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How can Canada condone torture?

posted on December 04, 2016 | in Category Canada | PermaLink

by Gerald Caplan
Source: The Globe and Mail
URL: [link]
Date: November 24, 2016


Gerald Caplan is an Africa scholar, a former NDP national director and a regular panelist on CBC’s Power & Politics

Canada ratified the United Nations Convention against Torture in 1987, yet a good number of Canadians have been tortured with the complicity of public officials. To be more precise: Torture – physical, psychological or both – has been inflicted by our prisons and our security and intelligence services on many Canadians – a disproportionate number of them indigenous or people with a Middle Eastern background – as well as on foreign citizens.

When examples of such incidents are exposed, Canadians are outraged. But only rarely are they revealed.

For example, as we’ve been shocked to learn recently, solitary confinement in our prisons seems to be as Canadian as maple syrup, even though the United Nations says solitary lasting more than 15 days amounts to torture. The Toronto Star recently reported that over the course of five months last year, more than 1,600 inmates suffered solitary confinement at two Ontario jails. Many were indigenous people.

The Globe and Mail has written extensively about Adam Capay, the young indigenous man kept in solitary for more than 1,500 days – more than four years. Ontario government officials knew but did nothing until they were publicly exposed. The Ontario Human Rights Commission says there is an “alarming and systemic overuse of segregation” in Ontario jails.

No one has been held accountable.

Nor must we forget that during Canada’s participation in the war in Afghanistan, Afghan prisoners were often turned over by Canadian troops to U.S. and Afghan authorities. It was widely known that torture would be the fate of most of them. Despite pressure, Canadian governments, including this one, have refused to hold an inquiry.

No one has been held accountable.

Then there are those mystifying “security certificates,” a troubling tool that allows Ottawa to deport non-citizens it deems a threat to national security. The following Muslim men have been arrested under security certificates: Hassan Almrei, Adil Charkaoui, Mohamed Harkat, Mahmoud Jaballah and Mohamed Zeki Mahjoub. None was charged, but all were imprisoned for between four and seven years as they awaited deportation. All but one suffered solitary.

No one has been held accountable.

Many will have seen the deeply disturbing documentary The Torture Files by Terence McKenna that ran over three nights on CBC-TV in September. It names both the victims and at least two of the Canadian officials complicit in their torture in Syria. The victims are men of Middle Eastern heritage but with no links to any form of terrorism. They include the following individuals: Abousfian Abdelrazik, Ahmad Abou-Elmaati, Abdullah Almalki, Maher Arar, Arwad al-Boushi and Muayyed Nureddin. We can add Omar Khadr, who was psychologically tortured at Guantanamo Bay by both U.S. and Canadian officials.

The Canadians who were instrumental in the suffering of the other men were also named in two separate federal inquiries. One was Franco Pillarella, then Canada’s ambassador to Syria. False information was given to U.S. officials about Mr. Arar, a Canadian citizen, by Canadian officials, even though he was innocent of any crime. The Americans duly passed him on to Syria – to be tortured like all the others. Mr. Arar was jailed in what he described as a “grave” – six feet long, three feet wide, seven feet high – for 10 months. It was like being buried alive. He was also tortured repeatedly.

Incredibly, as is well documented, Mr. Pillarella actually co-operated with the Syrian torturers, supplying them with questions to be asked of three Canadians. He kept being appointed to new diplomatic posts until he resigned.

A second Canadian is featured in the McKenna documentary, a Mountie named Michel Cabana. Mr. Cabana passed on false information that led to Mr. Almalki being detained when he visited Damascus. His cell was described by Amnesty International as being similar to Arar’s. He was “subjected to a vicious cycle of torture. He was beaten with an electric cable, strung up to the bars of a window and lashed with leather belts.”

Two commissions of inquiry concluded that Mr. Almalki, Mr. Elmaati, Mr. Nureddin and Mr. Arar were all wrongfully targeted by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the RCMP.

Cabana was promoted to RCMP assistant commissioner, a position he holds to this day.

U.S. President Barack Obama banned the CIA’s widely used torture techniques in 2009, but president-elect Donald Trump, who embraces the use of torture with much enthusiasm, could easily reverse that order. In Canada, the previous government had told CSIS that it could use information derived through torture. The Liberal opposition was outraged.

As well, the Conservative government’s anti-terrorist Bill C-51 was interpreted as opening the door to CSIS to use torture in its work, even though information thus acquired is notoriously unreliable. The Liberals were outraged.

Yet the new, Liberal government is still “assessing” the issue, even though Canada has agreed to sign the UN’s optional protocol to the Convention against Torture allowing for the inspection of detention centres, where torture often takes place in secrecy.

