Canadian Forces Release Statistics on Afghanistan Detainees

Cana­da is par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan with 47 oth­er nations at the request of the demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly elect­ed gov­ern­ment. Our ulti­mate aim is to leave Afghan­si­tan to Afghans, a viable coun­try that is bet­ter gov­erned, more peace­ful and more secure.

Since the begin­ning of our mil­i­tary oper­a­tions in Afghanistan in Octo­ber 2001, the Gov­ern­ment of Cana­da has been com­mit­ted to ensur­ing that indi­vid­u­als detained by the Cana­di­an Forces (CF) 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. 

Canada’s process­es for the trans­fer of detainees to Afghan author­i­ties have evolved over the years of our engage­ment in Afghanistan. Key to our efforts since May 2007 is a post-trans­fer mon­i­tor­ing pro­gram, a Diplo­mat­ic Con­tin­gency Plan, and a robust capac­i­ty build­ing pro­gram for the Afghan jus­tice and cor­rec­tions sec­tors. The Diplo­mat­ic Con­tin­gency Plan is trig­gered in the event alle­ga­tions of abuse of a Cana­di­an-trans­ferred detainee are received from any source, includ­ing dur­ing inter­views with trans­ferred detainees. In the event of an alle­ga­tion, Cana­da noti­fies the Inter­na­tion­al Com­mit­tee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Afghanistan Inde­pen­dent Human Rights Com­mis­sion (AIHRC), and Afghan author­i­ties, as appro­pri­ate. Cana­di­an offi­cials fol­low up on the investigations. 


After more than three decades of civ­il con­flict, the capac­i­ty of the Afghan jus­tice and cor­rec­tion­al sys­tem was seri­ous­ly erod­ed. Cana­da and our allies under­stood the need to sup­port law and order in Afghanistan by build­ing the capac­i­ty of the police, judi­cial and cor­rec­tions sec­tors through tar­get­ed capac­i­ty-build­ing efforts. 

We con­tin­ue to work with and train the Afghan Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Forces (ANSF) to increase the Afghan government’s capac­i­ty to han­dle detainees appro­pri­ate­ly. Cana­da has made sig­nif­i­cant invest­ments to help build capac­i­ty in rule of law func­tions, includ­ing police, judi­cial and cor­rec­tion­al ser­vices. Cana­da also con­tin­ues to fund and work close­ly with inde­pen­dent orga­ni­za­tions, includ­ing the AIHRC, to strength­en their abil­i­ties to mon­i­tor, inves­ti­gate, report and act on issues involv­ing the treat­ment of detainees. 

In the ear­ly stages of Canada’s engage­ment in Afghanistan, the Cana­di­an Forces trans­ferred Afghan detainees to U.S. author­i­ties and, while on joint oper­a­tions sup­port­ing capac­i­ty build­ing of the ANSF, to Afghan author­i­ties. Since the Decem­ber 2005 Cana­da-Afghanistan Arrange­ment for the Trans­fer of Detainees was signed, all Cana­di­an Forces detainees have been trans­ferred to Afghan author­i­ties pur­suant to spe­cif­ic modal­i­ties set out there­in. The Gov­ern­ment of Afghanistan has pri­ma­ry respon­si­bil­i­ty for ensur­ing that the rights of those trans­ferred into its cus­tody are respected. 

Recog­ni­tion of the Afghan government’s sov­er­eign respon­si­bil­i­ty for all issues relat­ed to the rule of law and jus­tice in its ter­ri­to­ry under­pins the for­mal arrange­ment of 18 Decem­ber 2005. This estab­lished pro­ce­dures for the trans­fer of detainees to Afghan author­i­ties. Cana­da does not oper­ate per­ma­nent deten­tion facil­i­ties in Afghanistan. 

In addi­tion to set­ting the frame­work for trans­fers, this arrange­ment rein­forced the com­mit­ments of both par­ties to treat detainees humane­ly and in accor­dance with the stan­dards of the Third Gene­va Con­ven­tion. This arrange­ment also specif­i­cal­ly pro­hibits the appli­ca­tion of the death penal­ty to any Cana­di­an-trans­ferred detainee. 

