Liberals must end Canada's 'previous complicity in torture,' says victimposted on May 05, 2016 | in Category Canada | PermaLink
Source: CBC News
Date: May 3, 2016
A prominent Canadian victim of abuse behind bars in Syria is calling on the government to cancel controversial directives that allow for the sharing of intelligence that could lead to torture.
Abdullah Almalki, a Canadian who was imprisoned and tortured in Syria for almost two years, said Tuesday it is time the Liberals ditched the policy that was enacted by the previous Conservative government.
Almalki said the current government must end Canada's "previous complicity in torture."
Almalki and other human rights activists said cancelling the directives is the next logical step for the government after it announced Monday it was prepared to join a key United Nations anti-torture agreement more than a decade after it was first passed.
Almalki was part of a group of human rights activists that praised Monday's surprise announcement by Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion. But they said the government must go further, and cancel the torture directives.
"Many of the prisoners I've interviewed have reverted to saying things that necessarily didn't happen or they were told to confess in order to avoid the torture," said Mohamed Fahmy, the Canadian journalist who was imprisoned in Egypt.
Alex Neve, the head of Amnesty International Canada, said his organization has been campaigning for years to get the controversial torture directives thrown out.
"It certainly would be very much in keeping with the spirit of what we heard yesterday ... to rescind that very troubling ministerial direction and bring our intelligence sharing practices into line with our international obligations," said Neve.
Fahmy and Neve warned Dion and the provinces not to dither and to bring Canada into full compliance with the anti-torture convention within one year.
The federal government must now consult with the provinces on the legal way forward for Canada to formally join the UN anti-torture convention.
© The Canadian Press, 2016
Canada to join UN anti-torture protocol after more than a decadeposted on May 05, 2016 | in Category Canada | PermaLink
Source: The Globe & Mail
Date: May 2, 2016
Canada is prepared to join a key United Nations anti-torture agreement more than a decade after it was first passed.
The UN’s optional protocol to the convention against torture allows for the establishment of national and international systems for inspecting detention centres where torture often takes place in secrecy.
It was first approved by the world body in 2002.
Although dozens of countries have signed on, Canada has not ratified the protocol. The Harper government twice promised to do so, but never did.
The new Trudeau government will follow through, says
Chantal Gagnon, a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion, says the Trudeau government plans to make good on the commitment.
Copyright 2016 The Globe and Mail Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Harkat buoyed by U.K. court ruling that six terror suspects can't be deportedposted on April 26, 2016 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink
Source: The Ottawa Citizen
Date: April 25, 2016
[PHOTO: Mohamed Harkat's defence team hopes a recent UK decision on six terror accused will help in Harkat's fight against deportation to Algeria.]
Mohamed Harkat’s defence team will use a recent British court ruling to argue that the Algerian-born terror suspect should not be deported to the turbulent North African country.
A panel of judges from the United Kingdom’s Special Immigration Appeals Commission ruled last week that six Algerian terror suspects cannot be deported because of the “real risk” they’ll be tortured in their native country.
The judges said the situation in Algeria is unpredictable given the threat of Islamism in the region, and the frail health of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
Bouteflika, 79, suffered a serious stroke in April 2013 and questions remain about who’s actually running the country.
The U.K. judges said Algeria’s volatility undermined the government’s argument that “diplomatic assurances” could be relied upon to protect the six terror suspects from torture if deported.
The Algerians, who live in England under strict bail conditions, have been fighting deportation for 10 years.
In Canada, the federal government continues to pursue the deportation of Ottawa’s Harkat 14 years after he was first arrested on the strength of a national security certificate.
A feature of federal immigration law, security certificates give the government the power to remove foreign-born terror suspects based, in part, on secret evidence.
Harkat’s lawyer, Barbara Jackman, said the U.K. court ruling will form part of her submission to the federal official who must now decide whether Harkat should be deported.
That official, known as a minister’s delegate, must weigh the risk that Harkat poses to Canadians against the risk that he will be tortured in Algeria.
