Wednesday, November 14, 2007

NATO scoffs at Amnesty International

Canadian troops exposing detainees to "real risks of torture"
Amnesty International's latest report relates that organization's "concerns" that Canadian and other NATO troops are breaking international law in their handling of prisoners. From the AI press realease:

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan is exposing detainees to real risks of torture or other ill-treatment by Afghan authorities, says Amnesty International in a report released today.

The report documents how ISAF forces – particularly those from Belgium, Britain, Canada, the Netherlands and Norway – have transferred detainees to Afghanistan’s intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), despite consistent reports of torture and other ill-treatment by the NDS... (link)
In response, the Canadian Forces' own James Appurthurai, spokesperson for NATO, "dismissed Amnesty's proposal for a transfer moratorium," says Reuters.
"Our policy was developed with the Red Cross/Crescent and meets international standards. We are comfortable with it," NATO spokesman James Appathurai said.

"NATO-ISAF has no evidence of mistreatment of detainees transferred by NATO to Afghan custody. Of course we could never rule it out, but we part ways with Amnesty on the way forward ...It is not for NATO to create a parallel detention system." ... (Reuters)
Appathurai's comment that NATO "has no evidence of mistreatment" may have been over the top. In other comments the same spokesperson uses different words: "Nato has no proof of ill-treatment or of torture of detainees that its forces have transferred to the Afghans." (See Al Jazeera site.)

Now compare either of Appurthurai's versions of the facts with Amnesty International's report:
Analysis of interviews with 15 individuals held in Afghan custody, but who were originally captured by Canadian forces, reveals that 10 were transferred to the NDS, either directly or through the Afghan National Army (ANA) or Afghan National Police (ANP). Of the 10 detainees held in NDS custody, six described torture and other forms of ill-treatment. Canadian officials themselves have stated they have received at least six first-hand reports of torture.

The Canadian government has continued to state that more than 40 individuals have been transferred. However, AI believes that the number of transfers may be as high as 200, and that this figure does not include many of the immediate transfers which happen in the course of military operations in-field.
The Amnesty report "Afghanistan Detainees transferred to torture: ISAF complicity?" is available here.

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