Canadian military resumes transfer of detainees

The Canadian military has resumed the transfer of detainees to Afghan officials after a suspension of the practice following allegations of abuse.

The Canadian military has resumed the transfer of detainees to Afghan officials after a suspension of the practice following allegations of abuse, officials said Friday.

Speaking to reporters in Kandahar, Afghanistan, Lt.-Col. Grant Dame would not say exactly when transfers resumed, only that they will be done on a case by case basis.

"In other words, we exercise discretion each and every time we transfer a detainee," Dame said.

Both the Canadian Forces and government officials in Kandahar said they are satisfied that conditions in Afghan prisons have improved since allegations of abuse were reported in the fall.

In January, it was publicly disclosed that the military decided on Nov. 6 to stop transferring prisoners to Afghan authorities after evidence of torture was found during a prison visit.

Ron Hoffmann, the acting Canadian ambassador in Kabul, said that since the allegations of abuse there have been improvements to Afghanistan's law enforcement and corrections system, including the suspension and arrest of a senior Kandahar official suspected of abuse.

As well, Canadian officials are helping to train prison officials in human rights and appropriate questioning techniques, Hoffman said.

Afghan officials are now documenting and taking photos of detainees at the time of registration, Hoffman said, and arrangements have been made for a doctor to visit the facility in Kandahar on a weekly basis to provide medical care to detainees.

"It should be emphasized that while Canada is contributing to the above activities, it is not in the business of building or managing corrections facilities in Afghanistan," Hoffman said.

"That is the responsibility of the Afghan government."

Alex Neve, of Amnesty International, said he was shocked that prisoner transfers have resumed only a few weeks after Federal Court Justice Anne Mactavish expressed "serious concerns" over how effective Canadian efforts have been to ensure the safety of their prisoners and what safeguards have been put in place.

"To think that somehow that's all been remedied almost overnight, such that we can get back to situation normal, defies belief and is simply not something that should have happened," Neve said.

Justice Mactavish expressed her concerns after denying an injunction request from Amnesty International Canada and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association to stop Canadian troops from transferring prisoners to Afghan authorities.

Neve said the actions announced Friday were steps in the right direction.

"But they don't solve it such that we can now confidently say there's no longer a serious risk of torture when prisoners are transferred."

With files from the Canadian Press