As Canada’s Combat Mission in Afghanistan is Complete, Canada Signs New Transfer Arrangement for Detainees in Afghanistan

(No. 367 - December 9, 2011 - 12:00 p.m. ET) As Canada’s combat mission in Afghanistan is complete, the Government of Canada today announced the signing of a detainee-transfer arrangement with the Government of the United States of America to facilitate the transfer of detainees captured by the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan to the custody of U.S. Forces at the Detention Facility in Parwan, Afghanistan.

“From the onset of our engagement in Afghanistan, we have consistently adapted our detainee transfer process to ensure that we continue to meet our international legal obligations,” said Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird. “With our combat operations in southern Afghanistan now complete and a new chapter of engagement in Afghanistan beginning, we have determined that this is the best possible way forward for all parties involved.”

“With the transition of Canada’s combat mission in Kandahar to a new training mission centred in Kabul, it became apparent that a new arrangement was needed for the Canadian Forces to continue their important work in Afghanistan,” said the Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence. “The facility in Parwan is used by ISAF allies, builds Afghan institutional capacities and allows for Canadian monitoring of detainees.”

The Detention Facility in Parwan, which is located north of Kabul, opened in January 2010. The U.S.-run facility is gradually transitioning to Afghan control and is recognized by the Government of Afghanistan as an appropriate facility for the detention of insurgents. Moreover, the Government of Afghanistan operates a court at the facility so that detainees can be prosecuted under Afghan law.

Canadian officials will continue to monitor the detainees transferred to the Detention Facility in Parwan.

The full text of the transfer arrangement is available on www.afghanistan.gc.ca.

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A backgrounder follows.

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Backgrounder – As Canada’s Combat Mission in Afghanistan is Complete, Canada Signs New Transfer Arrangement for Detainees in Afghanistan

Canada is participating in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan with 49 other nations at the request of the democratically elected Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

Since the beginning of our military operations in Afghanistan in 2001, the Government of Canada has been committed to ensuring that individuals detained by the Canadian Forces are handled and transferred or released in accordance with our obligations under international law.

Respect for the rule of law is an essential aspect of Canadian Forces operations. Members of the Canadian Forces and their civilian counterparts have consistently demonstrated tremendous professionalism in their respective roles regarding detainees. Promoting and protecting human rights is a core element of Canada’s engagement in Afghanistan.

The Government of Canada has consistently adapted its processes for transferring detainees in Afghanistan to ensure that we continue to meet our international legal obligations.

In 2005, Canada established a transfer arrangement with the Government of Afghanistan that outlined roles and responsibilities with regard to the transfer of Canadian-captured detainees to Afghan authorities. In 2007, a supplementary transfer arrangement was signed with the Government of Afghanistan to supplement the 2005 arrangement and make explicit Canada’s expectations and Afghanistan’s responsibilities.

Canada’s military combat mission in Afghanistan ended in July 2011.

As part of Canada’s post-combat role in Afghanistan, on December 9, 2011, Canada announced it signed a new arrangement with the United States to facilitate the transfer of Canadian-captured detainees in Afghanistan to U.S. Forces’ custody at the Detention Facility in Parwan, located north of Kabul. With a new training mission centred on Kabul, with satellite sites in Mazar-e-Sharif and Herat, it made sense to find a central location close to Kabul to hold Canadian-transferred detainees.

The facility is gradually transitioning to Afghan control, and detainees are considered for prosecution under Afghan law and, when referred, are presented to Afghan authorities to commence judicial proceedings as soon as practicable.

The work to establish alternative options for the transfer of Canadian-captured detainees in Afghanistan started in late 2010 with the announcement of the new military training mission centred on Kabul.

In the summer and fall of 2011, information regarding the treatment of detainees in Afghan custody in Kandahar raised serious concerns for Canada, as well as for ISAF allies. Although these concerns were not related to Canadian-transferred detainees, they reinforced Canada’s decision to seek an alternative option for the transfer of its detainees in Afghanistan.

The 2005 transfer arrangement and the 2007 supplementary transfer arrangement signed with the Government of Afghanistan will remain in place and will continue to apply to all Canadian-transferred detainees in Afghan custody. The new arrangement with the Government of the United States would operate in parallel with the Afghan arrangements.

The likelihood that Canadian Forces will be required to take detainees is very low, given the nature of the training mission, the institutional settings for our training, and the fact that other ISAF partners are responsible for security in these areas.

Individuals are detained by the Canadian Forces because they have either attacked or killed Canadian soldiers and officials, Afghan citizens or our international partners, or because there is credible information to suggest that they intend to do so.

Canada will continue to monitor all Canadian-transferred detainees in Afghanistan until they are sentenced or released, including Canadian-transferred detainees in U.S. custody.

The Detention Facility in Parwan meets the international standards for detention conditions and puts an emphasis on the rehabilitation and community reintegration of detainees. The facility offers detainees medical care and also offers vocational training to help with the rehabilitation and community reintegration. 

International and human rights organizations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), have had full access to this facility for some time. Conditions of detention at the facility have been reported on positively by Canadian officials who have also conducted inspections.