VIDEO: 15th Anniversary Press Conference

posted on January 15, 2018 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

Source: ICLMG Facebook Page
URL: [link]
Date: December 8, 2017

press conference, Ottawa, Dec 2017
ICLMG's National Coordinator, Tim McSorley, Amnesty International Canada's Program Manager, Hilary Homes, National Council of Canadian Muslims' Executive Director, Ihsaan Gardee, author and human rights activist (and wife of torture survivor Maher Arar) Monia Mazigh, and Coordinator of Stop Canadian Involvement in Torture and Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada and writer, Matthew Behrens, spoke at the press conference on Parliament Hill, Ottawa.

PHOTOS: 15th Anniversary Rally and Press conference

posted on December 11, 2017 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

We had a small but enthusiastic crowd outside Parliament Hill on Friday marking 15 years of Mohamed Harkat's ongoing security certificate process.

rally on Parliament Hill, December 8, 2017
Matthew Behrens shares a quote from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Mohamed Harkat and wife Sophie Harkat look on. Ottawa. December 8, 2017.

See more photos of the event.

All photos by Anne Dagenais Guertin and used with permission.

I hope people remember to demand of governments - this one and all future governments - that nobody ever has their fundamental rights violated either through inaction or deliberate action by Canadian governments. Nobody ever deserves to be tortured. And when a Canadian government is either complicit in that or was not active enough in preventing it there needs to be a responsibility taken.

--Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, October 26, 2017

Kafka's Canada at 15: The secret trials of Mohamed Harkat

posted on December 01, 2017 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

by Matthew Behrens
URL: [link]
Date: November 29, 2017

While International Human Rights Day (December 10) is an opportunity for politicians to issue self-regarding boilerplate statements about respect, dignity and freedom, for one Ottawa couple, it always arrives with a nauseating sense of irony.

It was on December 10, 2002, when Sophie Harkat received a call at work that her husband, Mohamed (Moe), had been arrested on a secret hearing security certificate. He was being held in solitary confinement as an alleged threat to state security -- without charge, without bail, and without being provided any tangible reasons why. As Kafka began his famous dystopian novel The Trial: "Someone must have been telling lies about Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning."

That was certainly the case for Moe Harkat, an Algerian refugee who was indefinitely detained based on the word of a secret informant who failed a lie detector test, and who was never subjected to examination either in an open court or a closed session. Another secret informant in the case had a particularly lustful motivation to keep coming up with allegations, because he had been carrying on an affair with an agent of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the scandal-plagued agency that cooks up the unsubstantiated allegations in secret trial cases.

The onus in a security certificate case is on the named individual to prove that they are not the state security threat CSIS makes them out to be. How does one prove a negative when the heart of the case is heard in your absence? Whenever a lawyer trying to tackle the case asks questions, the government's witnesses, if any are produced, can claim that answering them would endanger national security. It's all done with the Federal Court of Canada's shameful judicial seal of approval, one that has condemned dozens of individuals since it began providing legal cover to the star chamber process in 1991.

Two-tier justice

Even worse, the security certificate represents the lower rung of a two-tier justice that employs the lowest standards available, while anything not normally admissible in a court of law can be used in these cases (which means one is no longer in a court of law). It only applies to refugees and permanent residents, and ultimately can result in deportation to a country where the scarlet letter of "security threat" means an immediate booking in the nearest torture centre.

The process under which Harkat was arrested on Human Rights Day in 2002 was finally declared unconstitutional in 2007, but not before he spent a harrowing 3.5 years behind bars, including at the infamous Guantanamo North facility especially built for secret trial detainees on the grounds of Kingston's Millhaven Penitentiary.

But "release" to house arrest did not end the misery faced by the Harkats, who then had to deal with the strictest house arrest conditions in Canadian history, with the installation of surveillance cameras at their house, a GPS tracking module strapped to Moe's leg, endless rounds of permission-seeking to go into the backyard or to get groceries into the house, spy agency clearance required for any friends and supporters who wished to visit, vindictive raids on their apartment that sometimes caught one of them in the shower, and a lengthy litany of other humiliating conditions that would have produced an unimaginable level of stress in the best of marriages.

For Sophie, it meant having to become a jail guard in her own home. As a surety, she could never leave Moe out of her sight. If he wanted to fire up the barbecue, he would not go onto the back porch without Sophie going out first and monitoring his exit into the fresh air. If the couple were out on an approved visit to a shopping centre and one of them had to use the bathroom, the "never out of sight" responsibility placed on Sophie meant some socially awkward positioning at public conveniences. Anyone who wished to visit the Harkats at home had to be security-cleared by the government, which socially isolated them. The things most of us take for granted — cell phones, mail privacy, a home computer with internet access -- became the subject of protracted court proceedings that opened up every last detail of their private lives.

Racist 'Super Muslim' myth

The degrading conditions were based on the racist notion of Super Muslim: that Moe, like his fellow detainees, was so desperate to communicate with terrorists or do something awful that he had to be monitored every second of every day, despite the fact that no allegation has ever been made that he has even considered being involved in an act of violence. Things that happen in the normal course of a day for most of us -- driving through a yellow light or speeding up to pass someone on the roadway, for example -- are attributed nefarious purposes and labeled "counter-surveillance techniques" by the cunning detainee and his wife.

In 2008, the Harper government, with the full and cooperative support of the Liberals, replaced the unconstitutional secret trial law with a slightly revised version that continued to violate every fundamental right known to humankind. Scores of civil society groups and individuals protested that the window-dressing provision -- adding security-cleared special advocates who could ask some questions and see some of the secret case -- would leave the detainee no closer to knowing the core of the case against them. All of the Muslim detainees -- known collectively as The Secret Trial Five -- had new security certificates issued against them, and the cases proceeded anew.

