Sunday, December 13, 2009

Canadian detainee-transfer agreement releasing Taliban prisoners

It has become apparent that, while controversy surrounds the detainee-transfer agreement in 2006 and 2007, the updated version has failings of its own. According to the Globe and Mail, and by Lawrence Cannon's own admission, the Afghans are ignoring the stipulation in the agreement that Afghanistan's secret policy notify Canadians when a prisoner captured by Canadians is transferred or released.

This is indicated by the inability of the Canadian Forces to account for some of their prisoners. If Afghanistan were following through on its obligation to notify Canadians of all transfers and releases, this would not be the case.

Cannon concedes that “ notification has been a challenge.” This effectively means that, although there is no proven single instance, it is very likely that prisoners captured by Canadians have been released without notification, and may even have returned to fighting our troops. In a horrific twist, Taliban prisoners may be exacting their revenge on their Canadian captors, abetted by a justice system that has failed to notify Canadians of prisoner releases.

What is without question is that prisoners are being released illegally and have had a significant impact on the Canadian Forces' morale. In a September 19 memo, Canada's Ambassador to Afghanistan wrote the “release of detainees is having a profound and demoralizing affect on our soldiers.”

This is a scandal in itself. It discredits the claims of the government asserting that their transfer agreement is adequate and by association also undermines their assurance that the problems with prisoner transfers and torture in 2006 and 2007 have been resolved.

For all we know, it may be the Afghans have studiously avoided to notify us of many prisoners' status because they are engaging in torture. What we do know is that the issue looks more suspicious now than it did.
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  1. Personally, I'd be much more concerned with the detainees being transferred to other facilities where they may be tortured than with their being "improperly" released. If they're not going to be treated with the rights of prisoners of war and they're not going to be charged as criminals, then they ought to be released.

    If there is a demoralizing effect from prisoner releases, presumably that effect would occur whether we were notified or not.

  2. First torture; then, release.

    Newsweek did a story on this about a year and a half ago.

    Afghan guards are paid $4 a day. They torture prisoners to extract bribes from the detainees relatives or from their Taliban brothers-in-arms. Bribery, torture and corruption are entrenched in Afghan society.

    Once they've tortured sufficiently, bribes are paid (often as little as US$20) and the detainees are released.

    As you've surmised, the released detainees blame NATO for their capture and torture. They become more radicalized as a result and have an increased incentive to kill NATO troops.

    The current detainee transfer agreement is failing. It is allowing unmonitored detainees to bribe their way out of Afghan custody so they may kill Canadians.


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