Canada’s Spy Agency Likely Committed Illegal Acts To Investigate Foreign Fighters, Top Court Rulesposted on July 21, 2020 | in Category CSIS | PermaLink
Date: July 16, 2020
The scathing decision found “institutional failings” at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service employed activities that were likely illegal in order to obtain intelligence and the Department of Justice failed to disclose that to the court, a Federal Court has found.
In a scathing ruling, the court found CSIS, Canada’s main spy agency, had “breached the duty of candour” it owed to the judiciary to be open and honest with the court. It further found “institutional failings” around how CSIS assesses the legal risk of its programs.
“We take these findings very seriously,” reads a statement from Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and Justice Minister David Lametti.
A source with knowledge of the ruling confirmed to VICE News that the probably-illegal activities had to do with CSIS’ effort to track foreign fighters.
While the ruling is heavily redacted, it notes that one of the Service’s investigations involved paying “an individual known to be facilitating or carrying out terrorism an amount totalling less than $25,000 over a few years.” The court looked at seven instances where CSIS provided or tried to provide money or goods, and found four cases where the Service broke the law. (In some cases, payments were interrupted.)
The decision notes that the payments were made in order to “collect information on the threat related activities of individuals in hostile and difficult locations”
CSIS has, for years, been recruiting and paying sources in order to gain intelligence on Canadians who left home to fight for extremist and terrorism groups abroad. There has long been fears that those fighters, particularly the one who left in recent years to join the Islamic State, could return to Canada.
“We often rely on the assistance of human sources who have access to individuals or organizations that pose a threat to our country, and who may put themselves at great risk to protect Canada and Canadian interests,” reads a statement from CSIS Director David Vigneault concerning the decision. “At times, this requires us to pay these sources for information or offer other logistical support, such as providing a cell phone to help them carry out their work.”
The director contended that those potentially law-breaking activities, which are classified, “are representative of bread and butter practices conducted by our allies around the world.”
Whether or not they are normal or necessary, CSIS failed to tell the court the full details of these operations and the potentially illegal activities.
“Despite this widespread knowledge and the potential relevance the issue of illegality had in the context of warrant applications, the matter was never brought to this Court’s attention,” the court wrote. “This is inexcusable.”
The agency relied on information gleaned through potentially-illegal means to obtain at least two warrants from the court. According to a media lines prepared by the government, CSIS also kept then-public safety minister Ralph Goodale in the dark about the extent of the activities until early 2019.
According to a media lines prepared by the government, CSIS also kept then-public safety minister Ralph Goodale in the dark about the extent of the activities until early 2019.
“Prior to that date, Minister Goodale, was notified of the operations in question as constituting high legal risk, but not that they were likely unlawful,” the media lines read. Goodale, at that point, issued a new directive requiring CSIS to report its activities to his office more fully.
It does not seem that any charges will be filed in relation to any potentially illegal activity.
A 2015 incident may illustrate the kind of activities that got CSIS in trouble.
That year, Turkish news identified Mohammed al-Rashed as the man seen in security footage shepherding the three British girls through a Turkish border town. Multiple outlets reported that al-Rashed was working for Canadian intelligence.
A source told TV station A Haber at the time that al-Rashad communicated intelligence about his smuggling operation to a source at the Canadian embassy in Ankara. The Istanbul-based Star reported that al-Rashad was arrested and confessed his partnership with Canada while being interrogated by Turkish security services.
The media reports said he likely smuggled 20 individuals from Turkey to Syria, many to serve as “brides” in the fledgling caliphate.
In a statement to the Globe & Mail, then-public safety minister Stephen Blaney’s office denied the Syrian man was a CSIS employee, but remained coy about whether he was working with the service.
If CSIS had, in fact, paid al-Rashad in relation to his smuggling operations, that may well have broken Canadian law.
For years, CSIS believed it had relatively free reign to break the law when necessary. Legal advice prepared for the service concluded that “Crown immunity” covered its employees and sources, meaning they are protected from criminal prosecution while carrying on business of the Canadian government.
