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Rights groups condemn handling of child soldier detainees

Association (BCCLA) and Amnesty International Canada call on the Department of National
Defence to take immediate action to bring its policies and practices regarding children
apprehended in course of military operations in Afghanistan into compliance with international
law.

Recently disclosed documents indicate that the Canadian Forces have mishandled these
children in a manner that contravenes Canada’s international obligations under the UN
Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the
Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict.

“International treaties that Canada has ratified make it clear that when alleged child soldiers
come into the custody and care of Canadian Forces, Canada’s primary obligation must be to
ensure that they are demobilized and that they receive the assistance they need to ensure
their physical and psychological recovery and their social reintegration,” says Alex Neve,
Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada.

“Recruiting and using children by government forces or armed groups is among the most
serious crimes under international law. Children who are the victims of enlistment urgently
need support. Canada has an obligation under international law to assist child victims by
providing remedies and rehabilitation,” says Carmen Cheung, Counsel at the BCCLA.

The BCCLA and Amnesty International have serious concerns that children are currently being
apprehended, detained and transferred to the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s
notorious intelligence service widely believed to engage in abuse and torture of prisoners.

In addition to concerns about the treatment of children who have been detained by Canadian
Forces, the groups remain concerned about the wider approach Canada has adopted to the
handling of prisoners apprehended in the course of military operations in Afghanistan, given
the widespread use of torture in Afghan prisons. Current arrangements do not satisfy Canada’s obligations under international human rights and international humanitarian law, particularly the prohibition on torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Given the mounting concerns about the human rights failings in Canada’s approach to handling prisoners in Afghanistan, the organizations have reiterated their call for a comprehensive public inquiry into all aspects of Canada’s Afghan detainee policy and practice.

Read the letter to Minister of National Defence Peter MacKay

Read recently disclosed documents concerning handling of children:

MEDIA CONTACTS: John Tackaberry, Media Relations, Amnesty: 613-744-7667, ext. 236 Carmen Cheung, Counsel at the BCCLA, 604-630-9758 or [email protected]