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Government launches deportation proceedings against Harkat

posted on September 22, 2015 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

by Andrew Duffy
Source: The Ottawa Citizen
URL: [link]
Date: September 18, 2015

The federal government has launched deportation proceedings against Algerian-born terror suspect Mohamed Harkat 20 years after he first arrived in Ottawa as a refugee claimant.

The case had been dormant for more than a year — ever since the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the government’s security certificate regime and affirmed a decision that found Harkat to be an active member of the al-Qaeda terrorist network.

But for reasons that remain unexplained, the government took no action against Harkat for 15 months after its court victory.

A spokesperson for the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) said Friday she would “not speak to specific cases.”

Late last month, almost four weeks into the federal election campaign, Harkat received an official letter from the CBSA informing him that the first step in his deportation process had begun.

“He was totally devastated,” Harkat’s wife, Sophie, said in an interview. “That big grey cloud he’s had over his head for 13 years, it just got a lot darker.”

Harkat said her husband had hoped the government wouldn’t pursue his deportation. “How big a threat can he be if they wait 15 months to issue this letter?”

Two years ago, an electronic tracking bracelet was removed from Harkat’s leg and his release conditions relaxed to allow him to travel outside of Ottawa, use a mobile phone and an Internet-connected computer.

Monia Mazigh, national co-ordinator of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, said the move to deport Harkat comes at an odd time: with an election in full swing and with no certainty about what party will form the next government.

“We see this as a very, very dangerous move,” said Mazigh, who argued that Canada should not deport someone if there is even the slightest possibility that they will be mistreated or tortured.

Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, said returning Harkat to Algeria would put him at serious risk of being placed under “incommunicado detention,” a situation in which prisoners are denied access to family, lawyers and physicians. Amnesty, he said, has documented numerous cases of terror suspects being held for prolonged periods under such conditions, putting them at increased risk of torture.

Harkat, 47, was first arrested on the strength of a security certificate in December 2002. He spent more than three years in jail and another seven years under strict house arrest during a legal odyssey that twice saw his case go the Supreme Court.

The deportation process promises to raise more difficult legal issues. The first step involves an assessment of the danger that Harkat poses to Canadians.

A government official appointed by Immigration Minister Chris Alexander will have to determine whether Harkat remains a serious threat to national security given his public profile, the passage of time and other factors. If the minister’s delegate concludes such a risk exists, the official must then assess what kind of torture risk Harkat would face if returned to Algeria, and whether the government can rely on diplomatic assurances that he won’t be mistreated.

Those two risk assessments would then be weighed against one another to arrive at a deportation decision.

The Supreme Court has already ruled that terror suspects can only be deported in “exceptional circumstances” to countries where they face a substantial risk of torture, but it has not defined the full meaning of that concept.

Harkat arrived in Ottawa as a refugee in September 1995 after living in Pakistan for five years. Before his arrest, Harkat worked as a pizza delivery man and gas station attendant while also developing an expensive casino gambling habit. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) built a case against him based on 13 wiretapped phone conversations recorded between 1996 and 1998, and at least two unnamed informants, one of whom failed a CSIS lie-detector test.

In 2009, CSIS issued a threat assessment report that suggested Harkat had played a mostly logistical role for jihadists and did not engage in acts of violence. It concluded that his threat to Canadians had diminished over time but not disappeared.

© 2015 Postmedia Network Inc. All rights reserved.

ICLMG joins other rights groups to denounce the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act as discriminatory and anti-Canadian

posted on August 20, 2015 | in Category Canada's Immigration Policy | PermaLink

by Press Release
Source: ICLMG
URL: [link]
Date: August 20, 2015

Toronto, August 20, 2015 - The International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG) is joining its voice to the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL) to denounce the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act (formerly Bill C-24) as unconstitutional and anti-Canadian.

BCCLA and CARL have launched a constitutional challenge to the new Citizenship Act, a federal law relegating over one million Canadians to second-class status.

The lawsuit argues that the new Citizenship Act, in force since the passage of Bill C-24, creates a two-tier citizenship regime that discriminates against dual nationals, whether born abroad or in Canada, and naturalized citizens. These Canadians will now have more limited citizenship rights compared to other Canadians, simply because they or their parents or ancestors were born in another country.

Under the new law, these Canadians could see their citizenship taken away if convicted of certain serious crimes in Canada or abroad (including in a country that does not have due process or rule of law). New Canadians who became citizens after the passage of Bill C-24 could also lose their citizenship if they move abroad for work, school, or family reasons. Other Canadians would not be vulnerable to losing their citizenship.

