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Gen. Natynczyk's press conference Add to ...

Walter Natynczyk: Good morning everybody. Thank you for braving the snow to be out here this morning. I would like to make a statement and take questions after that. In May of 2007, I issued a statement related to the events of 14 June 2006, of an incident that took place on the battlefield during combat operations in the Panjwaii district of Afghanistan.

Yesterday, I reiterated that information at the Standing Committee on Defence, that the actions of the Canadian Forces, surrounding the Canadian Forces personnel that intervened to safeguard an individual that the Afghan National Police had in custody, when they saw something was not right. I based my assessment on the operations reports and then confirmed that, having spoken to a number of members of the chain of command that were part of Task Force Ryan in June of 2006.

This morning, at about 9:00, I was briefed by my staff who have been researching the case, just to ensure the completeness of all the information that we have been using, especially surrounding the most recent report that we saw in the Globe and Mail on Monday. Today, they provided me with a statement of actually the section commander and when I read that report, I realized it was not totally consistent with the operations report and the information provided to me by the chain of command.

The Canadian Forces personnel were involved in a joint operation and they were supporting the Afghan army and the Afghan police, but after reviewing this new information presented to me, I want to correct my statement made to SCON yesterday and indeed in May of 2007. This new information presented to me shed important details on what occurred on that day, on the 14th of June. The individual who was beaten by the Afghan police was in fact in Canadian custody and then the AMP took control of him, to facilitate his movement from the battlefield to forward operating base Wilson. I want to refer to this statement and actually read parts of it, but I'm going to remove some of the information in terms of personal information.

The statement written by the section commander of the day indicates that they stopped and searched the vehicle.

"There were three individuals in a white van and they got a very weird feel from one of them. I had the interpreter along and he verified that an individual was in all probability enemy Taliban, due to his accent and his false story about being from Kandahar City. So I had him lie down on his stomach and then conducted a detailed search. I had him empty his pockets prior to this, catalogued all the items and then took down his particulars. (I won't mention his name.) We then photographed the individual prior to handing him over to ensure that if the Afghan national police did assault him as it happened in the past, that we would have a visual record of his condition. The Afghan national police section commander (again I won't mentioned the name) then arrived and asked the suspect a couple of questions concurred with our assessment that the individual was enemy. We in good faith handed the PUC, person under custody, over to them so that they could - so that he could be transported to the Zari district centre for operating base Wilson, where watchdog, which is military police, could get to him - I assume that means process him there. That was the last that I saw him."

That is the statement of the sergeant. Now I did not have this information in May of 2007 nor yesterday when I made my statement, but I'm responsible for the information provided by the Canadian Forces and I'm accountable for it today. I intend to investigate why it took so long for this information to get to the chief of defence staff, both my predecessor and I. Nonetheless, I accept the military police report to be accurate. I'm proud that our soldiers acted courageously and ethically when they retrieved the individual from the Afghan national police when it was apparent that he had been injured. That is the kind of decisive action soldiers make on a battlefield and I'm proud of our soldiers. I'm open for your questions.

Question: General Natynczyk, James (inaudible) from the CBC, it seems to me that what your sergeant was saying was that it was common knowledge in Kandahar province on the ground, among Canadian soldiers, that when they transferred Canadian capture detainees to Afghan custody, for whatever reason, be it transport or otherwise, that they were in the very least subject to abuse, at serious risk perhaps of abuse and that there was, according to the sergeant, more than one incident of such abuse occurring. What do you think that says about the way that the department of National Defence, the Canadian Forces and indeed the government of Canada have been telling Canadians that Afghan detainees who are transferred to Afghan authorities were treated?

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