Mohamed Harkat has been in Canada since 1995. In 1997, he was given refugee status after successfully claiming government persecution if he were to return to Algeria.
On December 10, 2002 Mohamed was arrested outside his home in Ottawa. He spent one year of his 3 1/2 year detention in solitary confinement. He was released on bail on June 21, 2006 with the strictest conditions in Canadian history. From June 2006 to September 2009 his bail conditions were:
• He must wear a GPS monitoring device at all times to track his movements. Mohamed cannot ever be left alone inside the house or in the yard.
• He must be under 24 hour supervision by either his wife, Sophie Harkat or his mother-in-law.
• All outings (a maximum of four hours long, three times per week) must be approved 48 hours in advance by the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA). Two of their officers, wearing bullet proof vests and carrying guns, follow them at all times.
• His curfew even pertains to his yard.
• There are surveillance cameras at each entrance to their house.
• All mail is intercepted and telephone conversations are monitored.
• No wireless devices are allowed in the residence; He is prohibited from using a computer and cell phone. Plus many more conditions.
CSIS alleges that Mohamed has been, is, or will be involved with terrorism. Mohamed denies any involvement with any terrorist organizations and is fighting to clear his name.
What is a Security Certificate?
• At the request of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the government of Canada can declare any permanent resident or refugee inadmissible to this country based on undisclosed grounds. CSIS then has that person arrested. They can hold the accused indefinitely, without charge.
• The detained person's lawyer is given only a summary of allegations, and is denied access to evidence that CSIS wants kept secret for national security reasons. The CSIS-approved judge is presented with some of the evidence behind closed doors, without a defence lawyer being present.
• The judge's mandate is to rule on whether there were “reasonable grounds” to issue the Security Certificate. This conclusion is reached without cross examination; the lowest standard of proof in Canadian courts.
• CSIS need only prove that there is a possibility, or a belief, that a person might do something that threatens national security, based on the individual's actual, past or potential activities or associations. No actual potential crime need have been committed. The court can rule only on whether it is possible that the allegations are true.
• If the judge upholds the Certificate, the detainee automatically faces immediate deportation. The decision is final and an appeal is only permitted if approved by the presiding judge.
Under the pretense of “National Security” the Security Certificate violates all the fundamental principles of justice. It violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Constitution, the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Convention on Refugees, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Convention on Torture. The Supreme Court ruled that Security Certificates violate the Canadian Charter. It is also completely contrary to the Canadian justice system, because the accused’s lawyer does not have access to the secret evidence against him; with no access to the evidence, there can be no defence, and no access to justice.
Under international law no deportations should take place to countries where there is risk of death or torture. In the case of Algeria, the country to which the government is trying to deport Mohamed Harkat, statements and reports by human rights groups have shown that the risk of torture is high.
Diplomatic Assurances Don't Work
There are signs the government wants to use the device of seeking “diplomatic assurances” from the countries of origin to which they want to deport security certificate detainees and other refugees and immigrants.
These so-called “assurances” would be relied upon to claim that people were not being deported to torture or death. Diplomatic assurances from countries with poor human rights records are widely seen by human rights groups such as Amnesty International as very unreliable.
Constitutionality of Security Certificates: Supreme Court Decision
Bill C-3 and The Supreme Court decision
On February 23, 2007 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously that Security Certificates are unconstitutional in two respects:
• The use of secret evidence, with no access or recourse by the detained or their lawyers, is a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms;
• The detention could be considered arbitrary under the Charter if no regular review is conducted.
The finding was welcomed by human rights advocates. But rather than address the human rights problems, the government passed a law that barely changed a word of the previous law, creating a system of so-called “Special Advocates” to review the secret evidence, without consultation with the detainee. There is still no access to the evidence, still an indefinite detention without charge, and still a threat of deportation to jail, torture or death.
What is a Special Advocate?
A “Special Advocate” (S.A.) is a person appointed by a court or a government to represent the interests of the detained during closed secret proceedings. The S.A. process does not solve the human rights abuses inherent in the Security Certificate process because the S.A.s cannot consult the detainee except in situations where the crown knows what is to be discussed in advance, severely limiting the solicitor-client relationship.
In addition the ability of S.A.s to cross-examine is curtailed, and they have no resources to investigate the verity of secret material.
The Justice For Mohamed Harkat Committee urgently calls upon Parliament for:
• the abolition of the Security Certificate process;
• an immediate unconditional release of the detainees under bail conditions, or a fair trial if any evidence actually exists against them;
• the cessation of any and all practices of deporting, or seeking to deport, people to countries where they will be, or may reasonably expect to be, submitted to imprisonment, torture or death;
• dismantling of the Kingston Immigration Holding Centre (closed as of Dec. 31st, 2011)
Click on the photo of Mohamed to see all items related to him. MAY 2014: Mohamed Harkat once again faces deportation to his native Algeria after the Supreme Court of Canada declared the federal government’s security certificate regime constitutional.
This fight is not over. The Justice for Mohamed Harkat Committee will re-double its efforts to see that justice is done for Mohamed Harkat and that the odious security certificate system of injustice is abolished once and for all.
Here is the contact information for Sophie Harkat.