How many? (II)

For the fourth consecutive day, Lawrence Cannon was pressed during QP to say how many children have been detained and transferred by the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan. For the fourth consecutive day, this did not result in an answer.

Afterward I emailed Mr. Cannon’s office with the following.

According to the Canadian Forces records released in September, 439 individuals were detained by the CF in Afghanistan between 2002 and 2008. Two-hundred and eighty-three of those individuals were transferred. Two questions: How many of those detained were juveniles? How many of those transferred were juveniles?

That was eventually forwarded to the Department of National Defence, which responds as follows. I’ve bolded the portion that seems most particularly applicable to the questions at hand.

The Government of Canada and the Canadian Forces are well aware of the international tragedy of juveniles fighting in conflict areas. Such practices are deplorable. Sadly, the Taliban are known to forcibly recruit juveniles, and train them to become fighters or suicide bombers, a tactic occasionally confronted by CF members during our operations.

The Canadian Forces treat all individuals who appear to be under the age of 18 as juveniles and have clear instructions to treat juvenile detainees with particular care.

With a view to ensuring the safety and security of Canadian Forces and allied forces in addition to protecting the identity of detainees, the CF has determined that it will only release, with a one year time lag, cumulative and annual totals, for the number of individuals detained by the CF. All other information about the detainees remains classified. This includes information about the number of juveniles detained/transferred, and information about specific individuals detained by the CF.

While not a very frequent occurrence, it does happen that the Canadian Forces are required to detain juveniles. In these instances the CF have clear instructions to treat juvenile detainees with particular care.

The Government of Canada has always been and remains committed to ensuring that detainees are handled and transferred in accordance with our obligations under international law.

Our policies for handling detainees, including juveniles, are in line with NATO standard operating procedures and consistent with international norms. Under these policies, any juveniles detained by the CF are held separately from detained adults.  All detainees are moved to Kandahar Air Field (KAF), where further screening is conducted.

Following this review, the Commander of Joint Task Force Afghanistan may determine that the individual no longer poses a threat after which these individuals are released.

Should it be determined that a juvenile detainee poses a real and substantial risk to the CF and our allies, they are transferred, in accordance with our arrangement with the Government of Afghanistan, to the National Directorate of Security, the Afghan agency responsible for national security investigations.

In accordance with Afghan law, the subsequent NDS investigation leads to either the release of the individual or transfer to the Juvenile Rehabilitation Centre.

The decision to transfer or release a detainee is made on a case-by-case basis and takes into consideration information from a number of Canadian, Afghan and international sources.  The Canadian Task Force Commander does not transfer detainees unless he is satisfied that there are no substantial grounds for believing that there exists a real risk that the detainee would be in danger of being subjected to torture or other forms of mistreatment.

Afghan authorities have designated the Juvenile Rehabilitation Centre as the appropriate facility to hold juvenile detainees. This decision was endorsed by the Government of Canada on the basis of assessments by Canadian officials that this change would not affect Canada’s ability to meet our obligations or implement our detainee monitoring program.

Additional information on the CF’s handling and processing of detainees is available on the Government of Canada’s Afghanistan website at:

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