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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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New anti-terror tracking measures will address 'black hole': CSIS
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."
by Press Release Source: Independent Jewish Voices URL: [link] Date: May 15, 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – May 15, 2014
Independent Jewish Voices Appalled by Court Rulings on Hassan Diab and Mohamed Harkat
OTTAWA – With the decision to extradite Hassan Diab to France affirmed by the Ontario Court of Appeal, human rights supporters across the country are appalled by the decision, and fearful of the precedent this sets for Canadian citizens.
“Independent Jewish Voices is stunned by the Kafkaesque trial against Dr. Diab, who has been wrongly accused of a heinous crime committed decades ago,” says IJV spokesperson Sid Shniad.
“Despite the fact that Dr. Diab’s fingerprints, palm prints, handwriting and physical description do not match those of the suspect, he still faces extradition to a foreign country. What kind of democracy are we living in?”
Due to Canada’s extradition laws, it makes no difference that according to an Ontario judge, the evidence levelled against Dr. Diab is “confusing,” “weak,” and “suspect.” The request — however unreasonable — of a foreign country, takes priority over the rights of a Canadian citizen.
Dr Diab’s extradition is opposed by countless civil society organizations that support human rights. There is, however, one organization in particular that has been publicly supportive of Dr. Diab’s extradition: The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA).
“Independent Jewish Voices is deeply disturbed that the pro-Israel lobby group CIJA — which falsely claims to represent Canada’s diverse Jewish communities — has been supportive of Dr. Diab’s extradition,” says Shniad. “It is an affront to the Jewish tradition of support for universal human rights, including due process under the law, to support the extradition of a man accused of a crime despite the absence of any valid evidence against him.”
This decision directly follows the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Security Certificate process in the case of Mohamed Harkat.
“Canada’s treatment of Dr. Diab and Mr. Harkat are reflective of the same systemic flaws,” says Shniad. “Our government and judicial system are in the business of violating international law, demonizing Arabs and Muslims, and branding them terrorists while denying them the right to a fair trial. All those who believe in justice should be outraged. We should demand that Parliament intervene immediately to abolish Security Certificates and end unjust practices like the extradition proceedings against Dr. Diab.”
For more information contact: Sid Shniad, Steering Committee member of Independent Jewish Voices – Canada 604-314-5589, ijv-vancouver AT ijvcanada.org
Click on the photo of Mohamed to see all items related to him. DEC 9, 2010: A federal court judge today ruled to uphold the 2nd security certificate against Mohamed Harkat, finding it "reasonable." Justice Simon Noel found against Mr. Harkat and upheld the regime of secret hearings and judicially sanctioned rendition to torture.
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.