"The ICLMG opposed Bill C-24 since it was tabled in Parliament" said Monia Mazigh, National Coordinator of the ICLMG. "The Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act is a step backward for our democracy and rule of law principle. With this new Citizenship Act, Canadians are divided into two classes: those who will keep their Canadian citizenship no matter what and those who can be stripped of their Canadian citizenship if some federal bureaucrats decide so. Thus, if you are born in Canada but you have parents or ancestors from another country, your Canadian citizenship is worth less. It can be revoked not by the court but by the government and this is unacceptable by any democratic standards."

Despite the public outcry, the criticisms and concerns formulated by legal experts, academics and media commentators, Bill C-24 became law.

"The ICLMG is really happy to support this constitutional challenge and to send a strong message that the Canadian citizenship should have the same meaning for all Canadians regardless of their genetic background."

- 30 -

For more information about the legal challenge, contact:
Sarbjit Kaur, Kaur Communications
416-274-5324, [email]

For more information about the ICLMG, contact:
Anne Dagenais Guertin, Communications and Research Coordinator
613-241-5298 ext. 2, [email]

CSIS relied on no-torture 'assurances' from foreign agencies, memo reveals

posted on July 06, 2015 | in Category CSIS | PermaLink

by Jim Bronskill (CP)
Source: The Canadian Press & CBC News
URL: [link]
Date: Jul 03, 2015

CSIS bound by federal policy on sharing information with foreign groups

Newly released memos show Canada's spy agency revealed its interest in people to foreign partners in two cases after receiving assurances the individuals would not be tortured — a practice human rights advocates say shirks the law and puts vulnerable detainees at risk.

In one case, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service got the green light from a high-level internal committee to interview a Canadian detained abroad as long as captors gave "proper assurances" the person would not be abused, the CSIS documents say.

In another case, the spy service received the go-ahead to send information to an allied agency about a terrorist target of mutual interest if such "assurances" were provided, the internal CSIS memos reveal.

The two cases were among 10 instances in which the CSIS information sharing evaluation committee applied a ministerial directive on the use and sharing of information that may have been tainted by torture or could give rise to someone being brutalized in an overseas prison cell.

The Canadian Press used the Access to Information Act to obtain CSIS notes outlining the 10 cases — with names and other identifying details stripped out — as well as a spring 2014 memo to spy service director Michel Coulombe.

The two cases in which CSIS sought promises that individuals would not be abused raise "a red flag," said Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, who called the practice an end-run around international legal obligations.

Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, says it is not reliable for CSIS to rely on assurances from foreign parties that individuals of interest will not be tortured.

"That's always problematic from a human-rights perspective," he said in an interview.

"It's not reliable. And we have been deeply concerned about the ways in which governments around the world have been increasingly relying on assurances."

Many western governments have resorted to the use of "diplomatic assurances" to circumvent their obligations under international law, said Ottawa human-rights lawyer Paul Champ.

Not adequate protection

Courts and United Nations bodies have held — and, more tragically, experience has confirmed — that assurances are not adequate protection against torture and should not be used as an excuse for practices that might contribute to abuse, he said.

"Canada's own experience in Afghanistan amply demonstrated that repeated assurances from the Afghan government did not stop Canadian-transferred detainees from being tortured."

CSIS spokeswoman Tahera Mufti said the agency was "very cognizant" of its legal and ethical obligations in sharing information.

"We are very careful to ensure that everything we do to keep Canadians safe is consistent not just with Canadian law but Canadian values."

The federal policy on foreign information-sharing, ushered in by the Conservative government, has been roundly criticized by human-rights advocates and opposition politicians who say it effectively condones torture, contrary to international law and Canada's UN commitments.

A four-page 2010 framework document, previously released under the access law, says when there is a "substantial risk" that sending information to, or soliciting information from, a foreign agency would result in torture — and it is unclear whether the risk can be managed through assurances or other means — the matter should be referred to the responsible deputy minister or agency head.

In deciding what to do, the agency head will consider factors including the threat to Canada's national security and the nature and imminence of the threat; the status of Canada's relationship with — and the human rights record of — the foreign agency; and the rationale for believing that sharing the information would lead to torture.

In one of the 10 CSIS cases, just such a scenario emerged: a two-fold CSIS request to check with foreign agencies about a Canadian target and to interview a foreign national detained abroad with knowledge of the target was referred to the CSIS director for a final decision when the committee ruled the request could well lead to someone being tortured.

In the end, there was no need for the CSIS director to make the decision, as the information was acquired through other means with no perceived risk of mistreatment.

CSIS, the RCMP, the Canada Border Services Agency, National Defence and the Communications Security Establishment, Canada's electronic spy agency, are bound by the federal policy on sharing information with foreign agencies.

The newly released notes discuss formal risk assessments carried out by the Mounties in 2013-14 that led to rejection of all five requests from police investigators to send or receive information.

In one RCMP case, a request to interview a Canadian held in a foreign prison was denied due to the assessment that detainees face a risk of torture and other degrading abuse in order to extract confessions.