CSIS has gotten in trouble with that assumption before.
In 2016, the Security Intelligence Review Committee, which was then the primary watchdog for CSIS, investigated how the service was handling the threat posed by the risk of foreign fighters returning to Canada. The review committee specifically looked at how CSIS managed its human sources outside Canada and found issues.
While the report itself remains vague, as the operations were classified, it did pointedly recommend that CSIS “ensure its employees fully understand the extent to which certain activities present legal risks” and work to “seek legal clarification on whether CSIS employees and CSIS human sources are afforded protection under...Crown immunity.”
CSIS accepted the recommendation, and said it intended to clarify its legal protections, tacitly acknowledging that its legal advice around “Crown immunity” might be wrong.
A year later, the Trudeau government introduced legislation that did that work for them—Bill C-59 specifically removed CSIS’ Crown immunity protections. The bill proposed a new test that would dictate when and how CSIS would be allowed to break the law to collect intelligence, while setting clear red lines of what it could never do: Including murder, torture, kidnapping, sexual assault, and obstruction of justice.
That bill was introduced in 2017, but didn’t actually pass through Parliament until the summer of 2019.
In that two-year gap, however, legal advice prepared by the Department of Justice for CSIS came to the conclusion that they did not, in fact, enjoy Crown immunity as they once thought. In January, 2017, the CSIS director paused all law-breaking operations. Two months later, in March, the Service began approving those operations all over again, even though it did not have legal advice backing up its actions, where “the value of the operation justified the risk,” as the court summarized it.
“It appears the Service was willing to let sleeping dogs lie,” the court wrote.
In January, 2019, the legal advice flipped again, and “CSIS immediately suspended all such activities,” reads an internal Q&A sheet prepared by the Department of Justice.
“In hindsight, we acknowledge that our legal advice should have been clearer and more consistent,” the department admitted.
When C-59 became law in June 2019, CSIS again enjoyed the ability to break laws when necessary.
This ruling from the Federal Court is the second such decision in recent years. In 2017, the Federal Court blasted a secret CSIS’ metadata collection program, which it largely hid from the court and cabinet.
The court has recommended a wide-ranging external review of CSIS, including how it obtains legal advice from the Department of Justice and how it vets the legal risk of its intelligence operations.
While the court didn’t require any such review, it did require that the service report back within two months with its plans on how to address the decision—that deadline ended today.
Neither the service nor Department of Justice made it clear whether they would go forward with the review as proposed by the court.
The government did say that former Supreme Court Justice Ian Binnie is being retained to look over the Department of Justice’s processes while the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency—the beefed-up watchdog which replaces CSIS’ review committee—is being asked to conduct a review of CSIS’ policies. The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, which has a mandate to review classified information, may also conduct a study.
The Department of Justice is appealing part of the ruling, to do with solicitor-client privilege. “Appealing this single legal question in no way diminishes our commitment to addressing the full range of the Court’s recommendation,” the two ministers said.
Follow Justin Ling on Twitter.
