Our speaker today is Omar Sabry, a human rights activist and researcher based in Ottawa. Taken from the Rideau Institute public release forum: In transferring hundreds to the custody of the NDS in Kandahar, Canada failed to prevent the torture of many Afghan detainees,” said Sabry.
The government occasionally suspended transfers for various reasons, including disturbing allegations of abuse, but then resumed transfers on at least six occasions. The government’s conduct in this regard was haphazard and unprincipled, in addition to being in violation of international law.”
The Panel is just one of the many events at the 9th Annual Ottawa Peace Festival, from Sept. 22 through Oct. 2. The president of the Rideau Institute on International Affairs, Peggy Mason, will be introducing our speaker and the discussion panel.
Omar Sabry: Torture a routine part of the procedures, particularly during the investigation stage of detainees in order to extort confessions from detainees transferred by Canadians. Kandahar is the worst province for the use of torture in Afghanistan. The conflict-related detainees were the most subject to torture.
In 2012, a report was released detailing the forms of torture endured by the detainees: beating, most often with kicks, cables, pipes and hoses, suspension (being hung by cables, metal cuffs), electric shock, threatened sexual abuse, forced prolonged standing with arms suspended in the air, burning with cigarettes.
in 2015 a report stated more than a third of Afghan detainees were tortured. Torture is an engrained part of detainees in Afghan facilities.
Canada transferred 335 detainees between 2001 and 2009; the number is actually higher, we just don't have official numbers for 2010 and 2011. -Sabry
After the Canadian government signed a transfer arrangement in 2005, Canada could not monitor conditions of detainees in detention facilities after they were transferred. Canada signed a second transfer arrangement in 2007, which allowed Canada to monitor condition of detainees themselves. Reports then started to become public, but torture was often able to be hidden by authorities and thus was often not detected and recorded.
Sabry detailed pattern of government transferred detainees, and allegations of torture would be released, government would temporarily suspend transfer, then government would decide conditions are adequate, so transfers were continued. Torture included detainees being beaten by electric cables, being forced to stand for long periods of time, being threatened with execution or sexual assault. This detailed pattern detected by Sabry occured on at least 6 occasions.
Canadian government aware there were other ways to transfer detainees in Kandahar. Sabry categorizes alternatives:
1) transfer tun exclusively by Canadian government
2) run by afghan authorities but with more Canadian involvement
3) transferred detainees to another authority other than the NDS (worse organisation)
4) transferred to NDS in Kabul, not Kandahar
Started transfers in 2006 to end of 2011, so Canadian government transferred 100's of detainees, no evidence government considered these alternatives.
"Canada's conduct on this issue was illegal". -Sabry
There is a huge Government resistance to diffusion of this issue- the public has the right to know all the details . A public discussion is the only effective way people will know full extent of Canada’s practice in relation to afghan detainees and Canada's respect, or lack there of Canada’s international law provisions.
The word complicity can be defined in many ways; the definition is a subject of disagreement. Some say complicity needs to have a more active role in the crime of torture, but others state it is enough if there is mere knowledge.
Sabry: The prohibition of torture has risen in International Law, and has reached such a status that it can never be suspended. It is such a basic principle of international law, governments could never theoretically sign a treaty to allow for torture. If there is a substantial risk an individual will be tortured, that individual will not be transferred under same law.
In response to question about what else is being done to raise public inquiry on torture issue: Sabry is hoping to get more media attention.They brought report to various media sources with little to no discussion. There have been no releases from any political party.
There was initial push back saying that there was nothing new. But this issue of torture is unfinished business.