But even with some of Canada's top lawyers on the special advocate roster, Moe was no closer to having someone cross-examine his secret and clearly unreliable informants, because the judge in his case, the recently retired Simon Noel, refused to allow it. Even though the special advocates were security cleared and could not violate their oath of secrecy (upon pain of 14 years in prison), Noel did not trust them to question the secret informants in the Harkat case. Instead, Noel took it upon himself to take the lying informants at their word and, when Harkat's public testimony did not square with the dishonest informants, Noel chose to believe the bald, unsubstantiated, and dishonest statements of those who would never be properly questioned about what they alleged.

And so, on Human Rights Day, December 10, 2010, a date no doubt picked for the extra sting it would evoke, Noel released his decision upholding the new secret certificate against Harkat. Despite having earlier found that the CSIS malfeasance referenced above had made it "necessary to repair the damage done to the administration of justice and to re-establish a climate of trust and confidence in this proceeding," Noel chose not to condemn CSIS in his decision, holding all of his fire for Harkat.

At a press conference that morning, Harkat stated he felt as if he were "dying inside," and Sophie declared, "this is a punch in the guts that will leave marks for a very long time." Holding aloft the thick judicial ruling, Sophie said "this document is a load of bull." Anyone familiar with the case could easily have come to the same conclusion. Noel's decision read like a personal attack coloured by a thinly veiled Islamophobia: if Harkat's testimony in certain circumstances was consistent, he must have concocted a story; if he was inconsistent (not unusual for someone experiencing PTSD), he must be a liar. In such a manner Harkat was deemed to be untruthful as opposed to merely human.

Harkat's case eventually made it to the Supreme Court in 2013. One day of hearings was held in public, with the other in some secret bunker somewhere in the national capital region in the absence of Harkat and his lawyers. It was a shameful day in the top court's history, but one which was inevitable in the development of the parallel secret trial system in which we are asked to trust what goes on behind closed doors.

Secrets at the Supreme Court

When the Supreme Court upheld Harkat's certificate in a poorly written, illogical ruling in 2014, it opened the door to the next phase of his Kafkaesque odyssey: proceedings began to deport him to torture in Algeria. Unfortunately, a change in government did not bring about a change in policy. Indeed, then opposition Liberal leader Justin Trudeau praised the Supreme Court decision, and while he more recently declared in that solemn, tear duct-opening manner he likes to employ that "No one, ever, deserves to be tortured," his government is twisting itself into a pretzel to try and produce the logic that will justify deporting Harkat to the dungeons of Algeria.

Despite all of this, the Harkats have remained together as a couple, occasionally enjoying a lessening of the brutal house arrest conditions and trying to develop a life outside of state control. But doing so has been difficult. Their plans to have a family have been scuttled thanks to the stress of the security certificate regime. When they finally did try to start a family, Sophie had a miscarriage. Moe suffers from chronic depression and PTSD. They live a precarious low-income life, with Sophie working as a crossing guard and Moe as a part-time janitor.

Opportunities to find better work for Moe have been rejected because of his list of conditions. Because he is not allowed to use the internet outside of his home, he cannot work as a cashier or stock receiver at a box store. Because he is not allowed to use a cell phone that is not strictly monitored by the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) and he is not allowed to leave Ottawa without advance notice, he had to turn down a well-paying job with benefits as a courier driver.

Even approved leisure time is humiliating. A trip to a cottage in Quebec is met with armed, bullet-proof wearing border agents waiting outside their home in eerie-looking, tinted-window vehicles. Because Moe has to call in every day he is away from a landline, he has had to drive into town to find the nearest pay phone -- which are harder to access in a cellular age -- and call the agent who is sitting in a car right outside of the cottage (earning, needless to say, a pile of overtime pay).

The Harkats question why the CBSA continues to follow them to family birthdays and funerals. After all, the role of a court-approved surety is to monitor the individual who has been released on conditions. The CBSA behavior is a clear sign that they do not trust the Harkats, even though the court seems to, and even though the last security assessment of Moe, produced by CSIS, ranked his threat-level as low. The Harkats say many of their neighbours are new immigrants, and when they see the CBSA officers outside the Harkat home, they are fearful of becoming friends because it looks like police officers are constantly at their abode.

Despite these overwhelming challenges, the couple is well-loved by their extended family, friends, and some neighbours, especially the little kids who line up outside of their door when they want their bikes fixed by the avuncular Moe.

But beneath their warm smiles and community spirit, the toll it has taken on them has been significant. The clinical director of the Integrated Forensic Program at the Royal Ottawa Health Group -- who happens to be one of this country's leading mental health specialists -- recently produced a report on Moe based on 112 evaluation sessions going back to 2009, as well as additional interviews dating back to 2005. It is a heartbreaking account of the human cost of state surveillance and repression.

"Mr. Harkat has a history of chronic depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress related to having been incarcerated on a Security Certificate in maximum security for 43 months, including one year in solitary confinement followed by many years of living under very strict bail conditions and facing deportation to Algeria, where he believes he will be arrested, tortured and at risk of death," the report declares.

"There are times when Mr. Harkat has experienced recurrent visions on a virtually daily basis over several months of being arrested, incarcerated, deported and tortured. Sometimes he has visions of being shot by CBSA due to a misunderstanding, minor misstep or accidental violation of his bail conditions. Often, he has been troubled by insomnia and recurrent nightmares with the same themes as his daytime visions. Energy has been chronically low and concentration impaired such that reading is limited to no more than five minutes at a time. Appetite is chronically poor to a point where he has to force himself to eat even one meal a day."

