O'Connor sorry for misinforming House on Afghan detainees

Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor apologized to the House Monday for providing inaccurate information about the investigation into alleged abuses of Afghan detainees.

Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor has apologized for telling the House of Commons that the Red Cross would share information with Ottawa about alleged abuses of detainees after Canadian troops handed them over to Afghan authorities.

O'Connor told MPs on Monday that his earlier comment was inaccurate, adding thathe regretted any confusion that may have resulted.

"The answers I gave were given in good faith," he said, "and I take full responsibility and do so without hesitation."

On March 4, O'Connor told the Commons that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) would report to Canada about allegations of abuse of detainees handed over to the Afghan authorities by the Canadian Forces.

Speaking Monday in the House of Commons, O'Connor said he was sorry for makingthe statement in Parliament.

"The ICRC is under no obligation to share information with Canada on treatment of detainees handed over to the Afghan authorities. The ICRC provides this information to Afghanistan."

O'Connor said Canada and Afghanistan had an agreement that detainees held by either party could be visited by ICRC inspectors at any time, no matter where they were detained.

In addition, Canada has agreed to allow an Afghan human rights group to investigate claims of detainee abuse, though the group has said it doesn't have enough money or personnel to do a thorough job.

Duceppe calls for O'Connor's resignation

During question period, opposition MPs were quick to portrayO'Connor's admission as a betrayal of Canada's longstanding tradition of protecting human rights.

"How does the prime minister have any confidence in the minister in his ability to uphold basic human rights when the commission admits it is unable to do the job?" Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion asked.

Bloc Québécois Gilles Duceppesaid it was clearthe defence ministerhad misled the House of Commons and shouldresign.

"That's the only reason he apologized,"he said.

Abuse investigations underway

Canada's Military Police Complaints Commission is investigating 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.

O'Connor said Monday there are alsofour current investigations into the alleged beating of three captured Taliban who were picked up near the village 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 investigating.