A Promise Not to Torture Was Enough for US Detainee Transfers, Says Declassified Report

posted on May 12, 2016 | in Category International | PermaLink

by Jason Leopold
Source: VICE News
URL: [link]
Date: May 10, 2016

Foreign nations that took custody of more than 1,000 detainees held captive by the US military between 2010 and 2011 provided assurances to the United States that they would not torture any of them — even though reports later surfaced alleging that some of those detainees were tortured after being turned over.

A heavily redacted 10-page report [pdf at the end of this story] examining detainee transfers and the reliance on diplomatic assurances, declassified this week by the Department of Defense Inspector General in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by VICE News three years ago, says Defense (DOD) did not have a strict policy that "specifically addressed how detainees will be treated once transferred to another country."

"DOD should promulgate policies or directives that include an express statement that the DOD may not transfer any person to a foreign entity where it is more likely than not that the person will be tortured," said the February 28, 2012 report prepared by the deputy inspector general for intelligence.

Two years after the Inspector General (IG) made the recommendation, the DOD adopted such a policy, barring the transfer of detainees to foreign countries if US authorities determined "that it is more likely than not that the detainee would be subjected to torture."

According to the report, the US transferred 1,064 detainees who were held by the DOD in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo between August 2010 and August 2011 (a number that, with the exception of Guantanamo, was previously undisclosed.) The breakdown was: 802 detainees from Afghanistan, 259 detainees from Iraq, and three detainees from Guantanamo who were sent to Germany and Algeria, the latter of which has a poor human rights record. The US also held three people who were captured off the coast of Somalia and were believed to be pirates.

An earlier report issued by the IG in December 2010 said the US had transferred 4,781 detainees. After it released the detainees, the US received diplomatic assurances from the foreign governments that the men would not be tortured. But the US has not determined whether the foreign governments are living up to their promises.

While George W. Bush was in office, there were widespread allegations that thousands of detainees who were physically and psychologically tortured while in the custody of the US military and the CIA were also tortured when they were turned over to foreign nations — and that the US turned a blind eye.

President Barack Obama issued an executive order a few weeks after he took office in 2009 establishing a Special Task Force on Interrogation and Transfer Policies. The task force was made up of senior administration officials and had a charter calling for lawful interrogations, the closure of CIA black site detention facilities, and a study of US detainee transfer policies to ensure they complied with domestic and international laws. The task force was to prevent "the transfer of individuals to other nations to face torture."

In August 2009, the task force issued a report that remains classified. A Justice Department press release summarizing it, however, said that while the US may rely upon diplomatic assurances that detainees will not be tortured, the task force recommended that "the State Department be involved in evaluating those assurances and that the inspectors general of the departments of State, Defense, and Homeland Security prepare annually a coordinated report on transfers conducted by each of their agencies in reliance on assurances."

"The Task Force also made several recommendations aimed at improving the United States' ability to monitor the treatment of individuals transferred to other countries," the Justice Department press release said. "These include a recommendation that agencies obtaining assurances from foreign countries insist on a monitoring mechanism, or otherwise establish a monitoring mechanism, to ensure consistent, private access to the individual who has been transferred, with minimal advance notice to the detaining government."

But diplomatic assurances that say detainees will not be tortured, a crucial component in the Obama administration's efforts to try and shut Guantanamo, are not legally binding.

"Diplomatic assurances are unreliable and ineffective in protecting against torture and ill-treatment, and States should not resort to them," said Juan Méndez, UN special rapporteur on torture, and Ben Emmerson, UN special rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism, in a statement they jointly issued in December 2013. "We have often seen diplomatic assurances used by governments to circumvent the absolute prohibition of torture as established in the UN Convention against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment."

The rapporteurs' comments were prompted by the forcible repatriation to Algeria of Guantanamo detainee Djamel Ameziane, who had protested his transfer to the country stating that he feared he would be persecuted once he was taken into custody. The US said it had obtained assurances from Algeria that Ameziane would not be mistreated.

Ameziane, who was not charged with a crime while he was held captive by the US military, unsuccessfully sued the US government after he was transferred to retrieve money confiscated from him: about $1,270 he said he earned working in Canada, and a smaller amount of Afghan and Pakistani currency. He had said in a sworn declaration that he is destitute and homeless, and needs the money to survive because the US transferred him to Algeria with nothing but the clothes on his back and a special Guantanamo care package.

