 18 occasions troops handed over prisoners knowing they would be abused. Amnesty International Canada and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association lodged the complaint that prompted the investigation.

Similarly, at least three investigations are going on into the alleged beating of three captured Taliban who were picked up near the village of Dukah, 50 kilometres west of Kandahar, on April 7, 2006. According to prisoner-transfer logs obtained and released to the media by an Ottawa law professor, the prisoners suffered lacerations and contusions.

Prof. Amir Attaran said the injuries appear to have been inflicted while the men were in Canadian custody - an allegation the military denies but is nonetheless investigating.

The agreement signed with the Afghan human rights commission gives potential victims a vehicle to get their complaints investigated, documented and presented to either Canadian authorities or the local judiciary for prosecution, Noorzai said.

A complaint would have to be well founded in order to be brought to the attention of the military or the Afghan courts, he said.

"I need to prove the allegation," said Noorzai.

"If the case has facts behind it, I have to do something for the person."

Canada is the only NATO country so far to strike such a arrangement. The Afghan commission hopes other alliance members will do the same.

The negotiations were started almost a year ago. The contract was signed on Friday when Nader Naderi, commissioner of the Afghan Human Rights Commission based in Kabul, was in Canada and met with the minister of defence.

Noorzai said eventually he would like to see the agreement expanded, or a separate arrangement signed, that would allow the commission to report on civilian shootings by foreign troops.

Over the past month, four Afghan bystanders have been killed in unintentional shootings involving Canadian soldiers.

The Afghan National Police and the human rights commission have recommended that military convoys be escorted by Afghan authorities through Kandahar's chaotic streets - a suggestion the Canadian army is considering.