The report also notes that Harkat remains frustrated all these years later at his state of legal limbo, one in which he has never been charged with, much less convicted of, a crime. It states: "Particularly he is frustrated around secret sources of information being used against him, including of an informant who failed a lie detector test. He has been frustrated that phone-tap evidence was used against him even though the recordings were destroyed and only summaries of the transcripts presented, including of conversations that he was supposedly involved with for which the details are not remotely familiar to him."

Harkat is also left befuddled because he is accused of association with an individual, Ibn Khattab, who, in another security certificate case, was declared not to have been a security theat. But Judge Noel, based on the exact same evidence that allowed another judge to declare Khattab was not a threat, decided otherwise, adding guilt-by-association to Harkat, who says he never met Khattab.

The health risks of limbo

Despite this maddening cascade of Kafkaesque obfuscation, the report finds that "Harkat has continued to express a belief in Canadian democracy and the judicial system in spite of his complaints about the flaws of the government's case against him and the unfairness of the process. My experience is that ironically Mr. Harkat's level of confidence in Canadian democracy and judicial system surpasses that of most Canadian-born citizens."

The report goes on to find that Harkat has "a complete absence of psychopathic traits" and scored at the low end of risk on a wide battery of tests designed to test for rigidity of thought or propensity to violence.

"It cannot be overemphasized how stressful Mr. Harkat's present situation is, and how the present situation is anything but benign," the reported concluded.

The Harkats were back in court in mid-November to try and relax their conditions, which continue to cause major health issues. As the mental health evaluation noted, "The risk of continuing with the present situation is further permanent neurobiological changes that will be more refractory to treatment and recovery the longer they continue. This risk is not only to his mental health, but his physical health as well. Chronic stress is associated with increased risk for cardiovascular events (heart attacks and strokes), and suppressed immunity, including susceptibility to infections and cancer. There are also costs to his wife and family, financial costs, including to the Canadian taxpayer, and loss of Mr. Harkat's potential contributions through work."

The hearings were typical of those that have marked the public portion of the secret trials over the past two decades. Government lawyers, who are playing with all the cards, complained that they were somehow at a disadvantage. They produced witnesses from government surveillance agencies that were incompetent at best. Indeed, when CBSA manager Michel Renaud, in charge of Harkat's surveillance, was asked if had ever seen pictures of or knew anything about a series of individuals with whom Harkat is not allowed to associate, he replied that he had not. Harkat's lawyer, Barbara Jackman, then asked how it was that CBSA agents can do their job if they don't know anything about the alleged threat they are supposed to be preventing. Renaud shrugged and said such matters were not his bailiwick, but could be referred to the group's national security section.

Renaud was also asked if he had ever read any of the Federal Court decisions on Harkat's case or the threat assessments produced by CSIS (the last was in 2009, and though based completely on dated allegations from the 1990s, found that the alleged risk he posed was at the low end of the scale). Renaud again said no. How then, Jackman asked, could the CBSA say it was containing an alleged threat if it had no clue what the alleged threat was? The question, he replied again, should be referred to the group's national security section.

As the Harkats await word from the judge, they are also hoping to hear back from Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale. They applied for Moe to stay in Canada as a permanent resident by asking Goodale to find that Moe's living here would not be contrary to Canada's national interest. Over 700 letters of support were attached to that application. Finally, they are awaiting word from Trudeau's immigration bureaucracy, which is currently considering submissions on whether Harkat should be deported to torture. Just another week in Kafka's Canada.

Copyright © 2001-2017 the authors

'My life was ripped apart': Two Calgary Muslim men say CSIS wrongfully targeted them

posted on November 28, 2017 | in Category CSIS | PermaLink

by Nazim Baksh and Devin Heroux
Source: CBC News
URL: [link]
Date: November 22, 2017

[PHOTO: Abderrahmane Ghanem says he was detained and tortured in an Algerian prison after Canadian intelligence agencies shared information about him. Ghanem and Yacine Meziane say they've been wrongly targeted and their lives have been disrupted.]

Yacine Meziane and Abderrahmane Ghanem say they want their names cleared

Two Muslim men from Calgary say they were willing to assist Canada's security agents with terror-related inquiries until CSIS started hounding them and shared their personal information with foreign states.

Speaking exclusively to CBC News, Yacine Meziane and Abderrahmane Ghanem say CSIS and the RCMP wrongfully lumped them in with a cluster of Calgary jihadis who left to fight with ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

The two men say they were subjected to surveillance that quickly turned into harassment and eventually escalated into a full-scale disruption of their lives at home and abroad.

"My life was ripped apart," Meziane said.

Neither CSIS nor the RCMP would comment about individual cases.

However, in a lengthy response to CBC News, CSIS said that "care is taken to ensure an appropriate balance between the degree of intrusiveness of an investigation and the rights and freedoms of those being investigated."

That's not how Ghanem or Meziane see it. They're demanding that Canadian intelligence agencies help clear their names and allow them to lead normal lives.

CBC News has heard from half a dozen other Calgary Muslim men who say they've been similarly hounded by CSIS but are too afraid to speak openly for fear of backlash from security agencies.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims says it has received 90 such complaints, in writing, in the past four years, and that number is probably low "because people do not know they can or should report these [incidents]," said Huda Alsarraj, NCCM's human rights officer.

The Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), which provides parliamentary oversight of CSIS, says it has received a similar number over the same period of time, but the agency does not keep track of the ethnicity of complainants.

His friends joined ISIS

Ghanem returned to Canada in August after spending 13 months at the El-Harrach prison in his native Algeria. He says he was tortured while in custody.

CBC is not able to independently verify Ghanem's claim, but the poor treatment of prisoners at El-Harrach has been well documented.

"You're in a cell with 75 people. Conditions were terrible. It wasn't very healthy," said Ghanem.

Speaking for the first time since his return, Ghanem said he is still living as if in jail. "I find it difficult going outside. I used to get out a lot," he said.