“The U.K. judgment,” Jackman said, “appears to be solidly grounded in the framework of human rights protection obligations.”
As signatories to the UN convention against torture, Canada and the U.K. are prohibited from returning people to countries where they face a substantial risk of torture or other inhuman treatment.
The Canadian government has sought to reduce the level of risk in the Harkat case by obtaining diplomatic assurances from the Algerian government that the al-Qaida-linked terror suspect wouldn’t be mistreated.
Harkat’s wife, Sophie, said the U.K. case shows that those guarantees are not worth the paper on which they’re written. “It confirms that diplomatic assurances are not reliable — and they’re the backbone of the whole process,” she said.
Harkat intends to formally petition Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale later this year to allow him to stay in Canada. The minister has the statutory power to halt Harkat’s deportation if he finds that the action is “not contrary to the national interest.”
“This has lasted so long, we just want to put an end to this,” said Sophie Harkat. “Why do they want to go on with this process?”
Harkat, 47, has enlisted the support of dozens of high-profile Canadians, including Alexandre Trudeau, the prime minster’s brother. In a letter to Goodale, issued in Februrary, Alexandre Trudeau said he’s “absolutely convinced” that Harkat poses no danger to public safety in Canada.
In May 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the government’s revised security certificate regime and affirmed a decision that found Harkat to be an active member of the al-Qaida terrorist network.
The case against Harkat was built on 13 wiretapped phone conversations and at least two unnamed informants, one of whom failed a lie-detector test.
Harkat insists he will be tortured or killed if returned to Algeria, the country from which he fled in March 1990 during a military crackdown on government opponents.
Last week, Harkat underwent shoulder surgery to correct a longstanding injury that he suffered in a fall while delivering pizzas before his arrest in December 2002.
© 2016 Postmedia Network Inc. All rights reserved.
Bid to deport six terror suspects blocked after UK judges cite torture fears in Algeriaposted on April 18, 2016 | in Category International | PermaLink
Source: The Bureau of Investigative Journalism
Date: April 18, 2016
Six men accused of having links to al Qaeda cannot be deported to Algeria because there is a “real risk” they would be tortured, UK judges ruled today in what marks a major defeat for the Home Office.
Judges at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) ruled against Home Secretary Theresa May and found in favour of the six men who have been fighting deportation orders for 10 years.
The Home Office argued they were a national security risk to Britain, but the Siac judges agreed with the men that their human rights would be at risk if returned to Algeria.
“It is not inconceivable that these Appellants, if returned to Algeria, would be subject to ill-treatment infringing Article 3 [prohibition of torture under the European Convention on Human Rights]. There is a real risk of such a breach,” they ruled today.
The six men are living under strict bail and curfew conditions at various locations in England. The men cannot be identified for legal reasons and the Home Secretary now has 10 days to appeal today’s decision.
It is highly unusual for the Home Office to lose such appeals in Siac, which often hears evidence in secret.
The ruling was announced by the UK’s Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation on Twitter this morning.
[ Read the rest ... ]
Hold CBSA Accountable For Deporting Detainees To Tortureposted on March 11, 2016 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink
Source: Huffington Post - The Blog
Date: March 10, 2016
On March 8, 2016, an unidentified man died in the custody of the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA). The name of the person was not released, almost as if it doesn't matter already, or as if he had never existed in the first place.
Was he a refugee, someone with no papers? Was he young or old, healthy or not? We don't know. We might never know. No independent investigation has been ordered. CBSA continues to be above all forms of scrutiny. This is unacceptable.
Meanwhile, the fate of another man remains in the hands of the CBSA and the organization's recent assessment of his deportation to Algeria. Indeed Mohamed Harkat has been fighting a security certificate for over a decade.
A security certificate is a tool that allows the government to order the deportation of an individual deemed to represent a national security threat to Canada. The suspect can't see the evidence against him. He is basically fighting a moving shadow.
