by Matthew Behrens Source: Rabble.ca URL: N/A Date: December 21, 2011
Four years after the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously found them unconstitutional, secret hearing "security certificates" are still in use, with a number of Muslim men fighting unseen allegations while under threat of deportation to torture.
Security certificates have long been used by Canada's scandal-plagued spy agency CSIS (the Canadian Security Intelligence Service) to tar refugees and permanent residents as national security threats without having to explain the allegations against them. Those detained under the process are never charged, and subjected to lower standards than those applying to any citizen facing similar accusations. Indeed, the law governing the procedure allows for the introduction of any piece of information "even if it is inadmissible in a court of law."
For the past decade, five Muslim men -- dubbed the Secret Trial Five -- have endured this Kafkaesque process both behind bars and under humiliating house arrest. Last month, the release of two formerly classified documents indicates that the national security secrecy claims that form the bedrock of these cases have in fact served as a cover for illegal and unethical acts by CSIS.
Indeed, the documents reveal the secret trial regime relies almost entirely on information gleaned from torture. A 2008 letter written by Jim Judd, then head of CSIS, bemoans legislative changes then being proposed that, in raising the bar on the admissibility of information possibly extracted under torture "could render unsustainable the current security certificate proceedings."
The CSIS memo does not comment on the ethics or legality of using information gleaned from torture; rather, it speaks to whether or not that information can somehow be corroborated. Judd claims that CSIS must maintain relations with countries that have poor human rights records as part of its so-called counterterrorism efforts, and he shudders that with a proposed amendment on torture, "a Court could require CSIS to certify that all intelligence gathered in support of Certificates was done without resort to torture. This would almost certainly result in the security certificates regime falling into disuse as a consequence of its unworkability."
Judd adds that a court could render inadmissible "any and all information provided by agencies in countries whose human rights records are in question -- of which there are many." This scenario could arise, the memo continues, because "much" of the information put forward by CSIS in these cases "corroborates, or is corroborated, by [words blacked out, but clearly implying derived from torture], which under this interpretation of the amendment may no longer be admissible."
Judd's memo was written to then Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, and cc-ed to Day's deputy minister, Suzanne Hurtubise, Richard Fadden of Citizenship and Immigration (and, significantly, currently CSIS head), and Harper's national security adviser Margaret Bloodworth. Remarkably, Mr. Day, despite receiving this memo confirming that these cases were built on tortured-tainted information, would one month later affix his signature to five new security certificates issued in Feb. 2008.
Those new certificates -- issued against Toronto's Mahmoud Jaballah, Hassan Almrei, and Mohammad Mahjoub, Ottawa's Mohamed Harkat, and Montreal's Adil Charkaoui -- were essentially carbon copies of certificates that the five men had been fighting for years before the Supreme Court ruled them unconstitutional. Never a government to pay much heed to the annoyances of Charter of Rights-quoting courts, though, the Harper government simply carried on as if nothing were wrong.
Damning as the Judd memo has proven, an additional revelation in the case of Mohammad Mahjoub, also released last month, added further fuel to the longstanding demands that the process be abolished and the men set free. The CSIS document, an appendix to a public "Summary of Disclosure," concludes that "the bulk of information utilized in Mr. Mahjoub's certificate was supplied by agencies associated to torture."
Despite this document now being part of the federal court record, proceedings to uphold the certificate and deport Mr. Mahjoub to the substantial likelihood of torture in Egypt continue in January. It's a sickeningly circular situation for Mahjoub, Jaballah and Harkat, all of whom face judicially sanctioned rendition to torture based on information extracted under torture.
Two other men formerly subject to the process, but still unfairly haunted by allegations anyone can view with a Google search, are currently suing the federal government. Toronto's Hassan Almrei was held over eight years and, following some cosmetic changes to the security certificate process, became the first of the five detainees to be cleared, in 2009. Adil Charkoui of Montreal had his certificate withdrawn when government lawyers, citing undisclosed "national security concerns," refused to provide court-ordered disclosure.
Critics of the process are now wondering whether, among those documents that were withheld in the Charkaoui case, there was evidence that his case was also built on torture.
"It really makes me sick to think that when I was sitting in solitary confinement on secret allegations for almost eight years, the head of CSIS knew that my case, and the cases of the other men held on security certificate, were completely baseless, because they were likely based on information that came from torture," said Almrei.
"Once again, we see that CSIS uses secrecy to cover up what is not only politically embarrassing, but also clearly immoral and illegal." Almrei was also the subject of a secret government memo from 2003, released during the Arar Inquiry, showing that government officials knew that it was impossible to charge Mr. Almrei with a criminal offence due to a lack of evidence against him.