It is not a mystery how Ghanem ended up on CSIS's radar.

He was close with a group of Calgary men who left Canada to go fight with ISIS — Damian Clairmont, Wassim Elhaj Youssef, Salman Ashrafi and brothers Gregory and Collin Gordon.

"It felt like a family," he said of the men he met at a downtown Calgary prayer hall.

"I think the main thing that kept us connected was that we were a young group of Muslims and we were trying our best to practice our faith. We were all learning about Islam, attending lectures and reading books."

In 2013 he hosted the Gordon brothers at his apartment in Cairo. He says he didn't know they were on their way to join ISIS in Syria. They were both killed in late 2014.

Ghanem said CSIS agents insisted he had encouraged his friends to leave. "All the blame was put on me," Ghanem said.

Ghanem's lawyer, Gary Caroline, said his client was punished for the choices his friends made.

In 2016 Ghanem was detained in Oman while visiting his parents and deported to Algeria, where he was arrested and charged with belonging to a terrorist group outside of Algeria.

Caroline says he has no doubt CSIS provided the Algerian authorities with information which led to his client's detention, although CBC News has no way to independently verify his assertion.

​Ghanem said Algerian authorities put a confession in front of him, making him admit to being the ringleader of the Canadian terror cell in Calgary.

"When I tried to read it, I was insulted, yelled at and forced to sign," Ghanem said. "I had no idea what I was signing. It was brutal."

In April, an Algerian judge dismissed the charges against him, and Ghanem was cleared to return to Canada.

Interview became personal

Unlike Ghanem, Meziane did not personally know the Calgary ISIS recruits.

He agreed to meet with agents from Canada's federal counterterror security force at his home in 2014.

"The impression they gave me is that I could help," said Meziane.

In a recording of that conversation obtained by CBC News, officers from Integrated National Security and Enforcement Team (INSET) questioned Meziane about the whereabouts of two Calgary men who had gone missing — cousins Hussein and Jamal Borhot.

In a document Western intelligence agencies believe to be authentic, Hussein Borhot's name appeared on a one-page ISIS "visa." It contained his personal information including the cellphone number of his wife.

The cousins eventually returned to Calgary, and as far as CBC News can tell, neither has been charged with any terrorism-related offences.

Twenty minutes into the interview, the questions shifted from the Borhots to Meziane's private life after agents told him he wasn't under investigation.

The agents asked Meziane for his private email address and questions like, "What do you do? Where is your family? Do you have kids? What's your Facebook account?" He became uncomfortable and terminated the meeting.

Meziane said CSIS agents refused to leave him alone, constantly showing up at his home, even calling him at work.

Meziane began feeling spooked and his wife was terrified, he said.

Moving to Kuwait

Wanting to get away from Canada for a while, Meziane accepted a job offer at an oil company in Kuwait.

On a visit back to Canada in 2016, he said, CSIS agents were waiting for him at Calgary's airport with the same questions.

Back in Kuwait, he was interrogated by airport security and held overnight in a room without a toilet. "They confiscated my cellphone and asked me about my social media accounts and people I knew in Canada," he said.

Meziane said he registered a complaint with the Canadian embassy in Kuwait but was told there was nothing embassy officials could do.

On Dec. 21, 2016, he left Kuwait with his family to visit his parents in Algeria.

On Jan. 6, 2017, on their return, Meziane's wife went ahead as usual to avoid having the kids see him being taken away by police.

"One of the police officers told me that I've been flagged by a foreign agency," Meziane said.

"Another officer said, 'Yacine, you are in trouble. You're not allowed into Kuwait.'

He felt his only option was to return to Canada, where, he said, he had no job, no money and no place to live.

"I stayed homeless the whole winter in Calgary," said Meziane.

Meziane wrote letters of complaint to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, to the director of CSIS and to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.

He filed a written complaint to the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC).

Last March, Meziane gave a deposition to SIRC but has not received a response.

CSIS shares 'threat-related' info

In a written statement CSIS said it has "a responsibility to share threat-related information with its foreign partners in order to mitigate risks to public safety here and abroad." But when sharing information, CSIS said, there are "strict controls on the use and dissemination of the information."

But Caroline said he is opposed to Canada sharing information with the intelligence agencies of countries that breach human rights. "When word gets out, how much do you think Muslim men will want to help the RCMP and CSIS?" he said.

Meziane says he's had no success finding employment since his return because, he believes, his name gets flagged on background checks.

"My question for CSIS is: what do you want? I am right here in Canada. You don't want me to work, travel, have a life? What do you want from me?"

©2017 CBC/Radio-Canada. All rights reserved.

Terror Suspect Mohamed Harkat Unlikely To Commit Violent Acts, Psychiatrist Says

posted on November 18, 2017 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

by Canadian Press
Source: Huffington Post
URL: [link]
Date: November 17, 2017

Mohamed Harkat, Nov 2017
Mohamed Harkat. November 16, 2017. Photo by Sean Kilpatrick (CP)

Mohamed Harkat is asking for authorities to loosen his restrictions.

OTTAWA — A psychiatrist who has treated terror suspect Mohamed Harkat for the last eight years says the refugee from Algeria is unlikely to commit violent acts.

Dr. Colin Cameron told a Federal Court of Canada hearing Friday on Harkat's release conditions that his patient supports democracy and expresses revulsion about terrorist attacks.

"I'm trained to be very skeptical of people," Cameron told the court. "I've asked a lot of pointed questions to him."

Harkat, who is closely monitored by Canadian border agency officials, wants general permission to use the internet outside his family home and to travel freely within Canada.

Authorities are asking the court to deny the requests and make only minor modifications to existing conditions, saying Harkat continues to pose a threat almost 15 years after being arrested.