Algerian man fights to stay in Canada after years of uncertaintyposted on December 20, 2019 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink
Montreal, Canada - It has been nearly two decades since Sophie Lamarche-Harkat's husband was arrested outside their home in the Canadian capital, Ottawa. Since then, the circumstances surrounding Mohamed Harakat's detention and restricted release have shifted, but the couple's life together remains mired in uncertainty. "I'm just exhausted. I'm burnt out from all this. This has taken a toll on both of us," Sophie told Al Jazeera in a telephone interview last week. "It feels unreal [that] it's been 17 years." Harkat fled Algeria as civil war gripped the country in the mid-1990s. He eventually moved to Canada, where he obtained refugee status. On December 10, 2002, however, he was arrested in Ottawa. Accused of being tied to al-Qaeda and associating with extremists, allegations he denies, he was detained under what is called a "security certificate". Used against a handful of people in Canada in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in the United States, the security certificate mechanism is an immigration tool that allows the Canadian government to detain and deport non-citizens on national security grounds. With security certificates, the government does not have to charge the accused with a crime and it can rely on evidence it keeps secret for reasons of security. In Harkat's case, he was detained for more than three years before being released with restrictions. The 17-year anniversary of Harkat's arrest has prompted renewed calls for the Canadian government to lift the security certificate and allow Harkat to remain in the country. The case has also put the spotlight on Canadian immigration processes - and raised new questions about the government's long-standing security certificates system, as well as fears Harkat would face torture in Algeria. "Mo's never been charged and everybody's that's met and loves him will tell you that he doesn't have an ounce of hate in him. My husband is loving, hard-working, he's funny," Sophie said. "It's so shameful that in Canada - a Canada that's known for human rights, has put my husband through hell. Not only him, me and my entire family." 'Kafkaesque' system
According to the Canadian government, 27 people have been issued security certificates since 1991. Part of the country's immigration system, security certificates give the government the power to detain and deport non-citizens it believes pose a threat to national security, have committed human rights violations, or who are involved in organised crime, among other things. Due to the nature of the alleged offences and to protect national security, Ottawa keeps much of the evidence used in security certificate cases confidential. Five men, including Harkat, were issued security certificates in the early 2000s after Canada passed an Anti-Terrorism Act in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. The cases of those men, known as the Secret Trial Five, led human rights groups to condemn Canada for using a tool they argued violates the right to due process and relies on secret evidence. It was later revealed that in Harkat's case, the Canadian government used information it obtained from a Guantanamo Bay detainee known as Abu Zubaydah who was subjected to torture at the hands of US interrogators, including 83 rounds of waterboarding in a single month. After his arrest, Harkat spent more than three years in Ontario's Kingston Immigration Holding Centre, known as Canada's Guantanamo North before being released in 2006 under what advocates said were some of the country's strictest bail conditions, including 24-hour supervision and a GPS monitoring device. Harkat has denied the government's claim that he is associated with al-Qaeda. But he has struggled to defend himself without knowing all the charges against him. Sophie said both she and her husband have struggled to find employment due to the stigma surrounding the case. He currently works as a custodian at a church in Ottawa, but ongoing restrictions on his mobile phone and computer use has made that work more difficult, she added. "It feels absurd. It's really Kafkaesque," said Tim McSorley, national coordinator at the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, an advocacy organisation in Ottawa, about the security certificates system. Revisions
McSorley explained that security certificates are "applied as an anti-terrorism tool and because of that they are done in a large degree of secrecy".
The accused in these cases are "not being charged with a crime, they're not going to a criminal court, they don't have the same rights to defend themselves", he told Al Jazeera.
After mounting criticism and legal challenges to the system, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 2007 that security certificates were unconstitutional.
