"These are allegations, serious allegations, and this government is taking them seriously," he said.
Ottawa is already investigating earlier reports that Canadian troops had handed over Taliban suspects despite knowing they could be harmed.Torture treaty
Professor Michael Byers of the University of British Columbia, a leading expert in international relations, said if the allegations proved to be true, Canada had broken a United Nations treaty against torture and the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war.
|About 2,500 Canadian troops are deployed |
in southern Afghanistan [EPA]
"I hope the Canadian people realise just how terrible a day this is. If this report is accurate, Canadians have engaged in war crimes," he said.
Canada has about 2,500 troops deployed in around the city of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan. Fifty-four soldiers have died during the mission, nine in the last two weeks.
O'Connor admitted last month he had misled parliament when he told MPs that the Red Cross would inform Canada if detainees were being mistreated.
"Is the government going to do what has to be done now? Immediately stop the transfer [of prisoners], launch a public inquiry and sack the minister of defence today," Jack Layton, leader of the New Democrats, said.
One Afghan police official interviewed by the Globe said that some suspects "need some torture, because without torture they will never say anything".
According to the Globe report, Mahmad Gul, a farmer, said he was interrogated by Afghan police for three days in May 2006. Canadian soldiers visited him between beatings.
"The Canadians told me 'give them real information, or they will do more bad things to you'," Gul said.