As the two-day hearing wrapped up Friday, Justice Sylvie Roussel said she planned to issue a decision soon on whether to relax current restrictions.

Denies involvement in terrorism

Harkat, 49, was taken into custody in Ottawa in December 2002 on suspicion of being an al-Qaida sleeper agent but he denies any involvement in terrorism.

The federal government is trying to deport the former pizza-delivery man using a national security certificate — a legal tool for removing non-citizens suspected of ties to extremism or espionage.

He fears he will be tortured if returned to his Algerian homeland, something Cameron says Harkat has frequent nightmares about.

Federal Court Justice Simon Noel ruled in 2010 that there were grounds to believe Harkat is a security threat who maintained ties to Osama bin Laden's terror network after coming to Canada.

Federal lawyer David Tyndale repeatedly cited Noel's findings as justification for vigilance concerning Harkat.

Lives under specific conditions

Harkat was released from custody in June 2006 under stringent conditions that have since been loosened to a degree.

He now lives at home with his wife, Sophie, and has access to a computer connected to the internet at their residence. He has to report in person to the Canada Border Services Agency every two weeks.

Although Harkat can travel within Canada, he must provide the border agency with five days' notice of his plans as well as a full itinerary when leaving the national capital region. He also has to report to the border agency by phone once a day while travelling.

Border services officers have followed the couple on trips to a cottage and to the funeral of Sophie's grandmother.

Wants level of supervision reassessed

Barb Jackman, Harkat's lawyer, objected to the level of scrutiny and said there was nothing to indicate Harkat poses an actual danger.

"I think there's got to be some evidence of a threat to the security of Canada," she said during Friday's hearing.

"Over time, we have to look at things again, in an objective way."

Roussel asked Tyndale if there was a way to avoid intrusive surveillance of family outings, or if there were no exceptions to the monitoring routine.

Tyndale suggested that tracking Harkat to the out-of-town funeral was not beyond the scope of the border agency's duties.

When someone is flagged by a security certificate as inadmissible to Canada, "some upsetting things are going to happen in your life," he added.

Officials willing to allow some concessions

Harkat wants permission to have a laptop computer and tablet with internet connectivity for use outside the home, including for work purposes. He wishes to report to the border agency monthly by phone, through voice verification. And he wants restrictions on his travel lifted, with the exception that he remain in Canada.

Authorities are willing to allow Harkat to travel anywhere in Ontario or Quebec for up to 24 hours without notifying the border agency, and agree to him reporting in person once a month.

But they oppose the idea of Harkat having general internet access outside the home, saying it would hinder their ability to keep tabs on his communications. They say requests to use communications technology for work purposes should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

Copyright © 2017, Inc. "The Huffington Post" is a registered trademark of, Inc. All rights reserved.

Mohamed Harkat seeks relaxation of strict monitoring

posted on November 16, 2017 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

by Jim Bronskill
Source: The Canadian Press via CBC News
URL: [link]
Date: November 16, 2017

Security detainee wants more freedom to use the internet and travel within Canada

Federal authorities are balking at terror suspect Mohamed Harkat's desire for more leeway to use the internet and travel freely within Canada, saying he continues to pose a threat almost 15 years after being arrested.

Harkat is asking the Federal Court of Canada to approve his application for less strict monitoring of his everyday activities by the Canada Border Services Agency as he awaits the outcome of his protracted legal saga.

A two-day court hearing begins today to determine whether current restrictions on the Algerian refugee will be eased.

Harkat, 49, was taken into custody in Ottawa in December 2002 on suspicion of being an al-Qaida sleeper agent.

The federal government is trying to deport the former pizza-delivery man to Algeria using a national security certificate — a legal tool for removing non-citizens suspected of ties to extremism or espionage. Harkat fears he will be imprisoned and tortured if returned to his homeland.


Mohamed Harkat certain he'll be killed if deported to Algeria
Ban Trudeau from Harkat deportation over brother's letter, says democracy group

Following his arrest, Harkat was locked up for more than three years. He was released in June 2006 under stringent conditions that have since been relaxed somewhat.

Harkat now lives at home with wife Sophie. He has access to a computer connected to the internet at his residence. He has to report in person to the border services agency every two weeks. And though Harkat can travel within Canada, he must provide the border agency with five days' notice of his plans as well as a full itinerary when leaving the national capital. He also has to report to the border agency by phone once a day while travelling.

Harkat says he's not a threat

Harkat's submission to the court argues he "presents no threat to Canada or to any person" and that he has diligently complied with conditions for more than a decade. "A continuation of these conditions is not justified."

The couple says the restrictions now in place have caused great stress and hardship, even preventing them from having children.

Harkat wants permission to have a mobile phone, laptop computer and tablet with internet connectivity for use outside the home. He wishes to report to the border agency monthly by phone, through voice verification. And he wants restrictions on his travel lifted, with the exception that he remain in Canada.

Authorities are willing to allow Harkat to travel anywhere in Ontario or Quebec for up to 24 hours without notifying the border agency, and agree to him reporting in person once a month.

But they oppose the idea of Harkat having internet access outside the home, saying it would undermine their ability to keep tabs on his communications.

In a submission to the court, the ministers of public safety and immigration say an October 2016 assessment by the border services agency concluded that any risks are neutralized by Harkat's compliance with the existing terms and conditions.

"The fact that there is no new information linking Mr. Harkat to threat-related information activities does not warrant the variations he is requesting," the federal submission says. "The Ministers have not changed their position that Mr. Harkat remains a threat."

Trudeau's brother has written on Harkat's behalf

Federal Court Justice Simon Noel ruled in 2010 that there were grounds to believe Harkat is a security threat who maintained ties to Osama bin Laden's terror network after coming to Canada.

