Rape of boys in Afghanistan sparks inquiry; Canadian soldiers say Forces ignored complaints about Afghan police, troops


The Ottawa Citizen


Saturday, October 4, 2008


By David Pugliese


The Canadian Forces will launch a board of inquiry to look into allegations that soldiers’ complaints about Afghan troops and police raping boys were ignored by the military leadership.


Military police have also launched an investigation into the same incidents.


The issue surfaced in the summer after media reports detailed soldiers’ concerns about sexual abuse of boys at the hands of Afghan personnel.


In June, the Toronto Star reported that in late 2006 a Canadian soldier had heard an Afghan soldier raping a young boy at one of the outposts near Kandahar. The soldier later saw the injuries the boy sustained, including seeing his lower intestines falling out of his body, a sign of trauma from anal rape.


The soldier, who now suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome, originally described the assault to a closed-door meeting of a parliamentary committee on national defence in May.


In addition, military chaplain Jean Johns came forward to complain that Canadian soldiers were ordered by their commanding officers in Afghanistan to ignore such incidents of sexual assault. That information was based on claims made to the chaplain by soldiers. Other military chaplains have said they too heard similar complaints from Canadian troops.


As well, soldiers have reported that at Forward Operating Base Wilson in Afghanistan, it was common for Afghan police to pay boys for sex.


In response, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said in the Commons that he had told senior military leaders that soldiers should report any allegation of unlawful activity they see.


In July, Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Walter Natynczyk confirmed that a board of inquiry would be convened into the allegations. The military is now ready to proceed, according to the Defence Department.


“We expect the Board of Inquiry to be convened in the coming days,” a department official wrote in an e-mail.


“The government takes allegations of sexual abuse, even those not directly involving our troops, very seriously,” the official wrote in the e-mail. “An investigation is underway to establish the facts surrounding these allegations.”


The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service also started an investigation in July 2008 into the allegations. The Defence Department declined to release further details, citing a concern that could compromise the investigation.


That investigation was prompted by a complaint in the spring from NDP defence critic Dawn Black, who had been approached by a soldier upset by the sexual abuse of boys at the hands of Afghan officers. The soldier told Ms. Black he and his fellow troops were under strict orders not to intervene.


“What I was told was this was a Thursday-night ritual and they weren’t to do anything about it,” Ms. Black said yesterday. “I outlined what I was told and asked (the Defence Department) for an investigation.”


Ms. Black said she was disappointed it had taken months before the Defence Department acted on her complaint.


In July, Radhika Coomaraswamy, the United Nations special representative for children and armed conflict, said Afghanistan had to do more to end the practice of young boys being sexually abused by warlords, government officials and military personnel. The practice is called bacha bazi, which means “boy play.”


“What I found was nobody talks about it; everyone says ‘Well, you know, it’s been there for 1,000 years so why do we want to raise this now?'” Ms. Coomaraswamy told reporters after a visit to Afghanistan. “That seems to be the general attitude among everyone, but somebody has to raise it and it has to be dealt with.”


Ms. Coomaraswamy said the Afghan government needs to start prosecuting those responsible for such abuses. Afghan police say they have tried to deal with the situation.


“We talk about sexual violence against girls and women, which is also terrible, but this hidden issue of sexual violence against boys should also be dealt with seriously,” Ms. Coomaraswamy added.




For more Canadian Forces and Defence Department news go to David Pugliese’s Defence Watch at:







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