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Canada/Afghanistan: Rights groups condemn handling of child soldier detainees

    December 02, 2010

    Recently disclosed documents indicate that the Canadian Forces have mishandled these children in a manner that contravenes Canada’s international obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. In a letter sent to Minister of National Defence Peter MacKay, Amnesty International Canada and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) call on the Department of National Defence to take immediate action to bring its policies and practices regarding children apprehended in course of military operations in Afghanistan into compliance with international law.

    “International treaties that Canada has ratified make it clear that when alleged child soldiers come into the custody and care of Canadian Forces, Canada’s primary obligation must be to ensure that they are demobilized and that they receive the assistance they need to ensure their physical and psychological recovery and their social reintegration,” says Alex Neve, Secretary- General of Amnesty International Canada.

    “Recruiting and using children by government forces or armed groups is among the most serious crimes under international law. Children who are the victims of enlistment urgently need support. Canada has an obligation under international law to assist child victims by providing remedies and rehabilitation,” notes Carmen Cheung, Counsel at the BCCLA.

    Amnesty International and the BCCLA have serious concerns that children are currently being apprehended, detained and transferred to the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s notorious intelligence service widely believed to engage in abuse and torture of prisoners.

    In addition to concerns about the treatment of children who have been detained by Canadian Forces, the groups remain concerned about the wider approach Canada has adopted to the handling of prisoners apprehended in the course of military operations in Afghanistan, given the widespread use of torture in Afghan prisons. Current arrangements do not satisfy Canada’s obligations under international human rights and international humanitarian law, particularly the prohibition on torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

    Given the mounting concerns about the human rights failings in Canada’s approach to handling prisoners in Afghanistan, the organizations have reiterated their call for a comprehensive public inquiry into all aspects of Canada’s Afghan detainee policy and practice.

    For further information,
    please contact:

    John Tackaberry,
    Media Relations,
    Amnesty International Canada
    613-744-7667, ext 236