JOHN D MCHUGH/AFP/Getty ImagesA member of Reconnaissance Platoon, 1st Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, guards suspected Taliban prisoners captured in a raid on a compound in Northern Kandahar, 10 May 2006.
OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada declined Thursday to be the final referee on whether the Charter of Rights should apply abroad to protect Afghan detainees whom Canadian forces have handed over to Afghan authorities.
Amnesty International Canada and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association have been fighting the matter in court for two years, arguing that the charter obligations of Canadian soldiers should not end at the border and must apply to “government agents acting in foreign countries.”
A three-judge panel, by convention, gave no reasons for refusing to consider the case.
The two groups wanted the Supreme Court to overturn two Federal Court decisions that found the Charter of Rights does not cover Afghan citizens because international law protecting the sovereignty of other counties precludes it.
Amnesty and the B.C. association contend that the charter should prohibit Canadian soldiers from taking part in prisoner transfers when there are grounds to believe the detainees will be tortured by their captors.
The Supreme Court’s decision effectively upholds a December 2008 ruling in the Federal Court of Appeal, which had refused to overturn an earlier Federal Court decision.
The Supreme Court has ruled in the past that the charter does not apply abroad.