On this #InternationalHumanRightsDay, the Liberal government must end the deportation to torture of Mohamed Harkat. Read the open letter sent to @BillBlair, from us, @AmnestyNow, @nccm and 19 others, calling for him & his govt to act immediately: https://t.co/0NkDfqIEo0 #cdnpoli
— International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (@ICLMG) December 10, 2019 +++++++++++++++++++++++++++ But the court gave the government time to draft new legislation that would better address concerns about the rights of people held under the certificates. Ottawa passed a law a year later that instituted a few changes to the system, including the creation of a "special advocate" whose job it is "to protect the interests" of the accused. But McSorley said the special advocate is not a defence lawyer, and he or she cannot share much of the government's secret evidence with the accused. "Once the special advocate goes into the confidential hearings, they're not allowed to communicate any more with the defence," he said. After those changes were made, the Supreme Court in 2014 upheld both the revised security certificate system, and said the one issued against Harkat was "reasonable". After that decision, the government moved forward with plans to send Harkat back to Algeria. "It's really frustrating and infuriating to see that 17 years in the government is making no move to provide any more clarity as to what he's supposedly done and to allow him to defend himself," McSorley said. A 'balance'
The federal government defends its decision to place Harkat under a security certificate, however. "The Supreme Court of Canada has upheld the constitutionality of the security certificates regime and the reasonableness of the security certificate issued against Mr Harkat," said Tim Warmington, a spokesman for Public Safety Canada, told Al Jazeera in an email. Although Warmington said the government ministry could not comment on specific removal orders, he stressed that "Canada has a robust assessment process and safeguards to ensure that no one is removed to risk of persecution." When people who hold refugee status are issued a deportation order, they can only be removed from Canada after a "Danger Opinion" is issued by a senior official at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, another government branch, said Warmington. In such cases, the official "must balance the risk of mistreatment in returning the person against the danger the person poses to the public if they remain in Canada", he explained. The UN's Refugee Convention protects refugees against forced returns to places they could face persecution, a process known as refoulement. But exceptions can be made if a refugee is deemed to pose a threat to the country in which he or she resettled, the convention states. In Canada, refugees who fail to pass the "Danger Opinion" and are subject to deportation from Canada may apply for judicial review and ask that their removal be suspended pending the court's decision. Harkat's lawyer, Barbara Jackman, told Al Jazeera she filed for a judicial review of his deportation order in November 2018. But the federal court still has not received all the information on which the government based its removal decision, she said, and without the complete record, it is unclear when the case will proceed. Jackman described the government's behaviour in Harkat's case as "perverse". "I think it's just face-saving," she said, about why she believes the government has not dropped the case. "I think that they spent so much money and invested so much in it that they can't be seen as saying, 'OK, this isn't well founded' … I think it's perverse in terms of what they're doing and how long they've been doing it." Risk of torture
Harkat's supporters have raised serious concerns that he could be tortured in Algeria should Canada follow through with his deportation.
On December 10, human rights groups, unions and concerned Canadians sent a letter to the new public safety minister, Bill Blair, to ask for him to intervene to prevent Harkat's removal from the country.
They said Canada would be putting Harkat's life in danger should it deport him to Algeria, which has a poor human rights record and where anti-government protests have been held regularly over the last year.
Justin Mohamed, human rights law and policy campaigner at Amnesty International Canada, said the group is concerned Harkat would not have access to a fair trial and could be tortured in Algeria.
"The nature of the Canadian allegations against him would render him subject to an unfair trial in Algeria," Mohamed told Al Jazeera.
"Amnesty International is very concerned that the Algerian authorities don't comply with the international legal obligations concerning the prohibition of torture."
For her part, Harkat's wife, Sophie, said it has been "extremely frustrating because the minister just has to sign a piece of paper and we can just move on with our lives".
She said she prefers not to think about the possibility that her husband could be sent to Algeria.
"Mo lives with that cloud every day over his head - constant. And he still has nightmares about it. I'm somewhat in denial; I don't want to discuss this," she told Al Jazeera. "If the government sends him back, they'll have blood on their hands."
