Torture: The Transfers of Afgan Prisoners

Letter to Canada’s House of Commons – Linked on our blogs with Lawyers Against the War LAW.

Published on Global, by Lawyers Against the War, by Lawyers Against the War, December 22, 2009.

Open letter to the Parliamentary Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan (Chair: Rick Casson, Vice-chair: Bryon Wilfert, Members: Jim Abbott, Ujjal Dosanjh, Francine Lalonde, Claude Bachand, Laurie Hawn, Dave MacKenzie, Paul Dewar, Greg Kerr, Deepak Obhrai)

Dear Committee Members, Lawyers against the War (LAW) urges the Parliamentary Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan to recommend:

  • The immediate cessation of transfers of people taken prisoner in Afghanistan (prisoners) by Canada, to third countries, including Afghanistan; and,
  • That Canada immediately undertake effective protective and remedial measures with respect to all prisoners already transferred by Canada to third countries; and,
  • The creation of a judicial inquiry mandated to inquire into allegations that the transfers violate Canadian and international law and to recommend the civil and criminal remedies required by law. 

Concerned Canadians know that people taken captive in Afghanistan and transferred to either U.S. or Afghan custody are at risk of torture and other grave violations of their internationally protected rights. The facts establishing the illegality of the transfer of prisoners have been a matter public record since, at the latest, early 2004. Under Canadian and international law transfer to risk of such harm violates both Canadian and international law. Knowledge of the applicable law is presumed.

Evidence that Canada was and is, violating Canadian and international law by transferring people taken captive in Afghanistan to either U.S. or Afghan authorities has long been part of the public record. Since November 13 20011, the world has known that the U.S. intended to illegally detain non-Americans taken prisoner in Afghanistan and to deny them access to properly constituted courts and other due process in violation of international law.2 The world has known since February 7, 20023 that such prisoners transferred into U.S. custody would be denied the protection of the Geneva Conventions and subjected to whatever treatment, including torture and/or other prohibited treatment, the President or Secretary of Defense arbitrarily determined was ‘required by the exigencies of the war on terror’. By the end of September 2004, concerned people and those in positions of responsibility knew, from the report of the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Afghanistan, that prisoners were routinely subjected to torture and other internationally prohibited treatment in both Afghan-run and U.S.-run prisons within Afghanistan …

… In June 2008, Maj. General Antonio M. Taguba (USA-Ret.), author of the U.S. Army’s 2004 internal report on Abu Ghraib wrote, “…After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts, and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current [Bush] administration has committed war crimes.”

Those same words apply to Canada’s transfer of prisoners in Afghanistan: there is no longer any doubt that the transfers are illegal. Neither is there any doubt that the law requires that the transfers be stopped, the violations investigated, identified and remedied and further violations prevented. While the personal knowledge of the Canadian officials in command of the transfers may be germaine to future legal suits, this factor does not and cannot alter Canada’s legal duties now or then.

LAW urges the Committee to act responsibly to uphold the law: to stop the transfers, ensure the identification of and remedies for past violations and to prevent future violations. Respectfully submitted. Gail Davidson, Lawyers against the War. Copied to:

  • The Clerk of the Committee is Carmen DePape
  • Members of Parliament
  • Senators

(full text and Notes 1 – 7).  -  (More articles by Lawyers Against the War).

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