Ottawa's Sophie Harkat, who has endured an equally painful sojourn with her husband Mohamed, noted: "Each time something like this comes out into the open, CSIS only gets a slap on the hand. In the meantime, we pay the price with our lives and freedom. This is seriously disturbing, but it's also not the first time they have hidden the truth."
CSIS has a long history of playing loose with the rules when it comes to torture, refusing in security certificate hearings to confirm what is publicly documented ad nauseum: that governments like those in Syria or Egypt regularly engage in torture.
In a March 2010 hearing for Mr. Mahjoub, his then lawyer, Marlys Edwardh, asked a CSIS officer whether his agency was "still of the view that they do not know as a fact that Mr. [Maher] Arar was tortured."
Despite expert reports and a federal inquiry's conclusion that Arar was indeed tortured in Syria, the response of the officer was "we do not know as a fact Mr. Arar was tortured."
A year earlier, CSIS lawyer Geoffrey O'Brian testified before a Parliamentary committee hearing, "do we use information that comes from torture? And the answer is that we only do so if lives are at stake." Despite the bravado in his answer, O'Brian's response stands in contravention of Canada's legally binding obligations under the Convention Against Torture.
The Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), the more than accommodating "oversight" body for CSIS, produced a 2007/2008 report relating to Harkat's case based on a complaint that CSIS exhibited a "total lack of concern" with respect to information gleaned from torture. In language typical of that body's accommodationist posture, "SIRC found CSIS is concerned with human rights, but nevertheless may use information obtained by torture."
The report continued: "Although SIRC did not find evidence of a 'total lack of concern' on the part of CSIS regarding evidence obtained by torture, it did find that at the time the complaint was made, CSIS lacked specific policies aimed at eliminating any possible Canadian complicity in torture. As noted in the Arar Report, CSIS had no personnel with expertise in recognizing intelligence that may have been the product of torture, but '[r]ather, CSIS's assessment focuse[d] on whether the Service can corroborate the information.'"
CSIS involvement in the torture of Canadian citizens Abousfian Abdelrazik, Omar Khadr, Abdullah Almalki, Muayyed Nureddin, and Ahmad El Maati has been thoroughly documented in court rulings and inquiries. And yet, despite the growing body of evidence that the spy agency is acting in violation of basic legal and moral precepts, few are willing to publicly challenge the institution.
For those remaining under certificate, supporters are gearing up for a "Free the Three" campaign in 2012 that will be calling for the withdrawal of the certificates, an apology, compensation, and citizenship for the detainees, and legal accountability for officials who knowingly acted illegally in their use of information derived from torture.
Matthew Behrens is a freelance writer and social justice advocate who coordinates the Homes not Bombs non-violent direct action network. He has worked closely with the targets of Canadian and U.S. 'national security' profiling for many years.
Thank you, Tyrone (OttawaFRO), for filming and uploading to YouTube this video footage from Saturday's Rally in Ottawa on International Human rights day.. Mo himself was at the event and made an emotional speech which you can watch in Part 7. Thanks to all who attended.Keep fighting! Keep agitating!
by Justice For Mohamed Harkat Committee Source: Rabble.ca URL: [link] Date: December 9, 2011
Think back to December 10, 2002 -- nine years ago this weekend, International Human Rights Day.
Perhaps on that day you were aware of the human rights significance, and perhaps not. But more importantly, what were you doing with your life back then? Were you in a different job? A different city? Perhaps in the interim you earned a post-secondary degree or diploma, or possibly more than one. How many job interviews did you attend in those nine years? How much money have you earned? Did you have children? Did you visit relatives in another province? Perhaps take a honeymoon? Travel abroad?
None of these things have been possible for Mohamed Harkat. This weekend -- International Human Rights Day -- marks the ninth anniversary of the detention of Mohamed Harkat under a security certificate -- a draconian detention under the so-called Immigrant and Refugee Protection Act for which no charge is laid, and the information on which the allegation is based is kept secret from the detainee and their lawyers.
The five Muslim men who have been detained since 2001 have been jailed in isolation or, at best, released under strict house arrest conditions -- the strictest in Canadian history.
On Dec. 10, 2002, Mohamed Harkat was arrested and detained on a security certificate. His long battle against injustice began that day, and today it continues. He was detained, first in the Ottawa jail in solitary confinement, then in general population, and for a period of six months in an immigration detention centre -- dubbed Guantanamo North -- at the Kingston penitentiary. In 2007, a major victory was realized for human rights when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled the Security Certificate process unconstitutional. Unfortunately, the Harper government merely made cosmetic changes to the regime, introducing so-called "Special Advocates" who, while they are privy to the secret proceedings, are not allowed to talk to the detained after proceedings begin except in highly controlled circumstances.
