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Colvin's testimony true: former Afghan MP

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Joya: "Democracy will never come by war..."

CBC News, November 26, 2009

Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin's claim that detainees transferred by Canadians to Afghan prisons were likely tortured is true and an "open secret" in her country, a former Afghan MP said in Ottawa on Thursday.

Colvin, who was posted in Afghanistan from 2006 to 2007, gave explosive testimony last week before a Commons' committee, alleging that all prisoners handed over by Canadian soldiers to Afghan authorities were likely subsequently abused and that government officials were well aware of the problem.

Malalai Joya
Former Afghan MP Malalai Joya told reporters in Ottawa on Thursday that Richard Colvin's testimony about the torture of Afghan detainees is accurate. (Rodrigo Abd/AP)

He also said many who had been arrested were innocent people.

Malalai Joya, a human rights activist who was suspended from the Afghan parliament in 2007 for openly criticizing officials, told reporters on Thursday that Colvin is correct in his assessment.

"What he has been saying is what I've heard from my people," she said.

Many of the victims are women and children detainees who have been raped, she said. "It's not new for our people."

Canada's former chief of defence staff, Rick Hillier, slammed Colvin's testimony on Wednesday, calling it "ludicrous."

"We detained, under violent actions, people trying to kill our sons and daughters, who had in some cases done that, been successful at it, and were continuing to do it," Hillier said.

Hillier said they may have detained the occasional farmer, but that they were "almost inevitably immediately let go."

Defence Minister Peter MacKay also questioned the credibility of the allegations earlier this week. Hillier and Conservative officials denied Colvin's assertion that he reported prisoner abuses as early as 2006.

Joya said diplomats are often in denial after issues of abuse or corruption are brought to light.

"He exposed," she said of Colvin. "And I hope [more is exposed]."

Joya, who has been touring Canada to speak about Afghanistan and to promote her book, A Woman Among Warlords, said the international military occupation in her country has made conditions worse.

She said her people are "squashed" by forces that include tribal warlords, Taliban insurgents, foreign military and a Karzai government she compared with a "mafia" organization.

"Democracy will never come by war … we need an invasion of schools, economy, hospitals, and streets. We need these kind of helping hands."

Joya also offered condolences to the parents of Canadian soldiers killed while serving in Afghanistan.