Canada slammed for Afghan child prisoner handover

Mon Nov 29, 2010 3:40pm EST
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Opposition legislators blasted the Canadian government on Monday after it emerged that Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan captured children suspected of working with the Taliban and then handed them over to an Afghan security unit alleged to have abused prisoners.

The revelations are the latest blow to Canada's increasingly unpopular combat mission in southern Afghanistan, which is due to end next year.

The question of Afghan detainees -- and whether Canadian soldiers knew they might be abused -- has been one of the most difficult issues for the minority Conservative government since it took power in early 2006.

The Defense Department said some child detainees were handed over to Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security (NDS), stressing that no transfers would take place if Canadian officers felt there was any risk of torture.

Last year a Canadian diplomat said that as early as 2006, he had sent reports indicating the NDS was abusing detainees.

Opposition members of Parliament pressed the government in the House of Commons over what the soldiers had done.

"The Canadian government knew perfectly well that the NDS practiced torture. Why did Canada transfer child prisoners to the Afghan NDS torturers?" asked Thomas Mulcair, deputy leader of the left-leaning New Democrats.

"How many children were arrested? How many children were transferred? How many children were tortured?"   Continued...

<p>Afghan children look from behind a razor wire at an outpost in Zhari district in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan November 20, 2010. REUTERS/Peter Andrews</p>