Civil libertarians have long criticized the security certificate process as fundamentally unjust because the detainee sees only a summary of the accusations, making it difficult to challenge them.

In a 2014 ruling, the Supreme Court of Canada said the security certificate regime does not violate the person's right to know and contest the allegations they face. However, the high court provided detailed guidance on applying the process to ensure it is fair.

The Supreme Court also concluded Harkat "benefited from a fair process" when Noel reviewed his case.

Harkat's file continues to grind along.

The border agency is in the process of seeking a "danger opinion" as a step toward deportation.

A delegate of the immigration minister will determine whether Harkat poses a danger to national security and, if so, whether the risk to Harkat of removing him outweighs the danger or severity of the acts he allegedly committed.

Many supporters, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's brother, Alexandre, have written to the government on Harkat's behalf over the years.

© The Canadian Press, 2017

Supreme Court of Ireland blocks State from deporting Algerian man linked to terrorism

posted on August 03, 2017 | in Category International | PermaLink

Source: The Journal
URL: [link]
Date: July 26, 2017

THE SUPREME COURT has ruled that the Minister for Justice must reconsider a decision to remove an Algerian man with alleged links to Islamic terrorism against his removal from the State.

The State claimed the man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is involved with Islamic terrorism and was convicted of terrorism offences in Algeria and France.

The Minister issued a deportation order after gardaí informed the Department of Justice the activities of the man and his associates were “of serious concern” and “contrary to the State’s security”.

The man, aged in his 50s and living in Ireland for several years, denies being involved in terrorism and claims that if deported to Algeria he is at risk of being tortured and subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment due to his political views.

The man, represented by Michael Lynn SC and David Leonard Bl, appealed a High Court order which found the Minister’s decision that there were no substantial grounds to find that the man would be at real risk of ill-treatment if deported to his home country was lawful.
The State opposed the appeal.

In its judgment today, five judges at the Supreme Court unanimously quashed the Minister for Justice’s refusal to revoke the deportation order issued in December last year.

The court remitted the man’s case back to the Minister for further reconsideration.

Giving the court’s decision, Justice Donal O Donnell said in this case there was “no reasonable basis” upon which any Minister could conclude there was no real risk of a breach of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights – that nobody should be treated to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment.

The judge said he found it difficult to understand precisely how the Minister arrived at the conclusions in respect of the man that he was not at risk of being treated contrary to Article 3.

The judge said it was not sufficiently clear why the Minister came to the conclusion that the man could be deported to Algeria without a real risk of torture, or inhuman or degrading treatment and why the Minister considered such a decision ought not to be revoked.

The judge said he had come to the conclusion he “could not have the level of assurance necessary that the decision sets out a clear reasoned path and one that was not flawed or incorrectly unjustifiable limitations or irrelevant legal considerations”.
The Minister’s finding was in contrast to an earlier finding by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal that considered the man’s application for protection that he was at risk if deported to Algeria.

To depart from such a finding required clear reasons, he said.

The judge said the revocation application is to go back to the Minister and should be addressed by focused submissions, including up-to-
date information concerning Algeria.

There was no reason why the fresh consideration should not occur promptly, the judge said. Submissions, he said, should be focused on the issue whether there is a real risk on substantial grounds of the man being treated contrary to Article 3.

If the man only submits a generalised complaint with no attempt to focus submissions on his personal situation and the up-to-date position in Algeria, then he will find it difficult to complain about a decision which treats the issue at the same level of generality, the judge added.

Once the matter has been reconsidered by the Minister any outstanding issues in relation to the case should go back before the High Court, the judge added.

The Chief Justice Susan Denham, Justice John MacMenamin, Justice Elizabeth Dunne and Justice Iseult O’Malley all concurred with the decision.

Speaking after the judgment the man’s solicitor Gavin Booth of KRW Law welcomed the court’s decision.
He said that “it was always our case that the Minister could not deport this man without breaching Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights”.

The man denies involvement in terrorism and rejects claims he is involved in groups such as Al-Qaeda. He has been in custody for some months and will remain in detention pending the outcome of the process.

During the 1990s, he was convicted of several offences in Algeria and received three life sentences and two death sentences, which are no longer carried out.

Those offences include forming an armed terrorist group intending to spread murder, sabotage, possession of prohibited war weapons assassination, theft intending to harm the security of his home country.

He was also convicted and jailed for eight years following his arrested in France in 2002.

A French court found him guilty of charges including membership of a criminal organisation preparing an Act of Terrorism.

Content copyright © Journal Media Ltd. 2017

OSCE/ODIHR Director Link calls on participating States to strictly observe prohibition of torture or other ill-treatment of returned individuals

posted on June 29, 2017 | in Category International | PermaLink

by Press Release
Source: Relief Web
URL: [link]
Date: June 26, 2017

WARSAW, 26 June 2017 – On the occasion of today’s International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, Michael Georg Link, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), called on all OSCE participating States to ensure that no one is exposed to the risk of torture, including by ensuring that the states’ actions do not put people at risk of being tortured in other countries.

“States are prohibited from exposing anyone to a real risk of torture or other ill-treatment in another country, without exception,” the ODIHR Director said. “The principle of non-refoulement requires states to ensure their actions do not lead to torture or other ill-treatment anywhere in the world – including as a result of turning away refugees, asylum-seekers, political dissidents, criminal suspects, or anyone else who could face the risk of such treatment.”

Under international human rights treaties reaffirmed in OSCE commitments, countries are absolutely prohibited from returning individuals who risk being subjected to torture or other ill-treatment as a result of their expulsion, extradition or other forms of refoulement to another State. The principle is applicable in all circumstances, including armed conflicts, states of emergency and refugee contexts.