© The Canadian Press, 2015

Copyright © CBC 2015

OTTAWA: Bill C51 Opponents March Through Byward Market

posted on April 21, 2015 | in Category Bill C-51 | PermaLink

by Jesse Winter
Source: The Ottawa Citizen
URL: [link]
Date: April 19, 2015

Opponents of the federal government’s proposed anti-terrorism legislation brought a second round of protests to Ottawa and other Canadian cities Saturday, and an organizer said an online petition calling for the bill to be scrapped is nearing 200,000 signatures.

“We haven’t really seen anything like this in years. It’s remarkable,” said David Christopher, a spokesman with OpenMedia.org, one of the groups behind the petition.

Several dozen protesters gathered outside the prime minister’s offices on Wellington Street and marched through the ByWard Market to the U.S. Embassy. Similar rallies were planned in as many as 30 cities, organizers said.

In March, more than 300 people protested the anti-terrorism bill in Ottawa.

“The U.S. is symbolic of this kind of anti-terror legislation. When I go talk to people about the bill, the comment I always get back is ‘oh, we’re becoming just like the U.S.’ ” said Sam Heaton, a leader of Saturday’s demonstration.

The government says the legislation will give important new powers to the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service to protect Canadians from security threats. But critics contend that it goes too far, giving CSIS too many tools to invade Canadians’ privacy without putting enough oversight in place to keep watch on the spy agency.

As of Friday afternoon, the petition (stopc51.ca) had more than 194,000 names on it. That’s the most since a similar online petition against then-Justice Minister Vic Toews’ online surveillance Bill C-30 topped out at around 150,000 names in 2012, David Christopher said.

After a cabinet shuffle, Toews’ replacement, Rob Nicholson withdrew the bill in 2013 because of the public opposition.

This time, OpenMedia.org and its partners are targeting Bill C-51, and Christopher said his organization is seeing an increase in the number of people going beyond simply clicking on an online petition.

“We had 12,000 people in one day write to their MPs about it. These numbers are blowing our old statistics out of the water,” Christopher said.

Paul Dewar, the NDP MP for Ottawa-Centre, said the success of the petition shows the growing frustration with a government that won’t listen to Canadians.

“It’s showing how unpopular the bill is and how stubborn the government is being. It shows that it’s not just something inside the Ottawa bubble. It’s something across the country,” he said.

Liberal MP Wayne Easter said his party has some reservations about the bill but will support it anyway because it thinks the security measures are needed.

“We are hoping that the government will see the light and implement parallel legislation in terms of national oversight and see the need to institute some sunset clauses and a mandatory review,” Easter said. “They could still do that.”

The OpenMedia.org petition isn’t the only list naming Canadians who oppose the bill. Green Party leader Elizabeth May has tabled at least seven petitions against the bill in the House of Commons. Her list has reached around 4,400 pen-and-ink signatures.

The bill is up for debate in the House of Commons late next week, with a vote expected in the following week.

© 2015 Postmedia Network Inc. All rights reserved.

VIDEO: Filmmaker Amar Wala on CBC's Q

posted on February 17, 2015 | in Category Security Certificates | PermaLink

Source: Youtube.com / CBC.ca
URL: [link]
Date: November 3, 2014

This interview is from November 2014.

Suspect tortured by CIA figured in Canadian security cases

posted on January 09, 2015 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

by Tu Thanh Ha
Source: The Globe and Mail
URL: [link]
Date: December 10, 2014

The scathing report on the CIA’s brutal interrogation techniques from the U.S. Senate repeatedly mentions a terrorism suspect called Abu Zubaydah, describing how the torture inflicted on him yielded no valuable information.

Abu Zubaydah is the source the Canadian government cited a decade ago in court documents about two suspects arrested in Canada, Adil Charkaoui and Mohamed Harkat.

Canadian judges eventually ruled that the evidence Abu Zubaydah gave to his U.S. interrogators was not reliable, even though federal lawyers at one point insisted there was no coercion.

The government argued that the information implicating Mr. Charkaoui was “obtained freely and without constraint,” according to a Federal Court ruling in July, 2004.

In the case against Mr. Harkat, the government told the judge there was “no proof, on a balance of probabilities, that evidence obtained from Abu [Zubaydah] was obtained as a result of torture,” a 2005 ruling said.

[ Read the rest ... ]

[VIDEO] The Agenda with Steve Paikin: Secret Trials, Secret Evidence

posted on December 05, 2014 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

Source: The Agenda - TVO website
URL: [link]
Date: November 27, 2014

Click on the image below to watch the 32 minute television show online.


About the video:
The Canadian government can use a legal tool called a 'security certificate' to detain and deport non-citizens suspected of terrorist activities using secret evidence the accused and their lawyers cannot see. Over the last decade, five Muslim men - dubbed the Secret Trial Five - have been detained in Canadian prisons without charges under security certificates. The Agenda convenes a panel to discuss the security and civil liberty issues surrounding this legal tool.

