Monday, October 20, 2008

Rapes continue as military drags feet

From the Toronto Star:

Critics slam Afghan rape probe
Investigation drags even as more soldiers accuse Afghan allies of abusing young boys

Oct 19 - The Canadian military's National Investigation Service is telling some witnesses it could take up to two years to investigate claims by Canadian soldiers that they've seen Afghan soldiers and interpreters raping young boys near Canadian bases outside Kandahar...

Canadian investigators, who were initially slow to move on the claims, saying they lacked formal complaints, began reviewing the allegations in July at the request of military police...

Soldiers who allege they have witnessed assaults are continuing to return home from Afghanistan seeking trauma counselling.

The latest soldiers to request counselling are from a group of about 30 based in Newfoundland, said a senior military source who asked not to be identified. A medical officer is scheduled to go to Newfoundland to help the soldiers later this month.

In June, the Star reported that several Canadian soldiers had complained about the abuse of Afghan children to military officers in Afghanistan and chaplains and medical staff in Canada.

The first soldiers to complain said their allegations were ignored.

John Pike, an analyst with GlobalSecurity.org, a Washington-based military think tank, said a two-year timetable is "preposterous." ...

The NIS has interviewed soldiers such as Cpl. Travis Schouten, a Sarnia native who in 2006 was based at Forward Operating Base Wilson in Afghanistan.

Schouten said he heard an Afghan soldier raping a young boy at one of the outposts near Kandahar and later saw that the boy's lower intestines had fallen out of his body, a sign of trauma from the assault. Schouten has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome and the military intends to have him discharged.

A Canadian military chaplain has said she has heard similar accounts from other soldiers.

And Lt. Col. St├ęphane Grenier said he counselled a British soldier who said he watched a young boy being raped by an Afghan soldier while his senior officer concluded a meeting nearby with Afghan army officers.

The Afghan rape allegations are the subject of two investigations.

Besides the NIS, a military board of inquiry is also examining the rape claims. (link)
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