Rick Westhead, Toronto Star
Jun 16, 2008
Civilian sex assaults by Afghan soldiers ignored
Canadian soldiers serving in Afghanistan have been ordered by commanding officers “to ignore” incidents of sexual assault among the civilian population, says a military chaplain who counsels troops returning home with post-traumatic stress disorder.
The chaplain, Jean Johns, says she recently counselled a Canadian soldier who said he witnessed a boy being raped by an Afghan soldier, then wrote a report on the allegation for her brigade chaplain.
In her March report, which she says should have been advanced “up the chain of command,” Johns says the corporal told her that Canadian troops have been ordered by commanding officers “to ignore” incidents of sexual assault. Johns hasn’t received a reply to the report.
While several Canadian Forces chaplains say other soldiers have made similar claims, Department of National Defence lawyers have argued Canada isn’t obliged to investigate because none of the soldiers has made a formal complaint, says a senior Canadian officer familiar with the matter.
“It’s ridiculous,” the officer says. “We have an ethical and moral responsibility to pursue this, not to shut our eyes to it because it would make it more difficult to work with the Afghan government.
“We’re supposed to be in Afghanistan to help people who are being victimized.”
The independent claims bolster the credibility of an account provided by Cpl. Travis Schouten, a Canadian soldier who served in Afghanistan from September 2006 through early 2007 and now suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder.
A Star story Saturday detailed an allegation levelled by Schouten that during his tour, he heard an Afghan national army soldier abusing a young boy and then saw the boy afterwards with visible signs of rape trauma, his bowels and lower intestines falling out of his body.