A number of heroic Canadians have dedicated themselves to ending the use of torture by Canada. They include, among others, Matthew Behrens, Monia Mazigh, Amar Wala, Barbara Jackman, Roch Tassé and his International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group.

Why should their efforts be needed at all? Torture is both immoral and useless as a tool to fight terrorism. It outrages Canadians. How can our governments condone it for even one more day?

Copyright 2016 The Globe and Mail Inc. All Rights Reserved.


Torture can never be justified

posted on November 09, 2016 | in Category War on Terror | PermaLink


Torture can never be justified. Learn about the International Convention Against Torture:

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CAT.aspx



Mohamed Harkat girds himself for another fight to stay

posted on August 04, 2016 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

by Debra Black
Source: The Toronto Star
URL: [link]
Date: August 2, 2016

Former security-certificate detainee ruled a threat for alleged Al Qaeda ties is battling deportation in the latest chapter of a 14-year saga.

PHOTO: Mohamed Harkat is pictured at his home in Ottawa. The native-born Algerian, who fled that nation amid political upheaval, arrived in Canada in 1995. He was imprisoned for 42 months in 2002 on suspicion of ties to terrorism.Mohamed Harkat — an Algerian who says he was wrongly accused of being an Al Qaeda sleeper agent — hopes he can finally win his freedom and the right to stay in Canada.

“What the government is doing is wrong, and it’s not fair,” Harkat said in an exclusive interview with the Star. “And they got the wrong guy.”

Harkat, who came to Canada in 1995 and claimed refugee status, has been fighting deportation since his arrest on a national security certificate in December 2002.

He still dreams of one day becoming a Canadian citizen, even though his life in Canada has been very different from what he’d expected.

“I thought one day I would have children, a house, a family . . . everything is destroyed. When I met Sophie, we had a plan to buy a house and have children.”

The 47-year-old Harkat says he’s innocent and will face torture and persecution in his native Algeria if he is deported.

Canada Border Services Agency did not comment on the specifics of the case, but confirmed that Harkat is under a removal order, following a Federal Court decision upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Esme Bailey, a senior media spokesperson for CBSA, added that the removal order “can only be enforced once due process under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act has taken place.”

A February 2016 CBSA document — marked top secret — states that, “should Mr. Harkat be allowed to remain in Canada, it can be presumed that, given the opportunity, he would work toward the ends espoused by the Bin Laden Network.” It recommends his removal from Canada.

His lawyer, Barbara Jackman, plans to argue, in a formal petition to the public safety minister, that Harkat will face torture and persecution if sent back. She also plans to argue he is not a threat to Canada and should be allowed to stay on humanitarian grounds. In early September, she will seek an exemption from deportation.

Canadian law does not allow deportation to a country where torture will occur unless there are exceptional circumstances.

“You send him back with the public profile he’s got, and it’s asking for him to be further detained and tortured,” Jackman said. “I can’t see anything exceptional about Harkat’s case that would require he be deported to torture.”



[ Read the rest ... ]

Victory: Jaballah secret trial security certificate found unreasonable

posted on May 25, 2016 | in Category Security Certificates | PermaLink

by Matthew Behrens
Source: Rabble.ca
URL: [link]
Date: May 24, 2016



In a major setback to a Liberal government still refusing to repeal the repressive Bill C-51, the Federal Court has found unreasonable the secret trial security certificate against the long-suffering Mahmoud Jaballah, almost 20 years to the day that the Egyptian refugee and his family arrived in Canada seeking asylum from the Mubarak dictatorship. While the written decision for this finding has yet to be released, this hopefully brings to a close an 18-year legal fight that helped spur an international campaign of condemnation against Canada's use of secret trials, indefinite detention, deportation to torture, and the patently illegal practices conducted by Canada's spy agency, CSIS.

Jaballah, who was jailed without charge and tortured on many occasions in Egypt (as was his wife, Husnah, who was twice detained and tortured in front of him), was originally arrested in 1999 under the much-criticized security certificate, alleging he was a threat to national security. The problem he faced? He was not allowed to see the secret case against him in a process that allowed as evidence anything not normally admissible in a court of law. CSIS had originally approached him to spy on his community, and he refused. The response of CSIS was clear: co-operate or you will be jailed and deported to torture.


[ Read the rest ... ]

A Promise Not to Torture Was Enough for US Detainee Transfers, Says Declassified Report

posted on May 12, 2016 | in Category International | PermaLink

by Jason Leopold
Source: VICE News
URL: [link]
Date: May 10, 2016

Foreign nations that took custody of more than 1,000 detainees held captive by the US military between 2010 and 2011 provided assurances to the United States that they would not torture any of them — even though reports later surfaced alleging that some of those detainees were tortured after being turned over.

