Minister Baird Tables Afghan Detainee Documents Reviewed by Panel of Arbiters

(No. 174 - June 22, 2011 - 3:15 p.m. ET) John Baird, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister, today tabled in the House of Commons more than 4,000 pages of documents that have been reviewed and cleared for public release by the independent Panel of Arbiters, which comprises judges retired from the top courts in Canada. These documents deal with the handling of Canadian-transferred detainees in Afghanistan.

"The documents tabled today show what our government has been telling Canadians all along," said Minister Baird. "Canada is committed to upholding our international obligations, including the handling and transfer of Taliban prisoners in full accordance with our international obligations."

All of the documents that were prioritized by the ad hoc committee of parliamentarians and sent to the Panel of Arbiters for decisions on redactions have now been released.

The Panel of Arbiters determined how relevant information regarding the Government of Canada’s handling of Afghan detainees could be released to parliamentarians and the public without jeopardizing Canada’s national security, international relations and the personal safety of Canadian military personnel and government officials.

After 12 months and over $12 million, no credible allegations against Canadian Armed Forces members or Canadian officials were found. The vast majority of redactions were left intact by the Panel of Arbiters. This concludes the process.

"Members of the Canadian Armed Forces have demonstrated and continue to demonstrate tremendous professionalism and the highest ethical standards in their handling and treatment of Taliban prisoners," said the Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence. "I am tremendously proud of our men and women in uniform, who risk their lives serving Canada with courage and honour, and these documents clearly show that there are no credible allegations against the Canadian Armed Forces and at all times our Forces acted in accordance with international law in their handling of Taliban prisoners."

This concludes the work of the ad hoc committee and the Panel of Arbiters, whom the government thanked for their work.

The documents tabled reinforce the full scope of efforts made by Canada to promote and protect human rights in Afghanistan. Specifically, they demonstrate that Canadian officials reacted swiftly whenever an allegation of mistreatment came to their attention and that officials consistently improved on the ways and means to meet their international legal obligations in the handling and transfer of detainees in Afghanistan.

Officials will be available for a technical briefing with media this afternoon.

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Chris Day  
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Office of Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird

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