“Before expelling or denying entry to anyone, OSCE participating States must determine whether the individual could face torture or other ill-treatment if returned to another state,” said Director Link. “They must take into account all relevant considerations, such as the existence in the states concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights, including of persecution based on prohibited grounds of discrimination.”

Illustrating the genuine risks faced by individuals subject to expulsion by OSCE participating States, national and international courts have issued hundreds of binding stays on removal orders in OSCE participating States from 2014 to 2016, in order to prevent the expulsion of people to countries where they may face torture or other serious human rights violations. Such interim measures have been applied to prevent the return of asylum seekers and other individuals to situations of potential torture or other ill-treatment, including due to persecution on the basis of their religious beliefs, sexual orientations, political opinions and other prohibited grounds.

Director Link also noted that, under the principle of non-refoulement, the procurement of so-called “diplomatic assurances” cannot be used by states to escape the prohibition on returning individuals to a real risk of torture or other ill-treatment.

For PDF attachments or links to sources of further information, please visit:

Fatally Flawed Anti-Torture Assurances

posted on June 14, 2017 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

by Jonathan Horowitz
Source: Just Security Website
URL: [link]
Date: June 13, 2017

After September 11, the United States and other countries heavily relied on diplomatic assurances as counterterrorism tools to legally justify transferring people to other states where they were likely to be tortured. These assurances were based on the state receiving a detainee promising that it would treat the transferred person in accordance with certain human rights standards. Sometimes, but not often, a receiving state would also commit to allowing the sending state to check-in on the detainee every now and again. This was often referred to as “post-transfer detainee monitoring.”

Today, this issue has taken a back seat to Trump’s embrace of direct torture. But it’s important to keep a close eye on if, when, and how the Trump administration uses diplomatic assurances. This is especially true because unlike U.S. torture practices, diplomatic assurances haven’t come anywhere close to receiving the same degree of scrutiny and disapproval.

In April, a pitched battled emerged among states, U.N. agencies and human rights groups during a public discussion hosted by the U.N. Committee against Torture on whether governments should be allowed to ever use diplomatic assurances and, if so, under what conditions. Prior to the event, Canada, Denmark, the United Kingdom, and the United States submitted a joint statement supporting the use of diplomatic assurances, pointing out that states have used assurances to promote respect for the prohibition against torture. They emphatically disagreed with an assertion that the Committee had made that diplomatic assurances were inherently “contrary” to the principle of non-refoulement, which is the legal term that bars a state from transferring someone to the control of another state where there are substantial grounds for believing there’s a real risk the person will be tortured. At the Committee’s public session numerous other states chimed in to add support to this position.

But states were not proposing carte blanche use. They emphasized that it was unacceptable for states to use assurances to escape their transfer obligations and, to guard against this, they defended their right to use diplomatic assurances if the commitments met strict criteria, such as being “credible and reliable, explicit and specific, and binding upon the institutions of the State.”

Compared to the more absolutist position of many human rights experts and groups—which is that diplomatic assurances are inherently contrary to the torture prohibition, especially when entered into with a state where there are substantial grounds to believe the person being transferred is at real risk of torture—states appeared at first blush to be conceding a reasonable middle ground, as if to say: Yes, states have wrongly used diplomatic assurances to circumvent their transfer obligations under international law, but diplomatic assurances can also effectively reduce the risk of torture under the right circumstances.

Unfortunately, this devotion to what appears to be a pragmatic approach misses the danger that the states’ unified position poses to the prohibition against torture.

Many of the human rights experts that have entered into this debate have studied the inherent flaws in diplomatic assurances, observed the ways sending states have misappropriated them, and witnessed receiving states failing to uphold them. A perspective steeped in these realities makes their positons against diplomatic assurances ones that are anchored in a pragmatism that far exceeds states’ aspirational assertions that diplomatic assurances can work when they are based on some intricate set of criteria.

Knowing these realities, the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reiterated to the Committee that diplomatic assurances were not adequate safeguards for deterring transfer abuses. Several human rights organizations took the position before the Committee that assurances were contrary to the principle of non-refoulement. Other positions also exist, even if they weren’t provided directly to the Committee.

My own views on this issue come largely from the time I spent in 2011 working at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, where I was responsible for crafting and implementing the terms of a U.S. diplomatic assurance with the Islamic Government of Afghanistan. At that time I was agnostic as to whether diplomatic assurances were contrary to the prohibition against torture. I should not have been. My general view has since hardened into believing that they are, in fact, inherently contrary to the goal of respecting the prohibition against torture. This is mainly for four reasons, in no particular order:

Permanent nature of the violation versus the unstable nature of assurances: Diplomatic assurances are often based on bilateral government relations that are inherently unstable. While a diplomatic assurance may seem strong today, tomorrow could bring a different story. The ambassadors and ministers that often enter into these assurances can get replaced or they can lose their authority to officials who aren’t as committed to the assurances. Political winds and alliances can also shift, leading to a receiving state lashing out politically by ignoring the assurances or turning back on their post-transfer monitoring commitments. When the relationships upon which these assurances are built loosen or break, and the diplomatic assurance is breached, there are very limited ways for a sending state to remedy the situation. As I’ve written elsewhere, an “inescapable problem is that once a transfer takes place and the monitoring system does not effectively deter mistreatment then the sending State can at best cease future transfers but it can do very little for the actual victim(s).” All in all, the unstable nature of diplomatic assurances significantly outweighs their prospect for successfully mitigating the risk of torture and other serious human rights violations.

