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 OTTAWA: Canada on Friday handed over custody of detainees captured by its forces in Afghanistan since 2005 and held at the Parwan jail north of Kabul, to the United States.

Canadian officials, stung by accusations last year that prisoners transferred into Afghan custody risked being tortured, however, will continue monitoring detainees at the US-run facility that is gradually transitioning to Afghan control.

"With our combat operations in southern Afghanistan now complete and a new chapter of engagement in Afghanistan beginning, we have determined that this is the best possible way forward for all parties involved," Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said in a statement.

Canada was roiled last year by accusations from a former diplomat in Afghanistan, Richard Colvin, who claimed Ottawa ignored reports of torture submitted by prisoners held by Afghan security forces.

The charge was also raised by a former translator, Malgarai Ahmadshah, who in testimony before a parliamentary committee investigating the claims, accused Canada's military of carrying out prisoner transfers, which he called "subcontracting torture."

Several international human rights treaties prohibit the transfer of detainees to a location or authority if they face a credible risk of torture or other abuse.

Ottawa denied wrongdoing by Canadian soldiers.

Canada's longest-running combat mission officially ended in July with handover of security duties in Kandahar province to US and Afghan troops, and it is now training the Afghan army and police in and around Kabul.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2011

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