Are Your Human Rights Safe in Canada?

posted on December 11, 2012 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

by Shahla Khan Salter
Source: The Huffington Post Canada
URL: [link]
Date: December 10, 2012


Monday, December 10 is International Human Rights Day. And on this day three Canadians remain in prison in Iran. All three have been charged with computer-related crimes. The reason? Measures against "illegal" computer use are ruthlessly enforced by the Iranian government in an effort to wipe out online information against that government.

Our Canadian government has not been able to secure the release of these three Canadians. Talk of war against Iran makes their release ever more improbable. Will they languish there forever?

Or will a bomb, manufactured in the Western world, simply drop, one day, on Evin Prison and kill all the innocent people inside, including our three Canadians.

People say, "Well -- it's too bad they went there. They should have known better." Are we safer here in Canada?

Legally, yes. Canadian law is clear. Section 11 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies to "everyone" and grants us the rights to be informed of the charge against us; tried within a reasonable period of time; not to be compelled to testify against ourselves; to be presumed innocent until proven guilty; and not to be found guilty unless the action is a crime. (These are only a portion of our Charter rights.)

The result? A vast body of Canadian law has been developed that upholds the rights of individuals even in the face of the most heinous crimes.

It means, here in Canada if the evidence is tainted by a denial of individual rights, the case can be dismissed. The protection of the individual in some cases is known to cause outrage.

But what happens if society offers no protection to the individual? Here is what would happen if you were arrested and you had no section 11 rights:

- You would not know the reason the police have arrested you.

- You would not have the right to stay silent. As a result, torture or aggressive police tactics could more likely be used to extract a confession from you, causing you to admit to a crime you did not commit.

- You would not have the right to hear the evidence against you and challenge it. So if someone said you did it, it would be regarded as true.

- You would not even have the right to challenge whether the activity that led to the arrest -- such as associating with certain people, and/or living a particular lifestyle -- constituted a crime.

In other words there would be no fair trial.

It means if your neighbours thought you were a witch, capable of causing death and destruction, you would be a witch. And if your neighbours thought you should be exiled because they didn't want witches in the community causing trouble, you would be sent away or worse.

In Canada have we moved past this notion? Not entirely.

Because in Canada, today, in light of the cases of Mohamed Harkat, Mohammad Mahjoub and Mahmoud Jaballah, if someone thinks you are a terrorist -- and someone said you are a terrorist even under torture (as in the case of Mahjoub), notwithstanding that you may have committed no terrorist act -- you may be arrested, thrown in prison, or placed under house arrest, tried without knowing the evidence against you and then deported to a country where you may be tortured and killed.

Are we a nation where the rights of criminals including pedophiles such as Graham James, Christopher Neil and others are protected -- (they were innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and remain innocent of any other crimes that potentially may have taken place) -- while men like Harkat, Mahjoub and Jaballah are locked up and labelled as "terrorists" because they "might" be guilty?

According to Amnesty International and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights we are. And we must change.

We must uphold the Canadian ideals found in our Charter. We must do it to protect ourselves both as individuals and a society, to ensure freedom and justice. We must remember the words of the late, great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: ''Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.''

Or the terrorists -- the real ones -- will win. And if our justice system resembles theirs in any way shape or form, they already have.

Don't be an ayatollah Mr. Toews. Prove they are guilty against the same standards you use to prove all those pedophiles are guilty. Or set them free.

Shahla Khan Salter is the Chair of Muslims for Progressive Values Canada

Copyright © 2012 TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc.



VIDEO: Our Press Conference in Ottawa, December 10th

posted on December 11, 2012 | in Category Security Certificates | PermaLink

Thank you, OttawaFRO, for filming and uploading to YouTube this video footage from Monday's Press conference in Ottawa. The press conference was hosted by Amnesty International Canada.


Mohamed Harkat, dix ans plus tard

posted on December 11, 2012 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

par Bahador Zabihiyan
Source: Le Devoir
URL: [link]
Date: 11 décembre 2012

[PHOTO: Mohamed Harkat devant le Parlement, à Ottawa.]

Le 10 décembre 2002, Mohamed Harkat se faisait passer les menottes devant l’immeuble où il habitait à Ottawa, par un agent des services frontaliers. « Je pensais que tout rentrerait dans l’ordre en l’espace de quelques minutes », se souvient-il. Mais après trois ans et demi passés en prison et plus de six ans en résidence surveillée, le gouvernement le soupçonne toujours de terrorisme, en vertu d’un certificat de sécurité.

