Monday, June 16, 2008

Looking the other way

From the Toronto Star:

Don't look, don't tell, troops told
Civilian sex assaults by Afghan soldiers ignored

Jun 16 - [...] The chaplain, Jean Johns, says she recently counselled a Canadian soldier who said he witnessed a boy being raped by an Afghan soldier, then wrote a report on the allegation for her brigade chaplain.

In her March report, which she says should have been advanced "up the chain of command," Johns says the corporal told her that Canadian troops have been ordered by commanding officers "to ignore" incidents of sexual assault. Johns hasn't received a reply to the report.

While several Canadian Forces chaplains say other soldiers have made similar claims, Department of National Defence lawyers have argued Canada isn't obliged to investigate because none of the soldiers has made a formal complaint, says a senior Canadian officer familiar with the matter...

The independent claims bolster the credibility of an account provided by Cpl. Travis Schouten, a Canadian soldier who served in Afghanistan from September 2006 through early 2007 and now suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder.

A Star story Saturday detailed an allegation levelled by Schouten that during his tour, he heard an Afghan national army soldier abusing a young boy and then saw the boy afterwards with visible signs of rape trauma, his bowels and lower intestines falling out of his body.

The alleged abuse occurred in late 2006 near a forward operation base, some 20 kilometres from the Kandahar Airfield. Another chaplain at CFB Petawawa, Joe Johns, said a third chaplain told a group meeting last summer about having been approached by several Canadian military police officers who asked for help reconciling the fact they hadn't done anything to stop abuses. That chaplain declined to comment.

Bryon Wilfert, the Liberal critic for national defence... called Schouten's claims "very serious and disturbing" and says Canada at least should have sent the Afghan government a diplomatic note about the allegations... (link)

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