On 3 May 2007, Cana­da signed a Sup­ple­men­tary Arrange­ment which clar­i­fied Canada’s expec­ta­tions and the Gov­ern­ment of Afghanistan’s respon­si­bil­i­ties. Impor­tant­ly, this sup­ple­men­tary arrange­ment pro­vides Cana­di­an offi­cials with unre­strict­ed and pri­vate access to Cana­di­an trans­ferred detainees, and com­mits Afghan author­i­ties to noti­fy us when a detainee is trans­ferred, sen­tenced or released, or his sta­tus changes in any way. Cana­da retains the right to refuse trans­fer to a third par­ty. In the case of alle­ga­tions of mis­treat­ment, the Afghan Gov­ern­ment com­mit­ted through this Arrange­ment to inves­ti­gate and, when appro­pri­ate, bring to jus­tice sus­pect­ed offend­ers in accor­dance with Afghan law and applic­a­ble inter­na­tion­al legal standards. 

Civil­ian Gov­ern­ment of Cana­da offi­cials mon­i­tor the treat­ment of Cana­di­an-trans­ferred detainees in Afghan deten­tion facil­i­ties up to the point where detainees are sen­tenced by Afghan author­i­ties, or are released from custody. 

Deten­tion Pro­ce­dures

Detainees are indi­vid­u­als cap­tured by the Cana­di­an Forces in the course of mil­i­tary oper­a­tions who pose a threat to Cana­di­ans, Allies or Afghans – indi­vid­u­als who have either attacked or killed Cana­di­an sol­diers and offi­cials, Afghan cit­i­zens or our inter­na­tion­al part­ners, or in respect of whom there is cred­i­ble infor­ma­tion to sug­gest that they present a threat. 

In accor­dance with their oblig­a­tions under inter­na­tion­al human­i­tar­i­an law, the Cana­di­an Forces (CF) treats all detainees humane­ly; as a mat­ter of pol­i­cy, this includes the stan­dards of pro­tec­tion afford­ed by the Third Gene­va Con­ven­tions. Pro­tec­tions include pro­vid­ing detainees with food, shel­ter and nec­es­sary med­ical atten­tion. Spe­cif­ic train­ing is pro­vid­ed to Cana­di­an Forces mem­bers involved in the han­dling and trans­fer of detainees. 

When a deci­sion is made to hold a detainee, that indi­vid­ual, whether injured or not, is brought to the Role 3 Multi­na­tion­al Med­ical Unit (MMU) for med­ical assess­ment. Non-injured detainees may then be hand­ed over to the tem­po­rary deten­tion cen­tre on the Cana­di­an base in Kan­da­har, while the injured receive nec­es­sary treat­ment. Detainees in Cana­di­an cus­tody are afford­ed the same med­ical treat­ment as CF mem­bers and either remain at the MMU for con­tin­u­ous care or are moved to the deten­tion cen­tre with vis­its to the MMU when necessary. 

Detainees remain under treat­ment in the MMU at Kan­da­har Air Field until their dis­charge, and while in deten­tion are pro­vid­ed access to fol­low-up treat­ment if required. 

Injured detainees who are sub­ject to trans­fer are held in CF cus­tody until their med­ical con­di­tion per­mits trans­fer to Afghan authorities. 

Con­di­tions for trans­fer

The deci­sion to con­tin­ue to detain, trans­fer or release a detainee is an oper­a­tional one that takes into con­sid­er­a­tion infor­ma­tion from a num­ber of Cana­di­an, Afghan and inter­na­tion­al sources. The Cana­di­an Task Force Com­man­der is the sole author­i­ty who can make the deter­mi­na­tion of whether a detainee will be trans­ferred or released by the Cana­di­an Forces. His deci­sion to trans­fer is premised on his con­fi­dence 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 at the hands of Afghan authorities. 