Son comité de soutien s’est rassemblé sur la colline parlementaire, lundi, pour souligner cette date anniversaire. La saga judiciaire que vit M. Harkat pourrait venir à terme en 2013 : la Cour suprême a récemment accepté de se pencher sur son cas en particulier et sur le régime des certificats de sécurité en général.

Les certificats de sécurité sont délivrés par le gouvernement fédéral lorsqu’il craint qu’une personne représente un danger pour la sécurité nationale ou constitue une menace terroriste. Trois certificats sont présentement actifs au pays, dont celui de M. Harkat. Cette procédure permet de détenir une personne pour une durée indéterminée sans accusation et sans accès à la preuve.

Cour suprême

Dans le cas de M. Harkat, un juge avait initialement conclu, selon la prépondérance des probabilités, qu’il avait participé à des activités terroristes, qu’il constituait un danger pour la sécurité du Canada et qu’il était membre du réseau d’Oussama ben Laden. M. Harkat nie toute activité terroriste. M. Harkat souhaite que la preuve détenue contre lui soit rendue publique afin qu’il puisse prouver son innocence. En 2007, la Cour suprême avait invalidé certaines clauses du régime de certificats de sécurité, arguant qu’elles allaient à l’encontre de la Charte canadienne des droits et des libertés. Malgré ces modifications, la Cour suprême va être de nouveau appelée à se prononcer sur la procédure, dans le courant de 2013.

Depuis 2006, M. Harkat est assigné à résidence à Ottawa, avec de sévères restrictions. Il doit notamment porter un appareil GPS à la cheville en tout temps et il n’a pas le droit de se servir d’un ordinateur ou d’un téléphone cellulaire. « Je n’ai encore jamais utilisé Internet de toute ma vie », dit-il. Ces restrictions l’empêchent d’occuper un emploi et de fonder une famille, estime-t-il.

Avec La Presse canadienne

© Le Devoir 2002-2012



Photos From Ottawa Rally and Press Conference, Dec 10

posted on December 11, 2012 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

Thanks to Philippe Parent and others for taking these photos from Monday's 10th anniversary event in Ottawa.

Dec 10, 2012, Ottawa
Click on image to see more photos from Monday's rally and visual presentation on Parliament Hill

Gabrielle at press conference, Dec 10, 2012
Click on image to see more photos from Monday's press conference.



Harkat marks 10th anniversary of arrest on International Human Rights Day

posted on December 10, 2012 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

by Michelle Zilio
Source: iPolitics.ca
URL: [link]
Date: December 10, 2012

In 2002, Mohamed Harkat had many hopes for his future, including a modest home, kids and a “normal life” with his wife Sophie. He was working as a pizza delivery man and gas station cashier at the time.

A decade later, Harkat is fighting to stay in Canada and avoid deportation. Ten years ago Monday, on International Human Rights Day, Harkat was arrested in Ottawa on a security certificate, a rarely-used removal instrument for non-citizens suspected of being spies or terrorists. He was jailed for 43 months followed by 3.5 years of the toughest bail and house arrest conditions in Canadian history.

“Before I got arrested, we were planning to have a house, have kids, have normal life, and now it’s all up in the air,” said Harkat, an Algerian citizen who made his refugee claim in Canada in 1995. “Ten years later, I have been left in (the) dark.”

While the government has suspicions of him being an al-Qaida sleeper agent, Harkat has consistently denied any links to terrorism. He is one of three men in Canada, all Muslims, who have appeared before the courts on a security certificate.

Standing in the rain on Parliament Hill Monday morning, Harkat and approximately 20 supporters marked the 10th anniversary of his initial arrest.

“It’s a sad day. It’s supposed to be celebrating human rights in Canada and justice for all. Ten years later, you see me fighting for something everybody has a right to — an open and fair trial,” said Harkat.

After a short demonstration on the steps of the Hill, Harkat and his family made their way into Centre Block for an emotionally-charged press conference led by Amnesty International. Politicians, human rights groups and Harkat’s family members called for the government to “drop the security certificate regime.”

Under the federal security certificate law, established in 1978, the government has the power to indefinitely detain non-citizens suspected of being terrorists, use secret evidence against them and deport them to any country, regardless of whether they they could face torture.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews would not comment on the Harkat case Monday. His press secretary, Julie Carmichael, said in an email the government believes security certificates are needed to protect Canadians from “dangerous foreign nationals, including terrorists,” as “it is clear that Canada is not immune from the threat of homegrown or international radical led terrorism.”