A heavily redacted 10-page report [pdf at the end of this story] examining detainee transfers and the reliance on diplomatic assurances, declassified this week by the Department of Defense Inspector General in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by VICE News three years ago, says Defense (DOD) did not have a strict policy that "specifically addressed how detainees will be treated once transferred to another country."

"DOD should promulgate policies or directives that include an express statement that the DOD may not transfer any person to a foreign entity where it is more likely than not that the person will be tortured," said the February 28, 2012 report prepared by the deputy inspector general for intelligence.

Two years after the Inspector General (IG) made the recommendation, the DOD adopted such a policy, barring the transfer of detainees to foreign countries if US authorities determined "that it is more likely than not that the detainee would be subjected to torture."

According to the report, the US transferred 1,064 detainees who were held by the DOD in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo between August 2010 and August 2011 (a number that, with the exception of Guantanamo, was previously undisclosed.) The breakdown was: 802 detainees from Afghanistan, 259 detainees from Iraq, and three detainees from Guantanamo who were sent to Germany and Algeria, the latter of which has a poor human rights record. The US also held three people who were captured off the coast of Somalia and were believed to be pirates.

An earlier report issued by the IG in December 2010 said the US had transferred 4,781 detainees. After it released the detainees, the US received diplomatic assurances from the foreign governments that the men would not be tortured. But the US has not determined whether the foreign governments are living up to their promises.



[ Read the rest ... ]

Bid to deport six terror suspects blocked after UK judges cite torture fears in Algeria

posted on May 12, 2016 | in Category International | PermaLink

by Victoria Parsons
Source: The Bureau of Investigative Journalism
URL: [link]
Date: April 18, 2016


Six men accused of having links to al Qaeda cannot be deported to Algeria because there is a “real risk” they would be tortured, UK judges ruled today in what marks a major defeat for the Home Office.

Judges at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) ruled against Home Secretary Theresa May and found in favour of the six men who have been fighting deportation orders for 10 years.

The Home Office argued they were a national security risk to Britain, but the Siac judges agreed with the men that their human rights would be at risk if returned to Algeria.

“It is not inconceivable that these Appellants, if returned to Algeria, would be subject to ill-treatment infringing Article 3 [prohibition of torture under the European Convention on Human Rights]. There is a real risk of such a breach,” they ruled today.

The six men are living under strict bail and curfew conditions at various locations in England. The men cannot be identified for legal reasons and the Home Secretary now has 10 days to appeal today’s decision.

It is highly unusual for the Home Office to lose such appeals in Siac, which often hears evidence in secret.

The ruling was announced by the UK’s Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation on Twitter this morning.



[ Read the rest ... ]

Canada To Sign UN's Anti-Torture Protocol After Years Of Delay

posted on May 05, 2016 | in Category Canada | PermaLink

by The Canadian Press
Source: Huffington Post
URL: [link]
Date: May 2, 2016


OTTAWA — Canada is prepared to join a key United Nations anti-torture agreement more than a decade after it was first passed.

The UN's optional protocol to the convention against torture allows for the establishment of national and international systems for inspecting detention centres where torture often takes place in secrecy.

It was first approved by the world body in 2002.

Although dozens of countries have signed on, Canada has not ratified the protocol. The Harper government twice promised to do so, but never did.

The new Trudeau government will follow through, says

Chantal Gagnon, a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion, says the Trudeau government plans to make good on the commitment.

"The minister just announced that we agree that the government of Canada should join this important protocol," Gagnon said of what Dion had to say at a private reception earlier Monday.

"We are taking the first step towards doing so by beginning formal consultations on the optional protocol with provincial and territorial governments."

Move welcomed by activists

Mohamed Fahmy, who spent more than a year in a prison in Egypt, welcomed the move on Twitter, calling it history in the making.

Activist groups have been pressing for ratification for years; Amnesty International Canada has yet another news conference on the subject scheduled for Tuesday.

Supporters of the protocol say it is an important step in freeing the world from the practice of torture.

They say Canadian ratification would strengthen the country's ability to press other countries to open detention centres to increased scrutiny.

With files from Mike Blanchfield

Copyright ©2016 TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc. "The Huffington Post" is a registered trademark of TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc. All rights reserved. 2016©




Liberals must end Canada's 'previous complicity in torture,' says victim

posted on May 05, 2016 | in Category Canada | PermaLink

by Mike Blanchfield (CP)
Source: CBC News
URL: [link]
Date: May 3, 2016


A prominent Canadian victim of abuse behind bars in Syria is calling on the government to cancel controversial directives that allow for the sharing of intelligence that could lead to torture.

