Page last updated at 04:48 GMT, Thursday, 19 November 2009

Canada hears of Afghan 'torture'

By Lee Carter
BBC News Toronto

A Canadian soldier keeps watch in Kandahar  (file pic: 2006)
The detainees were allegedly tortured after the Canadians handed them over

A senior Canadian diplomat has testified that many Afghan detainees captured by Canadian forces in 2006 and 2007 were likely to have been tortured.

Richard Colvin told a parliamentary committee in Ottawa that government bureaucrats had ignored his warnings.

He said the detainees were tortured by Afghan security officers after being transferred from Canadian custody.

But Conservative Party MPs on the committee were concerned he had spoken to just four alleged victims.

His testimony has raised serious allegations about Canada's role in the transfer of prisoners in Afghanistan.


Mr Colvin wasted no time in making his central allegation to Canadian members of parliament.

He said that Afghan detainees transferred from the Canadian military base in Kandahar to the Afghan intelligence service had been tortured.

"The most common forms of torture were beatings, whippings with power cables and the use of electricity," he said.

Mr Colvin said that for 16 months, up to April 2007, the Canadian military in Kandahar had no monitoring system for keeping track of an Afghan detainee after he had left Canadian custody.

"Was he still in detention? Had he been released? Had he been transferred to a third party? Had he died under torture or been executed? We had no idea," he said.

Mr Colvin said he relied on what he called trusted sources for much of his information.

But he admitted that he had only spoken to four detainees himself.

That led to a scornful response on the committee by MPs from the governing Conservatives, who said that that fact alone discredited the intelligence officer's testimony.

The issue of torture has been raised publicly in both the United States and Britain in the past but never in Canada.

Mr Colvin said that he and his colleagues had tried to warn senior officials in Ottawa about the torture allegations.

But he said that he was ordered by Canadian foreign ministry officials to stop putting his concerns on paper.

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