SOURCE: Al Jazeera News
VIDEO: Santa Claus visits the Public Safety Canada officeposted on December 20, 2019 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink
PHOTOS: Santa Claus visits the Public Safety Canada officeposted on December 20, 2019 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink
See more photos HERE
On this International Human Rights Day the Liberal Government Must Stop Mohamed Harkat's Deportation to Tortureposted on December 10, 2019 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink
Dec. 10, 2019, OTTAWA – The Liberal government must live up to its word to end all complicity in torture, starting by putting an end to the deportation proceedings against Mohamed Harkat, writes a group of leading human rights and civil society organizations in a new letter to Public Safety Minister Bill Blair. The letter is co-signed by the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG), Amnesty International Canada, and the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM). Nineteen other organizations and individuals from across the country have endorsed the letter. The letter is available online at: [link] December 10 is International Human Rights Day. This year marks the 17th anniversary of Mr. Harkat being placed under a security certificate, and the beginning of the ordeal which has continuously undermined his fundamental rights. He is currently facing deportation to Algeria, where he will be at risk of prolonged solitary confinement, forms of treatment that constitute torture or other ill treatment, and unfair trial based on the fact that he has been publicly identified and described by Canadian officials as a terrorism suspect and security threat. All of this is despite Mr. Harkat never being charged with, let alone convicted of a crime since arriving in Canada in 1995. The groups are calling on Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair to use powers granted to him under section 42.1(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to allow Mr. Harkat, who Canada recognizes as a refugee, to remain in Canada. They are also asking for an end to the security certificate regime overall. “Allowing Mr. Harkat to remain in Canada would send a clear message, at the very start of this new parliament, that defending human rights and eliminating mistreatment and torture go hand in hand with protecting the safety of people in Canada,” said Tim McSorley, National Coordinator of the ICLMG. “It is beyond cruel irony that Mohamed Harkat’s journey through so many years of injustice began on International Human Rights Day. As he marks the 17th anniversary of being subject to an immigration security certificate and facing the prospect of deportation to human rights violations, it is time – far past time – for the government to relent, lift the certificate, and let Mohamed get on with his life in Canada,” said Alex Neve, Secretary-General of Amnesty International Canada. “It is disgraceful that Mohamed Harkat has been under a security certificate for close to two decades. No one in Canada should be subject to what he has had to go through. When one of us can be detained without the kind of trial any Canadian would receive for 17 years, it affects our entire conception of our rights and freedoms,” said Mustafa Farooq, Executive Director of the NCCM. Contacts: Tim McSorley, ICLMG (613) 241-5298 national.coordination AT iclmg.ca Lucy Scholey, Amnesty International Canada (613) 744-7667 ext 236 lscholey AT amnesty.ca
Open Letter to Minister of Public Safety Bill Blairposted on December 10, 2019 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink
December 10, 2019
The Honourable Bill Blair, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Public Safety
269 Laurier Avenue West
Dear Minister Blair,
Today is December 10, International Human Rights Day. Ironically, it also marks the 17 th anniversary of Mohamed Harkat being placed under a security certificate, and the beginning of the ordeal which has continuously undermined his fundamental rights.
We believe it is urgent that you act on Mr. Harkat’s case. Having been recognized as a refugee in
Canada, Mr. Harkat has lived here for 24 years without ever being charged or convicted of a crime. Yet, because of the security certificate based on secretive information of questionable origin, Mr. Harkat continues to face deportation to Algeria where he will be at risk of prolonged solitary confinement, forms of treatment that constitute torture or other ill treatment, and unfair trial based on the fact that he has been publicly identified and described by Canadian officials as a terrorism suspect and security threat.
Our organizations have long decried the use of security certificates, which undermine the rights of the targeted individual by allowing information not normally considered “evidence” to be used against them, and preventing them or their counsel from accessing the whole case brought against them – essentially eliminating any hope of mounting an adequate and full defense.
We believe that security certificates should ultimately be eradicated from Canada’s legal system, and that instead the government should focus on prosecutions under the Criminal Code, which would serve to protect the rights of the accused as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and international covenants, and in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice. Despite this, security certificates were in fact significantly worsened through changes brought about with the adoption of the Anti-terrorism Act, 2015. Disappointingly, your government declined to address these issues in the recently passed National Security Act, 2017.
More immediately, we are writing because, as the new Minister of Public Safety, Mr. Harkat’s fate is in your hands. Under section 42.1(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Minister of Public Safety is granted the power to allow Mr. Harkat to stay in Canada where it is not contrary to the national interest. The courts have consistently relaxed Mr. Harkat’s bail conditions over the years, and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service did not deem it necessary to file a risk assessment at Mr. Harkat’s bail hearing in the fall of 2017. As his work colleagues and supporters have attested, and as court assessments and psychiatrists have demonstrated, Mr. Harkat is committed to leading a peaceful life and letting him stay would not be contrary to Canada’s interests. Moreover, deporting a man to a risk of imprisonment and torture is clearly against Canada’s national interest, as well as its international
We have closely followed the case of Mohamed Harkat since it came to the public eye in 2002. Under the very problematic security certificate regime, Mr. Harkat was imprisoned in maximum security for 43 months, spent years under house arrest, and faced some of the strictest bail conditions in Canadian history. The original “evidence” against Mr. Harkat was destroyed and the allegations against him are based on the testimony of an informant who failed a lie detector test and was never cross-examined in court. Mr. Harkat has never been charged with, let alone convicted, of a crime.