Copyright © 2014 The Ontario Educational Communications Authority (TVO)

Secret Trials, Torture, and Deporting People Under the Radar

posted on December 05, 2014 | in Category Security Certificates | PermaLink

by Prof. Graham Hudson
Source: The Agenda - TVO.org Website
URL: [link]
Date: November 27, 2014

On May 14, 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the constitutionality of the Canadian security certificate regime in Canada (Citizenship and Immigration) v. Harkat. In existence since 1978, security certificates have been a focal point for human rights advocates concerned with the growing size and reach of Canada’s national security apparatus. The decision is a turning point in the use of secret evidence in Canada.

Certificates enable the government to arrest and detain individuals on the grounds that such persons pose a threat to national security, have violated international (human rights) law, or have engaged in serious or organized criminal activity. Evidence supporting these allegations is collected, in large part, by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), and includes sensitive information that cannot be disclosed to anyone lacking high-level security clearance – including the person named in the certificate and his/her counsel. Among those permitted to view the evidence in secret hearings are a small group of “designated” Federal Court judges. If a judge finds that there is a reasonable basis for the allegations, the named person is subject to deportation from Canada.

[ Read the rest ... ]

ByTowne to screen film of five terror suspects jailed without trial

posted on November 11, 2014 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

by Lucy Scholey
Source: MetroNews
URL: [link]
Date: November 9, 2014

Five men who were jailed without trial and never shown the evidence against them — it sounds like something from Soviet-era Russia, but it happened here and it’s still happening.

Filmmaker Amar Wala said he was shocked, as were many Canadians, to hear that five men men were detained in this country without due process.

In his first feature-length film, The Secret Trial 5, being screened in Ottawa next weekend, Wala tells the stories of Adil Charkaoui, Hassan Almrei, Mahmoud Jaballah, Mohamed Harkat and Mohammad Zeki Mahjoub. Each man each spent anywhere from three to seven years in jail, plus time in strict house arrest under the country’s controversial security certificates.

The law allows the government to detain and deport non-citizens if they are considered a threat to national security.

Under that law, these five men were never charged and never saw the evidence against them, said Wala.

“A person should never be held in prison without being charged with a crime,” he said. “That’s something we believe in, very deeply, in Canada. We believe in the right to a fair trial and we’ve abandoned that principle here. So I really hope that the film makes them understand just how these things effect people, not just the men but their wives, their children, their communities, us as a country.”

Sophie Harkat, wife of former pizza deliveryman Mohamed Harkat, said they are starting to feel a sense of freedom now that her husband’s strict house arrest conditions have been relaxed. The Algerian immigrant was issued a security certificate in 2002 and spent 43 months in prison, both at the Ottawa-Carleton District Detention Centre and the Kingston Immigration Holding Centre (dubbed “Guantanamo North”). After his release, he spent three and a half years under house arrest in Ottawa.

In a Supreme Court ruling, security certificates were deemed unconstitutional in 2007, but the law was amended the following year. Harkat has challenged the new law, but it was upheld in the spring. The government is now able to deport him.

Sophie Harkat said she hopes The Secret Trial 5 will shed light on his story and security certificates, in general.

“His family believes in him, we all believe in his innocence, but that’s not the important thing here,” she said. “Due process is the important thing. Due process for him, for the others and for anybody that will come after us.”

Wala raised about $50,000 through Kickstarter to fund the making of The Secret Trial 5. Now he and his fellow producers have started another campaign to fund a cross-country tour of the film.

The Secret Trial 5 will be at the ByTowne Cinema Nov. 16-18.

Copyright 2001-2014, Free Daily News Group Inc.

New anti-terror tracking measures will address 'black hole': CSIS

posted on October 16, 2014 | in Category Security Certificates | PermaLink

Source: CBC News and The Canadian Press
URL: [link]
Date: October 16, 2014

Security lawyers warn that blanket intelligence source protection could endanger court proceedings

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney has unveiled new federal plans to boost protection for intelligence sources, by giving them the same protections bestowed upon police informants in criminal cases.

The new bill, which will likely be tabled next week, is meant to clarify the current laws, the minister told reporters.

"CSIS is relying on those sources, since it is an intelligence agency, so that is why it is so critical and important that we enable CSIS with the same authority that other law enforcement agencies have … so CSIS can fully operate and protect Canadians within the scope of the law."

In response to a question on how such evidence could be tested in court without giving defence attorneys the ability to cross-examine sources, CSIS assistant director of operations Andy Ellis pointed out that the agency "has a very robust system in place" for gathering information.

"We make every attempt to ensure that the information we're getting is corroborated and accurate, and we do not act on single-source information."

[ Read the rest ... ]

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