More recently, the US repatriated former Guantanamo detainee Younous Chekkouri to Morocco, even though the captive had said in November 2014 it would be too dangerous for him to return home because Morocco has a history of torturing its prisoners. Though Chekkouri was never accused of a crime during the 13 years he was detained at Guantanamo, he was promptly imprisoned on suspicion of terrorism upon his repatriation in apparent violation of diplomatic assurances Moroccan government officials gave to the US that he would not be prosecuted and would not be held for more than 72 hours. Chekkouri was released about six months later.

With the exception of a Department of Homeland Security IG report issued publicly in November 2011, all of the inspectors general reports on detainee transfer assurances are still classified. The DOD IG report obtained by VICE News, one of four issued since 2010 by the watchdog and previously marked SECRET, is the first one that was released following a declassification review. We have also filed FOIA requests for the three other reports.

"The concern we have always had about diplomatic assurances is that it's a promise not to torture from torturers," said Naureen Shah, director of Amnesty International USA's Security & Human Rights program, after reviewing the DOD IG report. "Nothing in this report shows that the US is making a good faith effort to ensure that is not happening to these individuals. The fact that the IG did not analyze whether these people were tortured after being transferred is alarming."

A spokeswoman for the DOD IG, Bridget Serchak, told VICE News the IG's review is "limited to inspections/evaluations on transfer policies and procedures, not the actual transfers." Serchak also said she could not divulge details about the IG's later reports on transfer assurances "because any response would confirm or deny classified information to the public before it was cleared for release or redacted."

Shah said that at the same time the DOD IG was working on its review of transfer assurances, Amnesty International was raising concerns about detainees formerly held in US custody being tortured by their jailers in Afghanistan and Iraq after they were transferred. Other human rights groups and media reports also documented cases of widespread torture by Iraq and Afghanistan authorities after the US transferred detainees. NATO halted the transfer of detainees to Afghanistan after the United Nations issued a report in 2013 that revealed detainees transferred to Afghan custody by the US and other foreign governments were systematically tortured.

Sections in the IG report related to detainees transferred to Afghanistan and Iraq were heavily redacted. Exempt from the redactions were assurances the US received from those governments that transferred detainees would be treated humanely.

Shah said Amnesty sent a memo to the White House last March asking the administration to take several steps before Obama leaves office to ensure the US does not return to a policy of torture.

"One thing we asked for is the declassification and disclosure of the IG reports that are classified," Shah said. "There's no way to assess this administration's record about transfers because we don't have the reports."

The White House has not responded, Shah said.

UPDATE 5/12/16: This report has been updated to include a comment from DOD IG spokeswoman Bridget Serchak.

(c) VICE 2016. All rights reserved.


Bid to deport six terror suspects blocked after UK judges cite torture fears in Algeria

posted on May 12, 2016 | in Category International | PermaLink

by Victoria Parsons
Source: The Bureau of Investigative Journalism
URL: [link]
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.

Today, the three Siac judges said the threat of Islamism in the region, both in Algeria and neighbouring countries such as Libya and Mali, was contributing to a volatile political situation. They also noted the Islamist attack on the In Amenas gas installation in 2013 when 39 foreign hostages were killed during the ensuing rescue raid by security services.

The Home Secretary argued they had “effective assurances” from Algeria that the men would not be tortured and pointed to an agreement signed between Tony Blair and President Bouteflika in 2006.

However, the court in London noted that Bouteflika was now almost 80 and had sustained a brain haemorrhage in April 2013. Since then he has been confined to a wheelchair and makes few public appearances, the judges said.

Although they noted he had been re-elected as president for a fourth term April 2014, they said some felt there was a potential power vacuum in the country which could undermine the effectiveness of the assurances on torture.

In response, the Home Secretary’s lawyers argued that the presence of international NGOs in Algeria, as well as the Algerian press, would help prevent and deter any abuse of the six men.

But Siac said this was not the case, as any press reporting on abuse by the authorities was not in “real time” but after the event so could not prevent the abuse from happening.