Life under a security certificate has also had a profoundly negative impact on Mr. Harkat’s well-being. His arrest and time in solitary confinement, the severe conditions of his release and the threat of deportation to torture have resulted in chronic depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and insomnia. Sophie Lamarche-Harkat, Mr. Harkat’s wife, has also spoken of the stress upon her, their household and their family of living with constant Canada Border Services Agency surveillance and the threat of losing a loved one. Throughout all this, Mr. Harkat has gained a community that cares about him deeply. For them, he is simply “Moe,” a loving and soft-spoken man who is always ready to help those around him. They have been living in constant fear since deportation proceedings began four years ago.
Beyond the current impacts of living under a security certificate on Mr. Harkat’s well-being, he faces a credible threat of imprisonment, abuse and torture if, as your government is seeking, he is deported to Algeria.
Amnesty International has noted that the Algerian Code of Criminal Procedure allows those charged
under anti-terrorism laws to be detained for up to 12 days without access to legal counsel or charge, and does not prohibit the use of confessions obtained under torture. Amnesty International has also reported on a case as recent as 2018, wherein a journalist was reportedly beaten and waterboarded, held in solitary confinement for over one month.
It is also important to note that courts in other countries, such as the UK in 2016 and Ireland in 2017, have recognized these concerns and barred their governments from deporting individuals to Algeria as the individuals concerned faced a substantial risk of torture.
On October 26, 2017, Prime Minister Trudeau clearly stated: “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 responsibility taken.”
Consequently, we urge you, Minister Blair, to use this unique position and the discretion afforded under the law to exempt Mr. Harkat from deportation, end this 17-year ordeal and allow him to stay with his wife and community in Canada. Doing so would send a clear message, at the very start of your mandate, that defending human rights and eliminating mistreatment and torture go hand in hand with protecting the safety of people in Canada. It would also ensure that Canada upholds its commitments as a signatory to the UN Convention Against Torture. We do not want this government, or its successors, to have to once again apologize and pay compensation because your government refused to take the right action today.
We would appreciate a timely response to our letter, and if you would like more information or have any questions, we would be happy to meet with you to discuss it further.
International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group
Amnesty International Canada
National Council of Canadian Muslims
• Canadian Arab Federation
• Canadian Association of University Teachers
• Sofia Descalzi, National Chairperson
3Canadian Federation of Students
• Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice
• Canadian Union of Postal Workers
• Council of Canadians
• Fred Hahn, President
• Corey Balsam, National Coordinator
Independent Jewish Voices – Canada
• Inter Pares
• Gail Davidson, Executive Director
Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada
• Monia Mazigh
• National Union of Public and General Employees
• Ottawa Raging Grannies
• Peggy Mason, President
Rideau Institute on International Affairs
• Sharry Aiken, Associate Professor
Faculty of Law Queen’s University
• Socialist Action
• Matthew Behrens, Coordinator
Stop Canadian Involvement in Torture
• Vancouver and District Labour Council
6,043 days Fighting Deportation to Torture: Call Trudeau to Say Enough is Enoughposted on June 28, 2019 | in Category Urgent Action Required | PermaLink
Stop the deportation of Mohamed Harkatposted on May 15, 2019 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink
Algeria: Absurd conviction of journalist Adlène Mellah must be overturnedposted on January 23, 2019 | in Category International | PermaLink
