'We understood that was the kind of world we were working in' - Macleans.ca

‘We understood that was the kind of world we were working in’

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The Dutch general who served as his country’s chief of defence staff talks to Embassy magazine about why his side insisted on monitoring detainees from the outset.

“We all had our doubts whether, let’s say, the standards for treating prisoners would be the same with the Afghan authorities as what we deem proper in the West,” Mr. Berlijn said. “We’ve all heard stories that sometimes the prisoners in Afghan prisons were not treated all that well.”

Mr. Berlijn said local strongmen were particularly notorious, while he had also heard reports of prisoners being killed while in detention. That is why post-transfer monitoring was a key element of the Dutch transfer agreements, he said, noting the British followed essentially the same process. And those monitoring visits by Dutch embassy officials did happen, he added.

“I’m not sure if those were real reports but we understood that was the kind of world we were working in and that’s why we took those precautions,” he said. “We did not want to, let’s say, make it easy on ourselves by saying ‘Well, we handed them off to the Afghan authorities, it’s no longer our business.’ That was not the case. We understood we had a responsibility there.”