In human rights activism circles, we call it a Kafkaesque situation in reference to the absurdity of the "Trial" by Franz Kafka. A tool which was initially meant to expedite the removal of a potential "risk" turned out to be no more than a shameful tool to be used in dealing with refugees and immigrants.
After the first version of the security certificate process was found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2007, the government introduced a second version of security certificate process where the suspect can be represented by a special advocate who is cleared to know the secret evidence against his client, but still can't share it or discuss it with him.
In 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada expressed "discomfort" with that new version, calling it "imperfect" and not ideal, but not declaring it unconstitutional, either.
Despite all the legal battles Mohamed Harkat and his wife have been conducting to allow him to stay in Canada, he finds himself today facing deportation to Algeria. Recently CBSA filed a report where it plainly concludes that Mohamed Harkat should be deported to Algeria, despite the risk of being tortured there if he returns.
Reading some parts of the report, it seems clear that CBSA never learned any lessons from all the previous cases where Canada was found complicit in the torture of Canadians.
Basically, the CBSA's approach can be summarized by the following: Mohamed Harkat's actions (or "potential" actions) have been amplified, and his risks of torture and abuse in Algeria have been minimized.
Even the fact that Mohamed Harkat has been married to Sophie Lamarche, who has been fighting all these years to keep him in Canada, has been described in very demeaning words.
Using a patriarchal cliché on how a man's contribution is assessed in the family, the report concluded that Sophie Lamarche wouldn't suffer much since Mohamed Harkat hasn't been financially supportive.
But how about trying to find a job if you have been labeled a terrorist or an alleged "sleeper agent?" Did CBSA try to answer that question? Perhaps Maher Arar, Abdullah Al Malki, Ahmed Al Maati, Muayed Nurredine and Benamar Benatta can help them by sharing their own disastrous employment experience.
Moreover, why should a relationship be strictly examined from this perspective? What happen to affection, to partnership, to companionship?
Furthermore, the report goes on and makes the astonishing inference that since Mohamed Harkat does not have any kids with Sophie, his deportation won't be as serious for the couple.
First of all, why do they meddle in these private matters? And second, since when was the number of children a couple has used as a criterion in avoiding the deportation of people overseas? Didn't we see cases where CBSA ordered the deportation of a mother despite the fact that her kids will stay in Canada?
This report is not and will not be represent the end of the ordeal for Mohamed Harkat. More legal challenges lie ahead. However, this report is another serious story to add to the long list of stories about the lack of accountability and oversight for CBSA.
Mohamed Harkat and his wife Sophie will continue to fight the injustice done to them in the name of national security. Meanwhile, CBSA needs to answer its actions to the Parliament of Canada and to all Canadians.
Copyright ©2016 TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc.
Why is Ottawa still trying to deport Mohamed Harkat?posted on March 05, 2016 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink
Date: February 29, 2016
[PHOTO: Mohamed Harkat wipes away tears during a press conference in Ottawa on Monday, Dec. 10, 2012, that marked the 10th anniversary of his arrest and detention on a security certificate.]
It’s been a very busy few weeks for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet on the immigration and foreign policy front. They’ve made some bold moves. But their work is not yet finished.
Last week, Immigration Minister John McCallum introduced a bill to reverse the previous government’s controversial two-tier citizenship law, which allowed the government to revoke the citizenship of Canadians convicted of terrorism and other offences. McCallum called it “a question of principle.”
On February 15, Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion asserted the government’s intention to ask for clemency in death penalty cases abroad. Canada, he said, “must end this incoherent double standard. Canada opposes the death penalty and will ask for clemency in each and every case, no exceptions.”
On February 18, the government confirmed it was dropping the previous government’s appeal of the decision to grant bail to Omar Khadr. That same day, Immigration Minister John McCallum and Health Minister Jane Philpott announced the reinstatement of health care coverage for refugees.
And back in December, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale promised that he would review controversial directives enacted by the Harper government that allow for the sharing of security information with allies even in cases where that might lead to a suspect’s torture. Those directives were opposed by many human rights groups and described as contrary to international law and Canada’s United Nations commitments.