In 2006, Mohamed Harkat -- "Moe" to his friends and family -- was released under the strictest release conditions in Canadian history. He was accompanied 24 hours a day by his wife, and was only allowed out of his home on outings of four hours, twice per week. All destinations on the outings had to be pre-approved by CBSA, and often they were not approved. Their phone calls were monitored and their mail photocopied. To give you a sense of how ridiculous the conditions were, Moe could not go into the house for a forgotten bottle of ketchup during a family barbecue without his wife Sophie accompanying him. To give you a sense of how draconian they were, when Mohamed Mahjoub, another detainee with similar conditions, took his wife to hospital, CBSA agents followed him into his wife's room while she was having a miscarriage.
Mohamed Harkat and his wife Sophie were quite optimistic that second certificate, issued after the new legislation was passed in 2008, would be quashed. They felt that the public case was clearly not strong enough to convince the judge that the government's claims were reasonable, and they hoped the special advocates would ensure that claims made in the secret information would be challenged. But the certificate was upheld, and to this day Moe has no idea why, because the secret information has remained secret. Human rights defenders familiar with the situation rightly believe basic human rights such as the right to know the case against you are being abrogated.
While two Security Certificates -- those on Hassan Almrei and on Adil Charkaoui -- have been defeated or quashed, three men -- Moe, Mr. Mahjoub, and Mahmoud Jaballah -- still live in limbo. They cannot live full lives, and nor can their families. The stigma that prevents them from working or leading normal lives in Canada is the same stigma that, should they be deported or leave voluntarily for their country of origin, would put their lives in danger and place them at risk of torture.
Revelations this week that Jim Judd, former director of CSIS, expressed concerns that banning information gleaned from torture would weaken security certificate cases, could not be more timely. For an agency whose leader could so cavalierly suggest that it needed to rely on evidence, not gleaned from torture, but gleaned from information gleaned from torture (as if that would be okay), this is only the most recent in a series of blows that reveal how paranoid the secret intelligence agency has become.
Even though courts recently ruled Mohamed Harkat does have ties to terrorism, his supporters are protesting his treatment on the 9th anniversary of his charges.
Dozens of people gathered at the human rights monument in downtown Ottawa on Saturday to support Harket.
Harkat, an accused al-Qaida sleeper agent who has been fighting to stay in Canada since he was arrested on a federal security certificate, declared his innocence to a throng of supporters and media.
Flanked by wife Sophie, Harkat said the conditions he is forced to live with have taken a toll on himself and family.
“It’s my life destroyed completely,” said Harkat on Saturday. “I’ve never chatted to a criminal, I’ve never had a criminal record, I’ve never been involved with terrorism, I’ve never seen the evidence against me.”
Among his conditions, Harkat cannot use the Internet, is monitored by GPS and cannot leave Ottawa without permission.
An online petition in his support has gathered about 5,000 signatures.
“It’s simply impossible for people like Mohamed Harkat to have a fair trial when secret evidence is involved,” said supporter Evert Hoogers, a retired postal worker. “None of that is acceptable to me.”
Several speakers, including human rights activists, spoke at the rally, which included chants and banners in support Harkat.
An unidentified man stood next to the Harkats, with his mouth duct-taped, hands bound and blindfolded.
“This war on terrorism has been a direct attack on each and every human citizen’s human rights,” said Larry Rousseau, regional vice-president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada. “If we sit back and do nothing, we will lose what we have acquired.”
In December 2009, Harkat’s security certificate was upheld by a Federal Court Judge, who ruled the government had reasonable grounds to suspect Harkat of being a threat to Canadian public safety.
Kevin Skerrett, with the Justice for Mohamed Harket committee, hopes awareness will further the cause.
“I think as more people learn of the details of this, the more outraged they are,” said Skerrett.
Harkat is appealing his case and looking forward to a court date in February.
He said Saturday he is willing to take his case all the way to the Supreme Court.
“Justice is delayed. That’s all I’m hoping for,” said Harket. “I’m innocent. That’s all I want, just an open trial like anybody else.”
par La Presse Canadienne Source: La Presse URL: [link] Date: 10 décembre 2011
Ottawa - Des membres de différents organismes de défense des droits humains, Amnistie Internationale en tête, étaient réunis à Ottawa, samedi, pour souligner le 9e anniversaire de l'arrestation de Mohamed Harkat, survenue le 10 décembre 2002.