The judges added that it was “obvious” that the presence of human rights NGO’s in Algeria for a number of years had not managed to “prevent further abuse of any detainee” once reported.

In conclusion, they said: “Viewing the evidence as a whole we are not convinced that the improvements in conditions in Algeria are so marked or so entrenched as to obviate the need for effective verification that the authorities will adhere to the assurances given.

“It is not inconceivable that these Appellants, if returned to Algeria, would be subjected to ill-treatment infringing Article 3. There is a real risk of such a breach. The different means of verification of adherence advanced by the Respondent do not, taken together, amount to a robust system of verification.”

The six allegedly include leaders of terror groups in European countries, an associate of Abu Hamza and two men linked to a UK terror plot.

None of the men have ever been convicted of terror offences in the UK. The Home Secretary argues they are a threat to national security and must be returned to Algeria.

The Bureau has been covering the case as part of a two year examination of the use of secret evidence in national security related immigration cases.

The Bureau has contacted the Home Office for comment.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


Canada To Sign UN's Anti-Torture Protocol After Years Of Delay

posted on May 05, 2016 | in Category Canada | PermaLink

by The Canadian Press
Source: Huffington Post
URL: [link]
Date: May 2, 2016


OTTAWA — 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.

"The minister just announced that we agree that the government of Canada should join this important protocol," Gagnon said of what Dion had to say at a private reception earlier Monday.

"We are taking the first step towards doing so by beginning formal consultations on the optional protocol with provincial and territorial governments."

Move welcomed by activists

Mohamed Fahmy, who spent more than a year in a prison in Egypt, welcomed the move on Twitter, calling it history in the making.

Activist groups have been pressing for ratification for years; Amnesty International Canada has yet another news conference on the subject scheduled for Tuesday.

Supporters of the protocol say it is an important step in freeing the world from the practice of torture.

They say Canadian ratification would strengthen the country's ability to press other countries to open detention centres to increased scrutiny.

With files from Mike Blanchfield

Copyright ©2016 TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc. "The Huffington Post" is a registered trademark of TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc. All rights reserved. 2016©




Liberals must end Canada's 'previous complicity in torture,' says victim

posted on May 05, 2016 | in Category Canada | PermaLink

by Mike Blanchfield (CP)
Source: CBC News
URL: [link]
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 decade

posted on May 05, 2016 | in Category Canada | PermaLink

by The Canadian Press
Source: The Globe & Mail
URL: [link]
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 deported

posted on April 26, 2016 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

by Andrew Duffy
Source: The Ottawa Citizen
URL: [link]
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 Algeria

posted on April 18, 2016 | in Category International | PermaLink

by Victoria Parsons
Source: The Bureau of Investigative Journalism
URL: [link]
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.

Today, the three Siac judges said the threat of Islamism in the region, both in Algeria and neighbouring countries such as Libya and Mali, was contributing to a volatile political situation. They also noted the Islamist attack on the In Amenas gas installation in 2013 when 39 foreign hostages were killed during the ensuing rescue raid by security services.

The Home Secretary argued they had “effective assurances” from Algeria that the men would not be tortured and pointed to an agreement signed between Tony Blair and President Bouteflika in 2006.

However, the court in London noted that Bouteflika was now almost 80 and had sustained a brain haemorrhage in April 2013. Since then he has been confined to a wheelchair and makes few public appearances, the judges said.

Although they noted he had been re-elected as president for a fourth term April 2014, they said some felt there was a potential power vacuum in the country which could undermine the effectiveness of the assurances on torture.

In response, the Home Secretary’s lawyers argued that the presence of international NGOs in Algeria, as well as the Algerian press, would help prevent and deter any abuse of the six men.

But Siac said this was not the case, as any press reporting on abuse by the authorities was not in “real time” but after the event so could not prevent the abuse from happening.

The judges added that it was “obvious” that the presence of human rights NGO’s in Algeria for a number of years had not managed to “prevent further abuse of any detainee” once reported.

In conclusion, they said: “Viewing the evidence as a whole we are not convinced that the improvements in conditions in Algeria are so marked or so entrenched as to obviate the need for effective verification that the authorities will adhere to the assurances given.

