We had a small but enthusiastic crowd outside Parliament Hill on Friday marking 15 years of Mohamed Harkat's ongoing security certificate process.
Matthew Behrens shares a quote from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Mohamed Harkat and wife Sophie Harkat look on. Ottawa. December 8, 2017.
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
by Matthew Behrens
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.
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.
by Nazim Baksh and Devin Heroux
Source: CBC News
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.
by Canadian Press
Source: Huffington Post
Date: November 17, 2017
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
by Jim Bronskill
Source: The Canadian Press via CBC News
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.
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
by Press Release
Source: Relief Web
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: http://www.osce.org/odihr/325346
by Jonathan Horowitz
Source: Just Security Website
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.
Source: International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG)
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
Link to the open letter
by Tim McSorley
Date: December 10, 2016
Saturday, December 10, is Human Rights Day. It’s also the anniversary of an ongoing stain on Canada’s human rights record.
Fourteen years ago, Mohamed Harkat, an Algerian refugee to Canada, was arrested outside his home under a government security certificate on allegations of having ties to terrorism. Despite never being charged, and never being shown the evidence against him, Harkat has faced solitary confinement, the strictest bail conditions in Canadian history and lives under the constant threat of deportation to Algeria — where he would certainly be imprisoned and likely tortured.
We like to believe that Canada stands above torture. And while the practice is banned in Canada, our international human rights obligations means that we must oppose torture everywhere. That includes never deporting someone to a situation where they could face torture.
Sadly, Canada has a history of complicity in sending Canadians to torture abroad: The U.S. government whisked Maher Arar away to Jordan, and then Syria, where he was tortured. Canadian officials were complicit in his rendition and turned a blind eye to his torture. In 2007, after the two year O’Connor Inquiry, he received an official apology from the Canadian government, plus a $10.5 million settlement and $1 million in legal fees.
While no apology or settlement can undo the horrors of torture, other Canadians haven’t even received that much. A follow-up to the O’Connor Inquiry, the Iacobucci Inquiry, found that Canadian agents and officials played an indirect role in the arrest and torture of three other Canadians: Ahmad El Maati in Egypt, and Abdullah Almalki and Muayyed Nureddin in Syria. This included problematic sharing of information with foreign spy agencies, providing insufficient consular support, and officials ignoring allegations of torture.
The inquiry ended in 2008, and yet no compensation or redress has been offered. This, despite a 2009 majority vote in the House — including Justin Trudeau and Liberal MPs — in favour of a Public Safety Committee report calling for an apology, redress and full adoption of the recommendations of the O’Connor Inquiry, including the creation of an integrated and independent review body for national security.
Sadly, we’ve seen the opposite of redress: The former Conservative government and the current Liberal government have fought hard against a $100 million lawsuit brought by the three men for redress for the abuse they faced. In fact, the Liberals have doubled down, arguing in court that a 2014 law brought in by the Conservatives to protect intelligence sources should apply retroactively, in a bid to stop key testimony.
When the prime minister says Canada is “back” and promises to fight for equality and human rights, a fundamental first step should be apologizing, providing redress and eliminating all complicity in torture.
We have a golden opportunity to make things right: The government is currently holding public, country-wide consultations on our national security framework. Prime Minister Trudeau and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale could help set the tone for what is to come by stating right away that they will take some fundamental steps:
* Ensuring no person is deported if there is a risk of torture, starting with the end of deportation proceedings against Mr. Harkat.
* Committing to redress and apologies for all victims of torture in which Canada is complicit, starting with Mr. El Maati, Mr. Almalki and Mr. Nureddin.
* Withdrawing ministerial directives – still on the books – which allow Canada to accept intelligence that may have been garnered under torture, in violation of our international commitments.
* Eliminating the security certificate system, which allows for detention without charges or access to the evidence being used to bring the certificate.
* Repealing the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2015 (Bill C-51), which brought in a tangled mess of laws that open the door wide for the types of violations that led to the torture of Mr. Arar, Mr. El Maati, Mr. Almalki and Mr. Nurredin.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, on Human Rights Day 2017, we could finally say that Canada has cut all ties to torture?
Tim McSorley is the national coordinator of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group.
Click on the photo of Mohamed to see all items related to him. JUNE 2017: Mohamed Harkat once again faces deportation to his native Algeria after the Supreme Court of Canada declared the federal government’s security certificate regime constitutional.
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.