Afghans allegedly executed detainees

A Canadian soldier has alleged that Afghan authorities routinely executed detainees his unit handed over to them. The stack of records released Thursday 25 March by the federal government also said detainees at a Kandahar prison told Foreign Affairs and Corrections Canada officials on a site tour that they had been tortured. And they reveal that a Canadian military policewoman stationed at the Kandahar base was assaulted in early 2008 and told to mind her own business.

Questions have lingered since diplomat-whistleblower Richard Colvin’s allegations last year that most prisoners Canada transferred to Afghan custody were subsequently tortured. The opposition parties have been pressing for full access to documents about the detainee transfers, saying they will help explain what politicians and military commanders knew about the simmering affair.

The government tabled more than 2,500 pages on the issue, but the heavily censored material was greeted with scorn by the opposition.

The accusation that detainees were killed by Afghan army or police officers comes from a Canadian soldier with the Royal Canadian Regiment who served in the Panjawi district. Upon returning to Canada, he told a military doctor treating him for stress about his concerns.

“After they handed over the detainee, the local authority would walk the detainee out of range and the detainee would be shot,” says a 2008 report on the soldier’s claims. “This occurred on more than one occasion.”

The doctor told investigators about his patient’s allegations since they involved possible criminal activity. He added that those who return from Afghanistan with stress-related conditions sometimes exaggerate, and that the killings may never have happened.

US administration finally begins to legally defend use of drones

Many thanks to Intlawgrrls for transcribing the speech of Harold Koh at the ASIL 104th Annual meeting, which shows – again – that the war paradigm of countering terrorism in the U.S. is alive and kicking.


[I]t is the considered view of this administration … that targeting practices, including lethal operations conducted with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), comply with all applicable law, including the laws of war.

As recent events have shown, Al Qaeda has not abandoned its intent to attack the United States, and indeed continues to attack us. Thus, in this ongoing armed conflict, the United States has the authority under international law, and the responsibility to its citizens, to use force, including lethal force, to defend itself, including by targeting persons such as high-level al Qaeda leaders who are planning attacks.

He then detailed how “this administration has carefully reviewed the rules governing targeting operations to ensure that these operations are conducted consistently with law of war principles”; specifically:

    ► First, the principle of distinction, which requires that attacks be limited to military objectives and that civilians or civilian objects shall not be the object of the attack; and
    ► Second, the principle of proportionality, which prohibits attacks that may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, that would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.

Koh endeavored to assure his audience that in

U.S. operations against al Qaeda and its associated forces – including lethal operations conducted with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles – great care is taken to adhere to these principles in both planning and execution, to ensure that only legitimate objectives are targeted and that collateral damage is kept to a minimum.

Addressing critics of the policy, he continued:

[S]ome have suggested that the very use of targeting a particular leader of an enemy force in an armed conflict must violate the laws of war. But individuals who are part of such an armed group are belligerent and, therefore, lawful targets under international law….

[S]ome have challenged the very use of advanced weapons systems, such as unmanned aerial vehicles, for lethal operations. But the rules that govern targeting do not turn on the type of weapon system involved, and there is no prohibition under the laws of war on the use of technologically advanced weapons systems in armed conflict – such as pilotless aircraft or so-called smart bombs – so long as they are employed in conformity with applicable laws of war….

[S]ome have argued that the use of lethal force against specific individuals fails to provide adequate process and thus constitutes unlawful extrajudicial killing. But a state that is engaged in armed conflict or in legitimate self-defense is not required to provide targets with legal process before the state may use lethal force.

Koh maintained that due precautions are taken even without the interposition of due process:

Our procedures and practices for identifying lawful targets are extremely robust, and advanced technologies have helped to make our targeting even more precise. In my experience, the principles of distinction and proportionality that the United States applies are not just recited at meeting. They are implemented rigorously throughout the planning and execution of lethal operations to ensure that such operations are conducted in accordance with all applicable law….

Finally, Koh cited domestic law as an independent justification:

[S]ome have argued that our targeting practices violate domestic law, in particular, the long-standing domestic ban on assassinations. But under domestic law, the use of lawful weapons systems – consistent with the applicable laws of wear – for precision targeting of specific high-level belligerent leaders when acting in self-defense or during an armed conflict is not unlawful, and hence does not constitute ‘assassination.’

State of signatures and ratifications of CoE Conventions relevant to the fight against terrorism

Status as of 12 March 2010. Read the document here.

Global Implementation Survey of Security Council resolution 1373

Last update from November 2009 available now here.

Technical guide to the implemenation of SC 1373 here.

APT legal brief: Right of Access to Lawyers for Persons Deprived of Liberty

Read the legal brief here.