Bold moves, but not enough of them. Let’s get back to Mr. Dion’s comment about double standards for a moment. How can we reconcile Mr. Dion’s reasoning on the death penalty with the clear double standard involved in Ottawa’s continued attempts to deport Ottawa-based convention refugee and security certificate detainee Mohamed Harkat back to Algeria — where he faces a very real risk of torture and death?
[ Read the rest ... ]
OTTAWA CITIZEN: Government takes next step to deport Harkatposted on March 05, 2016 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink
Source: The Ottawa Citizen
Date: March 4, 2016
The federal government has taken another step toward the deportation of Ottawa’s Mohamed Harkat, filing a confidential report that says the terror suspect should be sent back to Algeria despite facing some risk of torture.
The report was prepared by Anne-Marie Charbonneau, manager of the danger assessments section of the Canada Border Services Agency.
It recommends to the senior government official who must ultimately decide Harkat’s fate — someone known as the minister’s delegate — that he be deported to Algeria because of his terror-related activities and the danger he poses.
If Harkat is not removed, the report warns, he would be free to “resume his contacts with members of the Islamic extremist network.”
“Mr. Harkat’s presence constitutes a real threat to the security of Canada and Canadians, as well as the security of other nations and their citizens,” concludes the risk assessment report, portions of which have been viewed by the Citizen.
The Harkat case was thrust back into the news this week after the Citizen revealed that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s brother, Alexandre, wrote a letter to the Liberal government, asking that deportation proceedings be halted.
Harkat has repeatedly expressed his belief that being deported to Algeria would result in his torture or death.
Charbonneau concedes that the human rights situation in Algeria remains a concern and that deportees who have been linked to terrorism face increased risks of harm.
While noting it’s impossible to say that Harkat faces no risk of torture or other cruel treatment, she concludes that he’s unlikely to face such harm upon deportation.
Charbonneau says his risk has been lowered by his high-profile and by the diplomatic assurances received from the Algerian government, which pledged to respect international prohibitions against torture.
The report also suggests Harkat’s wife — if she decides to stay in Canada without her husband — will not be financially disadvantaged since he has contributed little to their household income.
In an interview, Sophie Harkat said she was outraged by the hypocrisy of that suggestion when her husband has been effectively barred from employment by the government’s unfair labelling of him.
“You don’t know how much Mo wants to go back to work: He’s desperate to work, desperate,” said Harkat, noting her husband maintained three jobs — two at gas stations and one at Pizza Pizza — before his arrest.
“He’s applied for I don’t know how many jobs and he never gets called back.”
A 2013 medical report found that Harkat suffers from post-traumatic stress and depression.
Harkat’s defence team will now have the opportunity to make its own submissions to the minister’s delegate, who will have to weigh Harkat’s risk of being tortured in Algeria against the risk he poses to Canadians if he remains in this country.
A decision on deportation is expected later this year.
That decision, however, can be appealed to the Federal Court of Canada, and there’s every reason to believe that the case could end up in the Supreme Court for a third time.
The high court has yet to define the “exceptional circumstances” under which Canada can deport someone to a country where they face the risk of torture.
Earlier this week, Alexandre Trudeau appealed to the Liberal government to end the deportation proceedings, saying that Harkat “poses no danger whatsoever to the public or to public safety in Canada.”
He is among dozens of high-profile Canadians who have sent letters to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale on behalf of the Justice for the Mohamed Harkat Committee, a lobby group trying to bring public pressure to bear to end the government’s 14-year campaign to deport him.
Harkat supporters have been encouraged by recent Liberal initiatives, including proposed changes to a law that allowed the government to strip citizenship from dual nationals convicted of terrorism, and Foreign Minster Stéphane Dion’s vow to seek clemency for all Canadians involved in death penalty cases abroad.