NDP Public Safety Critic Randall Garrison and Green Party MP Elizabeth May beg to differ. They supported Harkat at the press conference Monday.

“With the political excuse that terrorism allows us to drop all our norms, forget about human rights and that anything including torture is permissible in an era where terrorism can be whispered, I think it’s really important to stand firmly that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is non-negotiable and security certificates are offensive,” said May. ”Mohamed Harkat has put up with a great deal of uncertainty. His family has been enormously brave.”

The past decade has been a roller coaster of emotions for Mohamed and his family.

After five years in jail and under house arrest, Mohamed had a glimmer of hope in 2007 when the Supreme Court struck down the security certificate regime, deeming it unfair for accused individuals, and asked the government to rework the process.

A year later, the government claimed to have improved the process, using lawyers as watchdogs to monitor evidence against individuals facing deportation. Mohamed was arrested again and reissued a security certificate for breaching his bail conditions – something he still says he did not do.

The Harkat family experienced a sigh of relief in 2009, when it was found that one of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service informants in the case had failed a lie detector test. A few months later, the court suddenly removed some of Mohamed’s toughest bail conditions.

Although his bail conditions have improved, Mohamed is still required to wear a GPS tracking bracelet on his ankle at all times, and cannot use the internet, a phone outside of his home, or leave Ottawa without permission. He said the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) still follows him regularly.

“For example yesterday, the CBSA … was already parked outside of my house. See the kind of life I am living. I went to my mother in law’s to visit her yesterday and the car behind me was following me everywhere,” Mohamed told reporters Monday. “I can’t have normal life like anybody else.”

The family’s hopes were crushed again in December 2010 when Federal Court Justice Simon Noël ruled that the government’s decision that Mohamed was a terrorist threat was reasonable.

At Monday’s press conference, a tearful Gabrielle Brunette-Poirier, Mohamed’s 13-year-old niece, recounted the effects of the decade-long ordeal on her family.

“Not many kids can say that they have gone shopping for school supplies while being followed by CBSA agents or having their uncle tied up to an extension cord just so he can charge the GPS on his ankle,” said Brunette-Poirier, as Mohamed stood behind her, wiping tears from his face.

The most recent development in Mohamed’s case was welcomed by the Harkats. After the Federal Court ruled in April that some mid-1990s conversations be excluded from the evidence against Mohamed since CSIS destroyed the original tapes, both sides requested an appeal. On Nov. 22, the Supreme Court announced it would hear appeals from Mohamed and the government in 2013.

“The Supreme Court accepting the case will raise the bar higher than expected,” said Mohamed. “I hope, after ten years, this is the last period of injustice. I hope it ends in good news for me.”

twitter.com/michellezilio

michellezilio AT ipolitics DOT ca

© 2012 iPolitics Inc.



Harkat defenders repeat call to end security certificates

posted on December 10, 2012 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

by The Canadian Press
Source: CBC News
URL: [link]
Date: December 10, 2012

Ottawa man arrested ten years ago still wears electronic tracking bracelet

[PHOTO: Mohamed Harkat participates in a rally Monday on Parliament Hill marking the tenth anniversary of his arrest and detention on a security certificate.]

Human-rights advocates marked the 10th anniversary of Mohamed Harkat's arrest by calling for an end to national security certificates — the immigration tool used to detain the Algerian refugee.

Hilary Homes of Amnesty International Canada says the security certificate regime should be replaced with one that guarantees a fair trial and ensures no evidence extracted through torture is allowed.

Harkat, 44, was taken into custody Dec. 10, 2002, on suspicion of being an al-Qaida sleeper agent.

The Ottawa man denies any involvement in terrorist activities.

Security certificates have been used since 1991 to deport non-citizens accused of being terrorists or spies.

Harkat lives at home with wife Sophie, but wears an electronic tracking bracelet on his ankle, must check in with authorities regularly and cannot leave town without permission.

The person named in a security certificate receives only a summary of the case against them, which critics say makes a mockery of fundamental justice.

Harkat's case has been bound up in various legal proceedings since the former pizza delivery man's arrest.

Certificates 'not acceptable practice'

NDP public safety critic Randall Garrison told a news conference Monday that detaining individuals for years without charge, trial or conviction "is not an acceptable practice in Canada."