In accor­dance with ISAF guide­lines, the Cana­di­an Com­man­der makes every effort to hold detainees no longer than 96 hours, dur­ing which time the CF reviews all avail­able infor­ma­tion and assess­es whether fur­ther deten­tion, trans­fer or release is the appro­pri­ate course of action. 

Oper­a­tional deci­sions to hold detainees longer than ISAF guide­lines can and do occur for a vari­ety of rea­sons from med­ical to admin­is­tra­tive to secu­ri­ty. This deci­sion is made by the Com­man­der of Cana­di­an Expe­di­tionary Forces Com­mand (CEFCOM) based on a rec­om­men­da­tion from the Com­man­der in The­atre and takes into con­sid­er­a­tion the facts on the ground and input from oth­er gov­ern­ment depart­ments, includ­ing Cor­rec­tion­al Ser­vice of Cana­da (CSC) and the Depart­ment of For­eign Affairs and Inter­na­tion­al Trade (DFAIT).

Canada’s detainee mon­i­tor­ing process

The Decem­ber 2005 and May 2007 Arrange­ments clear­ly out­line the Cana­di­an and Afghan gov­ern­ments’ roles and respon­si­bil­i­ties with regard to the trans­fer and mon­i­tor­ing of Cana­di­an-trans­ferred detainees to Afghan author­i­ties. The 2007 Sup­ple­men­tary Arrange­ment ensures unre­strict­ed and pri­vate access to Cana­di­an-trans­ferred detainees. To track and mon­i­tor detainees once they have been trans­ferred, the Arrange­ment lim­its the num­ber of facil­i­ties where Cana­di­an-trans­ferred detainees can be held. The 2007 Arrange­ment also com­mits the Gov­ern­ment of Afghanistan to inves­ti­gate alle­ga­tions of abuse and inform the Gov­ern­ment of Cana­da, the AIHRC and the ICRC of the steps it is taking. 

Civil­ian Gov­ern­ment of Cana­da offi­cials con­duct post-trans­fer mon­i­tor­ing vis­its to assess the con­di­tions of deten­tion and treat­ment of Cana­di­an-trans­ferred detainees held in Afghan facilities. 

Cana­da has a robust detainee mon­i­tor­ing regime, with reg­u­lar, unan­nounced vis­its at a lim­it­ed num­ber of des­ig­nat­ed deten­tion facil­i­ties in Kan­da­har and Kab­ul at vary­ing times. How­ev­er, the vast major­i­ty of detainees trans­ferred by Cana­da remain in Kan­da­har and are held at either the Nation­al Direc­torate of Secu­ri­ty (NDS) deten­tion facil­i­ty or the Min­istry of Jus­tice-run Sar­poza prison. 

Since May 2007, when mon­i­tor­ing began, Cana­di­an offi­cials have con­duct­ed more than 260* vis­its to deten­tion facil­i­ties, con­duct­ing more than 265* inter­views with detainees. 

Respond­ing in the event of an alle­ga­tion

Should alle­ga­tions of abuse arise dur­ing inter­views with Cana­di­an-trans­ferred detainees, the Diplo­mat­ic Con­tin­gency Plan is acti­vat­ed, which includes the noti­fi­ca­tion of the Afghan author­i­ties, the ICRC and AIHRC as well as senior Cana­di­an offi­cials from across gov­ern­ment. It requires sit­u­a­tion-depen­dent fol­low-up actions, includ­ing an inves­ti­ga­tion by the Afghan gov­ern­ment, where appro­pri­ate, and may include more fre­quent fol­low-up vis­its or the sus­pen­sion of transfers. 

Sus­pen­sion and resump­tion of trans­fer

In the event of an alle­ga­tion of mis­treat­ment of a Cana­di­an-trans­ferred detainee, or if Cana­da has any con­cerns that Afghan author­i­ties are not abid­ing by the Arrange­ments, the Cana­di­an Forces Task Force Com­man­der may decide to pause or sus­pend transfers. 

Since May 2007, detainee trans­fers have been sus­pend­ed on one occa­sion (Nov 07 – Feb 08) and have been tem­porar­i­ly paused by the Cana­di­an Com­man­der of Task Force Kan­da­har on three sep­a­rate occa­sions in 2009. 