Lack of the receiving state’s compliance: I’m also unconvinced that a bilateral anti-torture commitment, even when it is legally binding, will change the practices of a government that has been willing to breach its international and domestic law torture prohibition obligations. Human rights groups have seen states purposefully evade or behave in ways that significantly hamper the effectiveness of these assurances as well as their monitoring mechanisms, which largely accounts for the concerns raised by a notable independent U.N. anti-torture expert. In Afghanistan, coalition forces first ceased transferring their detainees to a number of Afghan facilities due to concerns of torture, then started transferring them again after those concerns subsided, but then had to re-suspend their transfers when new torture concerns emerged. Some ISAF countries that engaged in post-transfer detainee monitoring also faced considerable frustrations when, for example, Afghan authorities moved detainees to different facilities without informing the sending states. This resulted in an almost trial-by-error process that left people at risk of torture while sending states revised, and revised again, their diplomatic assurance criteria and the way they implement that criteria.

Lack of respect for the prohibition: But what if a receiving state that has a reputation for torture does respect the terms of the diplomatic assurance? Canada, Denmark, the United Kingdom, and the United States claimed before the Committee that such a success would promote respect for the prohibition against torture. My experience is that it sends a different message: It’s okay for a receiving state to torture some, but not others. This imbalance arose in Afghanistan, where detainees held under a diplomatic assurance reported being treated better than detainees in the same cell or facility who were not held under a diplomatic assurance. A man who alleged to have been tortured in Afghan custody and held with other detainees covered by Canada’s diplomatic assurance told the United Nations: “Except those arrested by Canadians, every single person arrested by NDS [Afghanistan’s intelligence service] officials has to go through the similar experience I went through.” When this sort of differentiation happens, diplomatic assurances can’t comport with the Convention’s goal and purpose of applying the prohibition against torture to all equally. At worst, they can result in the opposite.

Risk assessment avoidance: Finally, states have an obligation to individually assess whether there are substantial grounds to believe that each person it transfers will face a real risk of torture or other serious human rights abuses. Diplomatic assurances often paper over that obligation, such as when sending states automatically accept that a risk of torture exists without learning why different people being sent to different places may experience different risks for different reasons. Diplomatic assurances, when used in this way, are a low-resource and easy way for states to avoid an important procedural obligation that should allow a person to explain the precise reasons why they fear being transferred. At the extreme, states have applied diplomatic assurances collectively to entire groups of people. Jason Leopold recently posted a Department of Defense Inspector General report that described how the United States did not obtain individual assurances for detainees being transferred in Iraq or from ISAF in Afghanistan.

The lesson I take away from these reflections is that the United States essentially got it backwards in Afghanistan. First they sent detainees to Afghan facilities based on a transfer arrangement. Only then did they monitor Afghan detention facilities where torture was taking place to ensure the arrangement was being respected. The United States should have done it the other way around: First they should have monitored the detention system and conducted individualized refoulement risk assessments. Only then, if there were no concerns, should transfers have taken place.

Jonathan Horowitz is Legal Officer, National Security and Counterterrorism Program, at the Open Society Justice Initiative. Follow him on Twitter @J_T_Horowitz

© 2017 Just Security.

Open Letter to Minister Goodale: Reject Information Obtained Through Torture

posted on April 12, 2017 | in Category Canada | PermaLink

Source: International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG)
URL: [link]
Date: April 12, 2017

The Honourable Ralph Goodale
Minister of Public Safety
269 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0P8

January 30, 2017

Dear Minister Goodale,

We are writing to you about the urgent need for Canada to revise the Ministerial Directives on torture issued by the previous government to conform to the unconditional ban on torture in international law.

Doing so now would send an important signal to Canadians and to the international community that Canada will under no circumstances use information from a foreign country that was likely obtained under torture, or share information that could likely lead to an individual being tortured.

As you know, in 2011 the government introduced a ministerial directive that allows, under exceptional circumstances, for information garnered under torture by a foreign country to be transmitted to and used by Canadian security agencies. The same directive also provided guidelines for instances when Canadian agencies could share information with countries that are know to engage in human rights abuses, even if doing so would likely result in torture.

One year ago, you committed to reviewing these directives. We hope that, after consideration, you are now prepared to make revisions that will ensure compliance with Canada's binding international obligation to oppose torture in all instances, without exception. Doing so would be consistent with recent steps taken by the government to strengthen Canada's efforts to combat and eradicate torture by initiating steps towards accession to the UN's Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.

A decade ago, the public inquiry into the case of Maher Arar clearly documented that irresponsible sharing of intelligence information from and to Canada can and does result in torture. Notably Commissioner Dennis O'Connor made an explicit recommendation that intelligence information should never be shared by Canadian agencies if it is likely to lead to torture. The Ministerial Directives explicitly run counter to those recommendations. Notably the 2008 report from the Iacobucci Commission that examined the cases of Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Abou-Elmaati and Muayyed Nureddin similarly documented the grave risk of sharing intelligence without regard for the risk of torture.

Beyond these important national level findings and recommendations we also draw your attention to the fact that the UN's pre-eminent body responsible for overseeing the obligation of states to end torture, the UN's Committee against Torture, has also raised concern. In its 2012 review of Canada's record, the Committee called on Canada to amend the Ministerial Directives to ensure conformity with international obligations.

The international context makes Canada's actions all the more urgent. This week, the New York Times reported the United States administration is considering a review of its use of CIA black sites. The same day, US President Donald Trump told ABC News that he is open to the return of torture during interrogations, saying he believes "torture works." Both these revelations raise troubling questions about the very real risk that intelligence sharing between our two countries may again become tainted by concerns about torture.

We believe that Canadians deserve clarity, and that the best way to do so would be to revise the Ministerial Directives so as to fully conform with international law and to pass legislation that creates a clear prohibition on sharing information likely to be derived from, or at risk of leading to, torture.


Amnesty International Canada
British Columbia Civil Liberties Association
Canadian Civil Liberties Association
Canadian Muslim Lawyer Association
International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group
Ligue des droits et libertés
National Council of Canadian Muslims
Open Media

Link to the open letter

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