The Canadian government has criticized a UN agency for issuing a report condemning Canada for complicity in torture and human rights violations in Afghanistan and Syria.
A report from the UN Committee Against Torture issued on Friday said Canadian military commanders did not do enough to ensure the safety of detainees handed over to Afghan security forces during the Afghan combat mission, which ended last year, despite a substantial risk that they would be tortured.
The report also said the Ottawa government shared inaccurate information with Syrian authorities linking three Arab Canadians to al-Qaeda, resulting in them being tortured in Syria.
Officials shared the information before Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Abou Elmaati and Muayyed Nureddin traveled separately to Syria on personal business between 2001 and 2003.
The UN agency also faulted changes to Canada’s immigration laws which it said could increase the risk of human rights violations, including a legal provision that allows the Canadian government to detain and deport permanent residents or foreign nationals considered to be a security threat based on secret evidence that the accused is not allowed to see.
Canadian Ministry of Public Safety spokeswoman Julie Carmichael said on Saturday that it was disappointing the UN agency spent time condemning Canada “when there are serious concerns regarding human rights violations across the world.”
“Canada is a nation of laws and the actions of our Government uphold the highest standards in the protection of human rights,” she added.
The UN Committee Against Torture is dedicated to reviewing the record of compliance and implementation of UN treaties by member states. The committee reviewed Canada’s record with respect to human rights and torture prevention going back to 2005.
During its review, the panel also found that Canadian officials were complicit in human rights violations of a Canadian detainee held at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Omar Khadr is being held at the prison for allegedly throwing a grenade that killed a US soldier in Afghanistan when he was just 15.
Documents surfaced in 2009 that showed Khadr’s US captors mistreated him through sleep deprivation and isolation ahead of an interview with an official from the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in 2004.
The Canadian government later said it was aware of media allegations of mistreatment of Guantanamo detainees, but it had no reliable proof that Khadr had been mistreated before interviewing him.
The agency recommended that Canada promptly approve the transfer of Khadr, who is now 25 and the only remaining Western detainee in Guantanamo, to Canadian custody.
It also urged the Ottawa government to pay compensation to the three Arab Canadians for their mistreatment in Syria.
Among its other recommendations, the agency also said Canada should adopt a policy for future military operations that clearly prohibits prisoner transfers to other countries when there are substantial grounds for believing that the detainee could be in danger of being subjected to torture.