Indi­vid­u­als detained by the Cana­di­an Forces in Afghanistan since 2001

Since the begin­ning of the Afghanistan mis­sion in 2001, there has been a need to pro­tect data relat­ed to the num­ber of per­sons detained by the CF based on the need to main­tain a high lev­el of secu­ri­ty for mil­i­tary oper­a­tions in The­atre, to ensure that the lives of civil­ians, allies and Cana­di­an Forces per­son­nel in Afghanistan are not put at risk by the release of infor­ma­tion of an oper­a­tional secu­ri­ty (OPSEC) nature. OPSEC is essen­tial to main­tain secu­ri­ty and free­dom of action by deny­ing the ene­my any infor­ma­tion that would indi­cate the dis­po­si­tion, capa­bil­i­ties and inten­tions of the Cana­di­an and allied forces, which could endan­ger the lives of CF per­son­nel, allies and civilians. 

A recent mil­i­tary review has led the CF to con­clude that his­tor­i­cal sta­tis­tics per­tain­ing to the num­ber of indi­vid­u­als detained by the CF in Afghanistan no longer pose an imme­di­ate threat to cur­rent or recent oper­a­tions because they do not indi­cate a par­tic­u­lar pat­tern that the ene­my could use against future operations. 

Although some types of Afghanistan detainee-relat­ed infor­ma­tion remain OPSEC in nature, basic sta­tis­ti­cal infor­ma­tion such as num­ber of per­sons detained, released, trans­ferred and deceased, does not pose OPSEC con­cerns. Addi­tion­al­ly, the CF has deter­mined that releas­ing cumu­la­tive detainee-relat­ed sta­tis­tics would not pose a threat to Cana­di­ans or our allies in the field. In light of these con­sid­er­a­tions, and in the inter­est of accu­ra­cy and trans­paren­cy, his­tor­i­cal detainee data will now be released on an annu­al basis – once per cal­en­dar year after being pro­tect­ed by the CF for a peri­od of 12 months. 

Indi­vid­u­als detained by the CF since 2001 


In 2001 there were no indi­vid­u­als detained by the Cana­di­an Forces. 


In 2002, the CF detained 17 indi­vid­u­als. 5 were released by the CF, while 12 were transferred. 


In 2003, the CF detained four (4) indi­vid­u­als. All were released by the CF


In 2004, the CF detained 39 indi­vid­u­als. 18 were released by the CF, while 21 were transferred. 


In 2005, the CF detained eight (8) indi­vid­u­als. One (1) was released by the CF, while sev­en (7) were transferred. 


In 2006, the CF detained 142 indi­vid­u­als. 11 were released by the CF, while 129 were trans­ferred. Two (2) indi­vid­u­als died of wounds as a result of injuries suf­fered on the bat­tle­field. Both indi­vid­u­als passed away at the Role 3 hos­pi­tal while receiv­ing med­ical care. 


In 2007, the CF detained 142 indi­vid­u­als. 43 were released by the CF, while 96 were trans­ferred. Three (3) indi­vid­u­als were detained near the close of 2007, but were not trans­ferred until 2008. These indi­vid­u­als are count­ed as “detained” in 2007 and “trans­ferred” in 2008. 


In 2008, the CF detained 87 indi­vid­u­als. 71 were released by the CF, while 18 were trans­ferred. One (1) indi­vid­ual was detained near the close of 2008 and is includ­ed in the 2008 “detained.” His trans­fer will be account­ed for in the 2009 statistics. 

The data above is based on a thor­ough review of all avail­able records dat­ing back to 2001. 

Since May 2007, when mon­i­tor­ing began, Cana­di­an offi­cials have con­duct­ed more than 260* vis­its to deten­tion facil­i­ties, con­duct­ing more than 265* inter­views with detainees. 

*Cur­rent as of Sep­tem­ber 2010 

Depart­ment of Nation­al Defence, Canada 

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