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Last Updated: Friday, 4 May 2007, 08:10 GMT 09:10 UK
Canada signs Afghan detainee deal
Canadian army soldiers at a forward operating base west of Kandahar on 21 January 2007
Canada has 2,500 soldiers serving in Afghanistan
Canada has signed a deal with Afghanistan which will give Ottawa unrestricted access to any prisoners they hand over to Kabul.

Canada has come under growing criticism following allegations that detainees were tortured in Afghanistan.

The torture is said to have occurred after Canadian soldiers transferred suspects to Afghan security forces.

Canada signed a controversial agreement two years ago to hand over Taleban prisoners to the Afghan authorities.

About 2,500 Canadian soldiers are involved in combat operations against insurgents in southern Afghanistan.

'Not good enough'

Canadian Federal Court Judge Michael Kelen announced the details of the new agreement during a case brought about by human rights group, Amnesty International Canada.

Amnesty has been calling for stopping all transfers of prisoners to Afghanistan.

"It [the new agreement] probably wouldn't have happened if this court hadn't been happening," Mr Kelen said.

But Amnesty said the deal was not good enough.

"Monitoring isn't the solution. It's a positive step forward compared to the former deal, but that's not the end point when torture is as rampant and systematic as it is in Afghanistan," Amnesty spokesman Alex Neve told news agency Associated Press.

"No amount of monitoring will prevent something that is a secret, insidious practice that can inflict devastating harm and damage on prisoners in a few minutes," he said.

'Electric cables'

Last week, at least 30 detainees told Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper that they were tortured in Afghan prisons after being handed over by Canadian armed forces based in Kandahar to Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security.

The allegations of brutality ranged from beatings to starvation, to being left naked outside in freezing temperatures.

Some of the men also said they were whipped with electrical cables.

In the face of a storm of opposition questions in the Canadian parliament, Prime Minister Stephen Harper defended the controversial prisoner exchange deal.

Canadian Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor promised that the allegations would be looked at seriously.

International law and human rights activists have warned the government that if the allegations are true, then Canadians may face international war crimes prosecution.




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