Canada handed over child prisoners to Afghans
OTTAWA: 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 Canadian Broadcasting Corp said.
The story-first made public late on Sunday-is the latest blow to the image of Canada's increasingly unpopular combat mission in southern Afghanistan, which is due to end next year. The question of Afghan detainees has been one of the most difficult issues for the minority Conservative government since it took power in early 2006.
The CBC, citing a Defense Department document, said that since 2006 Canadian soldiers had captured children and then transferred them to a special wing at Kandahar's Sarpoza prison, which is run by Afghan's National Directorate of Security (NDS).
Last year a Canadian diplomat said that as early as 2006, he had sent reports indicating the NDS was abusing detainees. A briefing document sent to Defense Minister Peter MacKay in March said Afghan authorities were now sending child prisoners to a separate juvenile rehabilitation center.
"This change may draw attention to the role of juveniles in the Afghan conflict," noted the document, which the CBC obtained under access to information laws.
The document said some children had been in "Canadian Forces custody for a significant period". The exact amount of time, as well as the number of children, was deleted. No one from the Defense Department was available for comment on Monday. The CBC quoted a military spokesman as saying all "juvenile detainees are sent to NDS to be processed", and were then either released or sent to the rehabilitation center.
Canada has around 2,800 troops in the southern Kandahar region, and has so far lost 153 servicemen and women. Once the combat mission ends next year, about 950 soldiers will stay behind until 2014 to help train Afghan forces. -Reuters