Detention in Afghanistan
February 14, 2008
Secretary Robert Gates has been warning that shortcomings in personnel, training, and equipment threaten NATO’s work in Afghanistan. But a swirling legal battle over detention procedures is also threatening to sink the mission.
Amnesty International has sued Canada to prevent Canadian troops in Afghanistan from transferring detainees to the Afghan government. Amnesty claims that the Afghans mistreat detainees, making such transfers a violation of Canada’s Constitution. Since November, Canada has chosen not to transfer detainees to the Afghans, presumably relying instead on short-term, ad hoc detention arrangements. Even though a Canadian court has declined to issue an injunction preventing Canada from transferring detainees to the Afghans, Amnesty’s broader challenge to the transfers remains to be heard later this year.
However, a top Canadian general has argued publicly that if Canada’s courts permanently prevent the government from transferring detainees to the Afghans, Canadian troops would have to quit fighting the Taliban and hunker down in secure bases. This would effectively terminate Canada’s contribution to the mission, removing a significant NATO troop contributor from the battlefield.