Mohamed Harkat est l'un des trois hommes encore détenus au Canada en vertu d'un certificat de sécurité. Cette procédure juridique permet de détenir une personne pour une durée indéterminée sans accusation et sans accès à la preuve.
Le Comité justice pour Mohamed Harkat soutient que les hommes ciblés par ces certificats n'ont jamais eu l'occasion de réfuter les allégations portées contre eux puisque le gouvernement garde presque toute la preuve secrète.
Une manifestation s'est tenue samedi, à midi devant le Monument des droits humains à Ottawa. Christian Legeais, porte-parole du Comité justice pour Mohamed Harkat, fait partie de l'organisation de ce rassemblement. Il estime que la procédure appliquée contre l'accusé est inconstitutionnelle.
Les manifestants ont profité de la Journée internationale des droits humains, pour dénoncer cette façon de faire, qui repose selon eux sur des documents obtenus sous la torture et dont les matériaux d'origine (notes, entrevues, transcriptions) ont été détruits.
L'accusé fait également face à une menace de déportation vers l'Algérie, en vertu d'un jugement de la cour fédérale tombé en décembre 2010. Cette décision a été portée en appel et doit être entendue en février. M.Legeais se montre peu optimiste.
«Il n'y a pas de fait, qu'il n'y a que des allégations, comment voulez-vous que l'on soit optimiste? Ça ne repose sur rien», estime-t-il.
Assigné à résidence en juin 2006, après un emprisonnement de 43 mois, Mohamed Harkat porte encore un appareil GPS à la cheville et doit observer de nombreuses restrictions, mais clame toujours son innocence.
by Alex Neve Source: The National Post URL: [link] Date: December 7, 2011
Canada abhors torture. We support all efforts to abolish it and to punish torturers. We insist that our policing and security agencies have nothing to do with it. That’s Canada’s public line. Yet every time we seem to reaffirm these fundamental principles, a loophole always presents itself involving the words “national security.”
The most recent disturbing example involves a 2008 memo from former CSIS director James Judd to then-minister of public safety Stockwell Day that has just come to light. In that document, Mr. Judd objected to a law-reform initiative spearheaded at the time by Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh. As part of a court-ordered overhaul of the immigration security-certificate process, Mr. Dosanjh had proposed a measure to keep evidence that might have been the result of torture out of security-certificate proceedings. The amendment passed, clarifying the principle that when there are reasonable grounds to believe that information had been obtained by torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, it cannot be used.
It actually wasn’t all that ground-breaking. It essentially confirmed existing international and Canadian legal prohibitions. The UN Convention against Torture, ratified by Canada more than 25 years ago, makes it clear that the only time evidence obtained under torture can be used in court is when the torturer himself is the one on trial. But it was necessary to have the principle laid out explicitly with respect to security certificates.
But the issue keeps coming up. Yes, torture is bad. But what if it will help us catch a terrorist, crack a sleeper cell or thwart a terrorist attack? What if taking a strong stand against it makes it more difficult to co-operate with countries where torture is rampant?
In this particular instance, Mr. Judd’s primary objection was that he considered the threshold of “reasonable grounds” for believing the information to be the fruit of torture to be too low. He felt it might be interpreted to capture not only whatever the torturer was originally able to extract from his victim, but any further information that was then derived from that torture-tainted evidence. But such fine distinctions don’t matter. International law, binding on Canada, is clear on both points: no to torture; no to information gleaned by torture.
Torture itself is never justified, even in the face of security threats such as terrorism. There are many good reasons for that absolute ban. For one, law enforcement and intelligence officers will tell you that you simply do not get good information by torturing it out of people. People will say anything and implicate anyone to end the electric shocks, simulated drowning, brutal beatings and threats to rape or kill loved ones. Sometimes, the information you get may be true, but often it will be false and simply distract police from pursuing more reliable leads.
And once you start using torture, the line keeps shifting. If it is OK to torture the terrorist mastermind, why not torture someone who knows where he is hiding, or his sister? Someone who goes to the same mosque or was born in the same village? There is no such thing as a little bit of torture. Its use inevitably expands.
Most critically, torture is never justified because it fundamentally violates the very notion of human dignity and integrity that is at the heart of what it is to have human rights in the first place. Governments understood that when they drafted human rights treaties. Allowing torture, whatever the reason, does not make us more secure. It keeps us trapped in the vicious circle of repression, resentment and reprisal that provides fertile ground for terrorism. We need to break that circle, not further it.
If torture itself is never OK, it can never be OK to take advantage of what the torturer has to sell. If all doors begin to close when the torturer comes calling with the confessions and leads that come out of the torture chamber, the market for torture starts to dry up. As a result, there is that much less incentive to torture in the first place.