The Liberal government of then Prime Minister Jean Chrétien first ordered Harkat’s arrest in December 2002 on a security certificate, which allows federal officials to present evidence in secret.
Sophie Harkat said she doesn’t have the strength for another Supreme Court challenge and just wants the marathon case to end: “We don’t ask for an apology; we don’t ask for money. We just want it to end.”
© 2016 Postmedia Network Inc. All rights reserved.
OTTAWA CITIZEN: Trudeau's brother asks government to keep Harkat in Canadaposted on March 01, 2016 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink
Source: The Ottawa Citizen
Date: March 1, 2016
[PHOTO: Justin and Alexandre Trudeau in 2010. Ottawa Citizen files]
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s brother has written to a federal cabinet minister on behalf of Ottawa’s Mohamed Harkat, asking the Liberal government to continue its “sunny ways” by allowing the Algerian-born terror suspect to stay in Canada.
Alexandre Trudeau, a Montreal-based filmmaker, said he has a policy of not lobbying the Liberal government in any way, but decided to make an exception in the Harkat case because his involvement in the cause predated his older brother’s entry into politics.
In his letter, dated Feb. 27, Trudeau appealed to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale to halt the unfair security certificate process and end the government’s attempt to deport Harkat.
“I urge you to use your unique position as minister, and the discretion afforded to you under the law, to exempt Mohamed Harkat from deportation and let him stay and live a productive life in Canada,” Alexandre Trudeau wrote, adding: “Make this decision of yours another shining example of your government’s commitment to sunny ways.”
The letter marks the first time that Trudeau, 42, has entered the political arena since his brother became prime minister in October.
Harkat, 47, is now fighting deportation, and has enlisted the support of dozens of high-profile Canadians in that effort.
Green Party leader Elizabeth May, former UN ambassador Stephen Lewis, torture victim Maher Arar, and Omar Khadr lawyer Dennis Edney are among those who have petitioned the government to end its ongoing attempt to deport Harkat.
Alexandre Trudeau has been involved in the Harkat case for more than a decade. In 2005, he offered to act as a surety for Harkat during a bail application. Trudeau also wrote and directed a 2006 documentary, Secure Freedom, that examined the human rights abuses that took place in the name of Canadian national security after 9/11.
The second son of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau has kept a low profile since his brother took office, but he has never been afraid to take unpopular stands. A globetrotting journalist and documentary filmmaker, Alexandre Trudeau has criticized Canada’s intervention in Afghanistan and Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza; he also heaped praise on Cuba’s Fidel Castro as “something of a superman” in a 2006 essay.
Trudeau shares a birthday (Dec. 25) with his brother, Justin, and served as a senior adviser on his 2012-13 campaign for the Liberal Party leadership.
In his letter to Goodale, Trudeau said security certificates remain a “fundamentally unfair measure” since they preclude the ability of suspects like Harkat to challenge the evidence against them.
“I am absolutely convinced that at this moment, he (Harkat) poses no danger whatsoever to the public or to public safety in Canada,” Alexandre Trudeau wrote, “but rather offers a positive commitment to the life he has created here.
“Just as importantly, Canadian and international law prohibit complicity in torture, and there is good reason to believe that Mohamed’s deportation to Algeria could lead to his torture.”
The law that governs security certificates, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, gives the minister the power to stop a deportation as long as it’s “not contrary to the national interest.”
In May 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the government’s revised security certificate regime and affirmed a decision that found Harkat to be an active member of the al-Qaida terrorist network. The case against Harkat was built on 13 wiretapped phone conversations and at least two unnamed informants, one of whom failed a lie-detector test.
The case remained dormant for 15 months until, halfway through last year’s federal election campaign, the government launched deportation proceedings.
Harkat insists he will be tortured or killed if returned as a terror suspect to Algeria, the country from which he fled in March 1990 during a military crackdown on government opponents.
Amnesty International Canada has warned that returning Harkat to Algeria would put him at risk of torture since many terror suspects are held in “incommunicado detention” where they’re routinely denied access to family, lawyers and doctors.