Since his arrest, Adlène has been detained in solitary confinement, according to two of his lawyers. He is currently held alone in his cell and even during his courtyard breaks, he is alone apart from prison staff. Lack of meaningful contact with other detainees for at least 22 hours a day for more than 15 days constitutes prolonged solitary confinement, which amounts to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, under the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Mandela Rules). To protest the verdict, Mellah began a hunger strike on 26 December, the day after he was convicted. According to his lawyer Zoubida Assoul, Adlène had lost at least 14 kilograms as of 15 January. Another lawyer who visited him on 20 January told Amnesty International that after a visit from his family, Adlène had agreed to take serums containing salt and glucoses as well as vitamins. One of his lawyers also told Amnesty International that Adlène was already very weak after reporting torture during his previous imprisonment. The Gendarmerie brigade of Bab Jdid in Algiers arrested him on 22 October 2018 on charges of "blackmail" and "harm to privacy". Adlène told Amnesty International that he was beaten and waterboarded by gendarmerie officers who also placed a cloth doused in bleach into his mouth three times. A Court provisionally released him on 22 November 2018 but the authorities failed to order an investigation into his torture claims. “The Algerian authorities must immediately quash the conviction against Adlène Mellah and free him and all other peaceful protesters, human rights activists and journalists prosecuted or detained simply for the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” said Heba Morayef. Adlène’s arrest and conviction comes as part of a broader crackdown against freedom of expression in Algeria that intensified in October 2018, when at least seven journalists and six activists were arrested and detained in connection with their journalism under penal code provisions. © 2019 AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
Pro-Military Media Accuses US Ambassador of Wanting to ‘Turn Algeria into Syria’posted on January 23, 2019 | in Category International | PermaLink
Washington D.C. – In an article published on January 15, the Francophone website Algerie Patriotique accused American Ambassador to Algeria John Desrocher of “plotting” with opposition parties to destabilize the current regime and “turn Algeria into a new Syria.” The article went on to question the real motives behind the American diplomat’s extensive travels around the country and the purpose of his invitations for young Algerians to “undergo” American NGO training on democracy. The pro-establishment website indicated that the ambassador held secret meetings with opposition groups to encourage them “to carry out actions of subversion.” It suggests that Washington’s top diplomat’s actions and activities are suspect and amount to “political activism” against the Algerian state. Furthermore, Algerie Patriotique accused, in the same article, Ambassador William J. Burns, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and former US deputy secretary of state under President Obama, of conspiring with the Moroccan monarchy to subvert Algeria. However, the more troubling element in this hard-to-fact-check article is Algerie Patriotique’s comparison of Ambassador Desrocher to his predecessor, “the unmistakable Robert Ford who, in the 1990s, had turned his office of adviser to the US embassy in El-Biar into a headquarters for extremists of the FIS and the armed arm, the GIA,” according to the website. It is startling to see a pro-government media site accuse past and current American diplomats stationed in Algeria of associating with terrorist groups and plotting to change the government by force. Algerie Patriotique would never have published such an account without the direction and approval of top intelligence officers. In fact, Algeria’s notorious Military Intelligence manufactures these “type” of stories and feeds them to their social media mouthpieces. The hope is to cast doubt about the allegiance and patriotism of opposition groups fighting for democracy and human rights. In provoking Ambassador Desrocher, the Algerian government tries to portray the opposition as agents of the American government leading some activists to distance themselves from the work of Western NGOs. While Algeria is not innately anti-American, it is suspicious of the work of US pro-democracy organizations. The government fears that democracy-building activities are a threat to its rule. For some independent political observers, Ambassador Desrocher is collateral damage in the larger smear campaign directed by the military to de-legitimize members of a coalition of independent organizations fighting to stop a fifth term for President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Nevertheless, accusations of “acts of subversion” against US diplomats are serious and a breach in protocol. Since Algerie Patriotique conveys the position of the powerful military establishment that controls the country, the Algerian government must give some clarifications regarding the publication of such false allegations.