So enough with what-ifs and qualifications. Whenever the issue of torture comes up — be it in our intelligence relationships, law reform or around the Cabinet table — there should be no hesitation. We must make it clear that Canada will have nothing to do with torture. No matter what.
Alex Neve is secretary-general of Amnesty International Canada.
By Marion Scott Source: The Montreal Gazaette URL: [link] Date: December 5, 2011
[PHOTO: Former CSIS director Jim Judd issued a "secret" memo while at the helm of the spy agency April 15, 2000, stating the terrorism threat in Canada had not been exaggerated.}
MONTREAL - Advocates for five men arrested under security certificates said they were stunned to learn from a Gazette report that Canada’s spy agency believed cases against them could fall apart if it could not use information obtained by torture.
On Saturday, The Gazette revealed that in 2008, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) warned the minister of public security that it could become impossible to use security certificates to arrest and deport suspected terrorists if it was prohibited from using information from regimes known to use torture.
In a letter obtained by The Gazette, former CSIS director Jim Judd warned that a proposed bill then before Parliament “could render unsustainable the current security certificate proceedings.” A security certificate is a means by which the government may detain and deport non-citizens perceived as a threat to national security.
The letter calls into question CSIS’s assurances that it did not countenance the use of torture.
On Sunday, an advocacy group representing the so-called Secret Trial Five – men who have been detained under security certificates – hailed the report as proof that CSIS and top government officials knew terror cases might not stand up without information obtained under duress.
“It’s very disturbing that CSIS is so dependent on information that’s obtained from the use of torture that they would consider that these cases would fall apart without it,” said Mary Foster, a member of the Coalition Justice for Adil Charkaoui.
Charkaoui, 37, was arrested in 2003 under a security certificate and cleared in 2009. He is seeking compensation from the federal government and has led a campaign against the arbitrary arrest of terror suspects.
“It is unbelievable. CSIS has been lying to us for years,” Charkaoui said in a statement. Charkaoui charged that by signing security certificates against him and other suspects after he received the warning from Judd, former Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day was “effectively condoning the use of torture and condemning us to several more years of arbitrary detention.”
Hassan Almrei, another former terror suspect cleared of allegations in 2009, also hailed the revelation. “It really makes me sick to think that when I was sitting in solitary confinement on secret allegations for almost eight years, the head of CSIS knew that my case, and the cases of the other men held on security certificate, were completely baseless, because they were likely based on information that came from torture,” the Toronto man said in a statement.
In February 2007, the Supreme Court struck down the security certificate legislation as unconstitutional and the government passed a new law to replace it in 2008.
In his letter, Judd urged the minister to fight a Liberal amendment to prohibit CSIS and the courts from using information obtained by torture or “derivative information” – information initially obtained by torture but subsequently corroborated by legal means.
But despite Judd’s urging, the government passed the amended Bill C-3 in February 2008.
However, Foster said the letter reveals an alarming readiness to use information that might have been obtained by torture despite the legal ban on doing so. “CSIS on their own evaluation thought that these cases were built on information that the law said they couldn’t use,” she said.
“It’s disturbing that they then went ahead and advised the ministers to issue the certificates. And it’s disturbing that the ministers went ahead and signed it, knowing that CSIS believed that it was based on information that would not pass (scrutiny),” she added.
In addition to Charkaoui and Almrei, the coalition is also demanding that the government drop charges against Toronto men Mahmoud Jaballah and Mohammad Mahjoub as well as Mohamed Harkat of Ottawa.
In an email message, CSIS spokesperson Tahera Mufti said the agency opposes the mistreatment of any individual by any foreign entity. “We do not condone the use of torture or other unlawful methods in responding to terrorism and other threats to national security,” she wrote.
Check out this documentary film project, The Secret Trial 5 by Toronto filmmakers Amar Wala and Noah Bingham. It's a crowd-funded film and needs your support to get it finished so all Canadians can be informed about the ongoing injustice of the security certificate process.
Click to see a promo for the film, still in the making.
Click on the photo of Mohamed to see all items related to him. DEC 9, 2010: A federal court judge today ruled to uphold the 2nd security certificate against Mohamed Harkat, finding it "reasonable." Justice Simon Noel found against Mr. Harkat and upheld the regime of secret hearings and judicially sanctioned rendition to torture.
This fight is not over. The Justice for Mohamed Harkat Committee will re-double its efforts to see that justice is done for Mohamed Harkat and that the odious security certificate system of injustice is abolished once and for all.
Here is the contact information for Sophie Harkat.