“It is not inconceivable that these Appellants, if returned to Algeria, would be subjected to ill-treatment infringing Article 3. There is a real risk of such a breach. The different means of verification of adherence advanced by the Respondent do not, taken together, amount to a robust system of verification.”

The six allegedly include leaders of terror groups in European countries, an associate of Abu Hamza and two men linked to a UK terror plot.

None of the men have ever been convicted of terror offences in the UK. The Home Secretary argues they are a threat to national security and must be returned to Algeria.

The Bureau has been covering the case as part of a two year examination of the use of secret evidence in national security related immigration cases.

The Bureau has contacted the Home Office for comment.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


Hold CBSA Accountable For Deporting Detainees To Torture

posted on March 11, 2016 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

by Monia Mazigh
Source: Huffington Post - The Blog
URL: [link]
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

by "Justice for Mohamed Harkat"
Source: iPolitics
URL: [link]
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?

Thirteen years ago, Harkat, a former pizza delivery man, was taken into custody on suspicion of being an al Qaida sleeper agent; he denies the accusation. Using the national security certificate — a seldom-used tool in immigration law for removing non-citizens suspected of extremism or espionage — Ottawa has been trying ever since to have him deported.

Harkat was arrested in 2002 and then released under strict conditions in 2006. He’s been under surveillance ever since.

Those detained under security certificates have no access to the secret information the government uses to accuse them of association with terrorism. Neither do their lawyers. The Supreme Court of Canada has expressed “discomfort” with security certificates, calling them “imperfect” — but stopping short of declaring them (in their current form) unconstitutional. The court has, however, declared unconstitutional the practice of destroying original information on which the allegations are based.

Despite this, the government is still relying on summaries of information that was destroyed for its rationale for keeping Mr. Harkat under surveillance and seeking his deportation.

The Federal Court also has ruled that the threat posed by Mr. Harkat has significantly decreased since his initial detention in 2002. Since 2009 all of the assessments done by CBSA, CSIS and the Federal Court state that Mr. Harkat poses a low risk. In September 2009, the court dropped many of his release conditions after CSIS said that he did not pose the threat they initially thought.

It’s very important to remember that Mr. Harkat has never committed a crime, nor has he been charged with one; this is not disputed by Canada’s security agencies. Mr. Harkat’s reputation has been smeared through the use of unexamined (because secret) allegations, through witnesses who later were found to have failed polygraph tests. He has abided by his release conditions to the letter since his release from jail in 2006, despite the immense pressure the authorities have put on him and his family.

The aim of the security certificate regime is deportation. A finding of “reasonableness” (in a process that applies the lowest standard of evidence in any judicial proceeding in Canada) is automatically converted into a deportation order. But for Mr. Harkat, deportation is a mortal threat; he would be sent to Algeria, a country identified by Amnesty International as one with an extremely poor human rights record.

Mr. Harkat fears torture and execution if he is returned — especially after having been labeled a terrorist by Canada, despite never having been charged and never having committed a crime. He has every reason to be afraid.

At minimum, the government of Canada should reconsider its intention to deport Mr. Harkat. It also needs to take a hard, critical look at the section of the Immigrant and Refugee Protection Act that allows for security certificates — a law that all too often is used to remove rights and deport people, not protect them. The injustice of the security certificate system was even recognized by Prime Minister Trudeau’s brother, Alexandre, in his 2006 documentary, Secure Freedom.

So far, Prime Minister Trudeau’s new government has indicated a willingness to undo at least some of the damage done by the previous government to Canada’s human rights record, at home and abroad. But they’re not done yet. Since mid-December, hundreds of concerned Canadians have sent letters of support asking Goodale to drop the proceedings. Canada has been given another opportunity to stop Mohamed Harkat’s deportation — and any others that might result in torture or death.

Do the right thing, Mr. Trudeau. Let him stay.

The Justice for Mohamed Harkat committee advocates on Mr. Harkat’s behalf for the abolition of the security certificate system, and to prevent his deportation.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by all iPolitics columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of iPolitics.

© 2016 iPolitics


OTTAWA CITIZEN: Government takes next step to deport Harkat

posted on March 05, 2016 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

by Andrew Duffy
Source: The Ottawa Citizen
URL: [link]
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.


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