Green party Leader Elizabeth May said security certificates violate "virtually every precept of our laws and system of human rights."
Mohamed Harkat listens to his mother-in-law, Pierrette Brunette, speak during a press conference on Parliament Hill Monday. Mohamed Harkat listens to his mother-in-law, Pierrette Brunette, speak during a press conference on Parliament Hill Monday. (Cole Burston/Canadian Press)

Harkat wiped away tears as his niece Gabrielle spoke of shopping for school supplies with her uncle while being followed by Canada Border Services Agency officers.

"I have heard many things about my uncle," she said. "But the only Moe I know cares about his family, is always there to help his neighbours, likes to cheer me on when I'm playing hockey."

The Supreme Court of Canada recently agreed to hear a challenge of the security certificate system brought by Harkat and his lawyers.

The hearing, likely to take place next year, will come more than five years after the Conservative government revamped the certificate regime in an effort to make it consistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The government continues to defend security certificates, and notes they are used only in exceptional circumstances.

Two other security certificate cases — concerning men both originally from Egypt — remain before the courts.

© The Canadian Press, 2012

Copyright © CBC 2012



Supreme Court to hear appeals from both sides in Harkat terrorism case

posted on November 22, 2012 | in Category Security Certificates | PermaLink

by The Canadian Press
Source: CTV News
URL: [link]
Date: November 22, 2012

SCOC to hear appeals from both sides in Harkat terrorism case

OTTAWA - The Supreme Court of Canada will hear appeals from both parties in the terrorism case of Algerian refugee Mohamed Harkat.

Harkat, 44, was arrested almost 10 years ago in Ottawa on suspicion of being an al-Qaida sleeper agent, but he denies any involvement in terrorist activities.

The federal government wants to deport Harkat under a national security certificate, a rarely used tool for removing non-citizens suspected of being terrorists or spies.

In April, the Federal Court of Appeal upheld the constitutionality of the security certificate system, but ruled that summaries of some mid-1990s conversations be excluded from evidence against Harkat because the Canadian Security Intelligence Service destroyed the original recordings.

The ruling left both sides unhappy and each asked for a hearing in the Supreme Court -- an uncommon turn of events.

As usual, the high court gave no reasons for its decision to hear the appeals.

2012 Bell Media All rights reserved.



Harkat case going back to Supreme Court

posted on November 22, 2012 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

by Andrew Duffy
Source: The Ottawa Citizen
URL: [link]
Date: November 22, 2012


OTTAWA — Ten years after Mohamed Harkat was arrested in Ottawa as a terrorist suspect, his deportation case is headed back to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The country’s highest court announced Thursday that it will hear an appeal in his case.

It means the Harkat case will become the first to test the constitutionality of the federal government’s revised security certificate law.

The first edition of that law, used to deport foreign-born terror suspects, was struck down by the high court in February 2007 as fundamentally unjust. That ruling overturned a judge’s finding that Harkat was a terrorist threat.

Parliament rewrote the law to ensure defendants have more information about the case against them, and better legal representation during secret hearings.

But Harkat’s lawyers contend Parliament did not do enough. Harkat, they say, remains in the dark about key details of the case due to the still secretive legal process.

The government has been trying to deport the Algerian-born Harkat since December 2002, when he was arrested and jailed on the strength of a security certificate.

Harkat, 44, has always maintained that he has no connection to al-Qaida and will be tortured or killed if returned to Algeria.

For a decade, the case has bounced between the Federal Court, the Federal Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.

Federal judges have twice deemed Harkat a terrorist and ordered him deported only to have their findings overturned by higher courts that found the legal process wanting.

In April, the Federal Court of Appeal ordered Judge Simon Noël to reconsider his conclusion that Harkat was a terrorist threat.

In December 2010, Noël had upheld the government’s case against Harkat, declaring him an active and dangerous member of al-Qaida.

The appeal court, however, said Harkat’s right to fair trial had been compromised by the destruction of 13 wiretap recordings made by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) between 1996 and 1998.

The original recordings were destroyed in keeping with what was then CSIS policy.

Written summaries of those conversations offered critical evidence against Harkat, but without the full recordings, defence lawyers said they had no way to challenge their context or accuracy.

The appeal court agreed and ordered the case to be reconsidered without the benefit of some of those conversations.

The same appeal court decision upheld the constitutionality of the government’s revised security certificate regime, while striking down a blanket legal protection that allowed CSIS to always shield the name of its informants.

The same issues were put before the Supreme Court in leave applications by both Harkat and federal lawyers filed earlier this year.

The country’s highest court has now decided to weigh in on them.

