Letter From Amnesty International Canada re: Mohamed Harkat

To: Solicitor General Wayne Easter and Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Denis Coderre

Dear Ministers,

I am writing to urge that the government of Canada adopt a different approach in dealing with the case of Mohamed Harkat; an approach that safeguards his fundamental rights while still ensuring that any security or criminality concerns are adequately addressed.

Amnesty International has followed Mr. Harkat's case with concern, since his arrest in mid- December, 2002. We understand that he is being held under a security certificate, issued pursuant to section 40.1 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act; and that it is the government's intention to deport him to his native Algeria.

We note that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service has alleged that Mr. Harkat is an Islamic extremist; a supporter of Afghani, Pakistani, and Chechen extremists; and was and is a member for the bin Laden network.

Mr. Harkat has denied the allegations.

Amnesty International is of the view that in Algeria Mr. Harkat faces the risk of serious human rights abuses, including torture, because of the allegations that he has been involved with or supported armed Islamic groups. This is based on our ongoing monitoring of the human rights situation in the country. Members or sympathizers of groups such as the Groupe islamique arm J (GIA) and the Front islamique de salut (FIS)continue to experience torture at the hands of the security forces,including after their return to Algeria from abroad. Amnesty International therefore opposes any action taken to deport Mr. Harkat to Algeria at this time.

Amnesty International has previously expressed concern as well that the security certificate process being used in this case does not meet international human rights standards. Under this in camera process the Federal Court considers only the reasonableness of the decision to issue a certificate and does not substantively review it. Furthermore, evidence may be presented to the Court in the absence of the detainee or his or her counsel, and the detainee is only given a summary of the evidence. We have stated that the process is heavily weighted in favour of the detaining authorities, does not substantively examine the lawfulness of the detention, and does not afford the detainee an effective opportunity to challenge the lawfulness of his or her detention.

Given the flaws in the security certificate process, and the risk of torture that Mr. Harkat faces in Algeria, Amnesty International urges the government to refrain from any further action under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Instead, if the government considers that there is evidence that Mr. Harkat may have been involved in activities that provide support to armed groups such as al-Qaeda, we would urge that criminal proceedings be launched in Canada, pursuant to the Anti-terrorism Act or other applicable legislation.

Alex Neve

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