Amnesty fails to block Canada's Afghan transfers

Thu Feb 7, 2008 3:04pm EST
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Amnesty International Canada on Thursday lost the first round of its bid to prevent Canadian troops in Afghanistan from transferring prisoners to Afghan authorities, where Amnesty fears they could be tortured.

Canada's Federal Court denied a request by Amnesty and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association for an injunction to prohibit the transfer of Afghan detainees, while the court conducts a more lengthy review of the issue.

Justice Anne Mactavish ruled that the rights groups had failed to demonstrate "that irreparable harm will likely result unless the injunction is granted."

Canada stopped handing over prisoners to the Afghan authorities last November after receiving evidence that a detainee had been mistreated.

Canada's minority Conservative government says the transfers could resume at any time if it is determined that enough safeguards against torture in place, and the rights groups wanted to block that possible resumption.

According to an Afghan human rights official, Canada has kept up to 20 prisoners at its southern Afghan base in Kandahar since the interruption of the transfers. It has 2,500 troops at the base.

Mactavish said her decision would not prevent the Canadian rights groups from renewing its request for an injunction if transfers resume.

Amnesty said the judge's ruling was "a powerful and unequivocal vindication" of what the group had been saying about the problems with the transfers.

"She's laid out a litany ... of problems, including deficient record-keeping, missing detainees, the serious and very worrying allegations of mistreatment," Amnesty International Canada's secretary-general Alex Neve told Reuters.

(Reporting by Randall Palmer and David Ljunggren)