In its annual report on conditions in Algeria, Amnesty International condemned the North African country for refusing visits by UN human rights officials investigating torture, enforced disappearances and counter-terrorism measures.
© 2016 Postmedia Network Inc. All rights reserved.
Algeria: Government Bars UN Experts from Probing Human Rights Abuses, AIposted on March 01, 2016 | in Category International | PermaLink
Source: North Africa Post
Date: February 25, 2016
Amnesty International lashed out at Algerian authorities in its human rights annual report presented Wednesday because of their persistent refusal to let UN experts investigate human right abuses and because they granted immunity to the authors of the grave crimes and tortures cased during the internal bloody war of 1990s.
“The authorities persisted in their refusal to allow visits to Algeria by some UN human rights bodies and experts, including those with mandates on torture, counter-terrorism, enforced disappearances and freedom of association,” the report says.
Algerian authorities have maintained state control on human rights and have attacked any one daring to speak against regime.
The report takes in account many aspects of human rights namely freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, freedom of association, the state of human rights activism, the justice system, women’s rights, impunity and the death penalty.
On all those aspects, the Algerian regime is severely slammed for doing nothing to improve its records.
The annual report indicates that over the year 2015, the State brutally handled gatherings and protests by activists and people claiming their rights. The report for instance explained that members of the National Committee for the Defense of the Rights of the Unemployed (CNDDC) were handed prison terms of between one and two years.
The report also highlights government attempts to restrict freedom of association and determination to muzzle organizations and associations that fail to fall in line with government code of conduct.
“Associations seeking legal registration under Law 12-06, including Amnesty International Algeria, were left in limbo by the authorities, who failed to respond to registration applications.” the report says.
Commenting on the report, Amnesty International Algeria local Director Hassina Oussedik charged Algerian authorities for closing eyes on heinous and grave crimes committed during Algeria’s darkest history period of 1990s. For her the national reconciliation immunity granted in the new constitution to authors of grave crimes rolls back victims’ right for justice and reparation.
“The authorities continued to fail to investigate thousands of enforced disappearances and other serious human rights violations and abuses, bring perpetrators to justice, and provide effective remedies to victims’ families,” the report adds.
© 2016 The North Africa Post
God Willing: The Story of Sophie Harkatposted on February 27, 2016 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink
Source: The Carleton chapter of Journalists for Human Rights (JHR)
Date: February 26, 2016
“Terrorism.” The word threw Sophie Harkat back into her chair, like a bomb emitting a shockwave through the earpiece of the phone. The impact forced out a scream of disbelief, and her concerned colleagues ran to her. It was a Tuesday afternoon and Sophie was at her shared office in the membership fundraising department at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. She’d just received a call from her husband’s immigration lawyer: He had been arrested. For suspected terrorism.
It was three weeks shy of their second wedding anniversary on Dec. 10, 2002, International Human Rights Day, when Mohamed Harkat was arrested under a security certificate—a controversial tool in Canadian immigration law, implemented in 1978, that allows the government to indefinitely detain non-citizens suspected of terrorism. A three-walled prison the government calls it—because the option to go back to your home country is always open, even if that means facing torture and even death. These individuals aren’t charged with a crime and don’t have access to any of the evidence against them. Since 1991, 27 men have been issued a security certificate. Currently, there are three men who have outstanding security certificates.
Mohamed Harkat, 47, an Algerian-native who has lived in Canada since 1995 and goes by Moe—a name well suited for the community handyman—has been living in Ottawa under this security certificate for over 13 years. Sophie has been fighting for his life ever since.
Moe was granted refugee status in 1997 after successfully claiming government persecution based on his political affiliations if he returned to Algeria, where his family still lives and he’ll likely never be able to see again. CSIS alleged that Moe was an al-Qaeda sleeper agent who attended a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan and ran a guesthouse for terrorists in Pakistan, among other circumstantial evidence the government says is too dangerous to reveal.
[ Read the rest ... ]