Government lawyers contend the destroyed recordings had only a modest impact on the trial’s fairness. They’ll argue that their loss should not result in a new hearing for Harkat.

Harkat’s lawyers, meanwhile, will ask the Supreme Court to throw out all of the summarized recordings. They’ll also ask the court to again declare the security certificate regime unconstitutional.

Harkat, who worked as a gas station attendant and pizza delivery man before his arrest, has been unable to hold a job during the past decade, most of which he has spent either in jail or under house arrest. He must wear a GPS tracking bracelet whenever he leaves his house.

The Supreme Court’s decision on leave means Harkat will not be deported anytime soon: his case will launch its second decade before the country’s highest court.

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen



High court to deliver latest twists in marathon Harkat terrorism case

posted on November 22, 2012 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

by Jim Bronskill (CP)
Source: The Ottawa Citizen
URL: [link]
Date: November 21, 2012


OTTAWA - The long-running case of former pizza delivery man Mohamed Harkat — an Algerian refugee accused of terrorist links — will take another twist or two Thursday when the Supreme Court decides whether to hear appeals from each side.

Harkat, 44, was arrested almost 10 years ago in Ottawa on suspicion of being an al-Qaida sleeper agent. He denies any involvement in terrorism.

The federal government wants to deport Harkat under a national security certificate, a rarely used tool for removing non-citizens suspected of being terrorists or spies. He is one of three Muslim men whose certificate cases continue to grind through the courts.

Harkat lives at home with wife Sophie, but wears an electronic tracking bracelet on his ankle, must check in with authorities regularly and cannot leave town without permission.

"It's been a tremendous ordeal," said Norm Boxall, a lawyer for Harkat. "It's been a very long time."

No matter how the Supreme Court of Canada rules, Harkat's legal saga is far from over.

In April, the Federal Court of Appeal upheld the constitutionality of the security certificate system being used to deport him.

But the same appeal court ruled that summaries of some mid-1990s conversations be excluded from evidence against Harkat because the Canadian Security Intelligence Service destroyed the original recordings. It ordered the Federal Court to take another look at the certificate in this new light.

The ruling left both sides unhappy and each has asked for a hearing in the Supreme Court — an uncommon turn of events.

"It's certainly unusual, to say the least, that both parties would be seeking leave to appeal," Boxall said. "In this particular case, the decision of the Federal Court of Appeal clearly didn't satisfy either side."

The person named in a security certificate receives only a CSIS summary of the case against them, stripped of supporting information, which critics say makes the process patently unfair.

If the Supreme Court agrees to examine the security certificate system, the Conservative government will be backed into a familiar corner. The high court struck down the certificate regime in 2007, forcing the government to revamp the process to make it more fair to detainees.

The government reissued certificates against Harkat and others in early 2008 after a retooling that included the addition of special advocates — lawyers who serve as watchdogs and test federal evidence against the person facing deportation.

In the Federal Court of Appeal, Boxall unsuccessfully argued the presence of advocates did not ensure the constitutionality of the process. He said they were permitted to work only with the information presented to them and could not initiate their own investigations — even when open source material was at odds with the federal case.

Should the Supreme Court decide to hear the federal appeal, it would set the stage for renewed arguments over the written summaries of recorded conversations and the significance of destruction of the original tapes.

It is unclear how things with unfold, in a procedural sense, once the Supreme Court declares which — if any — appeal it will hear.

"I think right now what it is, is a lot of unknowns," Boxall said.

© 2010 - 2012 Postmedia Network Inc. All rights reserved.



Ottawa expected UN pressure on anti-torture policy

posted on November 13, 2012 | in Category Security Certificates | PermaLink

Source: The Canadian Press via CBC News
URL: [link]
Date: November 13, 2012

Newly released memos show Canada fully expected the intense grilling it got from a United Nations committee earlier this year about its international obligations to shun torture and other cruel treatment.

Officials quietly advised Justice Minister Rob Nicholson the committee would "likely press Canada" on issues ranging from prison overcrowding to redress for people subjected to torture abroad.

The federal government was also prepared to defend its refusal to arrest former U.S. leaders George W. Bush and Dick Cheney for alleged war crimes.

In late May, a Canadian delegation presented Canada's latest report on compliance with the UN Convention Against Torture.

Advisers also provided the minister with copies of the numerous talking points intended to help the delegation defend Canada's interests.

The committee later issued a report criticizing several aspects of Canada's legal regime, including planned measures affecting refugee claimants and the continuing use of national security certificates to deport non-citizens.

© The Canadian Press, 2012



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