Abdullah Almalki, a Canadian who was imprisoned and tortured in Syria for almost two years, said Tuesday it is time the Liberals ditched the policy that was enacted by the previous Conservative government.

Almalki said the current government must end Canada's "previous complicity in torture."

Almalki and other human rights activists said cancelling the directives is the next logical step for the government after it announced Monday it was prepared to join a key United Nations anti-torture agreement more than a decade after it was first passed.

Almalki was part of a group of human rights activists that praised Monday's surprise announcement by Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion. But they said the government must go further, and cancel the torture directives.

"Many of the prisoners I've interviewed have reverted to saying things that necessarily didn't happen or they were told to confess in order to avoid the torture," said Mohamed Fahmy, the Canadian journalist who was imprisoned in Egypt.

Alex Neve, the head of Amnesty International Canada, said his organization has been campaigning for years to get the controversial torture directives thrown out.

"It certainly would be very much in keeping with the spirit of what we heard yesterday ... to rescind that very troubling ministerial direction and bring our intelligence sharing practices into line with our international obligations," said Neve.

Fahmy and Neve warned Dion and the provinces not to dither and to bring Canada into full compliance with the anti-torture convention within one year.

The federal government must now consult with the provinces on the legal way forward for Canada to formally join the UN anti-torture convention.

© The Canadian Press, 2016


Canada to join UN anti-torture protocol after more than a decade

posted on May 05, 2016 | in Category Canada | PermaLink

by The Canadian Press
Source: The Globe & Mail
URL: [link]
Date: May 2, 2016

Canada is prepared to join a key United Nations anti-torture agreement more than a decade after it was first passed.

The UN’s optional protocol to the convention against torture allows for the establishment of national and international systems for inspecting detention centres where torture often takes place in secrecy.

It was first approved by the world body in 2002.

Although dozens of countries have signed on, Canada has not ratified the protocol. The Harper government twice promised to do so, but never did.

The new Trudeau government will follow through, says

Chantal Gagnon, a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion, says the Trudeau government plans to make good on the commitment.

Copyright 2016 The Globe and Mail Inc. All Rights Reserved.


Harkat buoyed by U.K. court ruling that six terror suspects can't be deported

posted on April 26, 2016 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

by Andrew Duffy
Source: The Ottawa Citizen
URL: [link]
Date: April 25, 2016

[PHOTO: Mohamed Harkat's defence team hopes a recent UK decision on six terror accused will help in Harkat's fight against deportation to Algeria.]


Mohamed Harkat’s defence team will use a recent British court ruling to argue that the Algerian-born terror suspect should not be deported to the turbulent North African country.

A panel of judges from the United Kingdom’s Special Immigration Appeals Commission ruled last week that six Algerian terror suspects cannot be deported because of the “real risk” they’ll be tortured in their native country.

The judges said the situation in Algeria is unpredictable given the threat of Islamism in the region, and the frail health of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Bouteflika, 79, suffered a serious stroke in April 2013 and questions remain about who’s actually running the country.

The U.K. judges said Algeria’s volatility undermined the government’s argument that “diplomatic assurances” could be relied upon to protect the six terror suspects from torture if deported.

The Algerians, who live in England under strict bail conditions, have been fighting deportation for 10 years.

In Canada, the federal government continues to pursue the deportation of Ottawa’s Harkat 14 years after he was first arrested on the strength of a national security certificate.

A feature of federal immigration law, security certificates give the government the power to remove foreign-born terror suspects based, in part, on secret evidence.

Harkat’s lawyer, Barbara Jackman, said the U.K. court ruling will form part of her submission to the federal official who must now decide whether Harkat should be deported.

That official, known as a minister’s delegate, must weigh the risk that Harkat poses to Canadians against the risk that he will be tortured in Algeria.

“The U.K. judgment,” Jackman said, “appears to be solidly grounded in the framework of human rights protection obligations.”

As signatories to the UN convention against torture, Canada and the U.K. are prohibited from returning people to countries where they face a substantial risk of torture or other inhuman treatment.

The Canadian government has sought to reduce the level of risk in the Harkat case by obtaining diplomatic assurances from the Algerian government that the al-Qaida-linked terror suspect wouldn’t be mistreated.

Harkat’s wife, Sophie, said the U.K. case shows that those guarantees are not worth the paper on which they’re written. “It confirms that diplomatic assurances are not reliable — and they’re the backbone of the whole process,” she said.

Harkat intends to formally petition Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale later this year to allow him to stay in Canada. The minister has the statutory power to halt Harkat’s deportation if he finds that the action is “not contrary to the national interest.”

“This has lasted so long, we just want to put an end to this,” said Sophie Harkat. “Why do they want to go on with this process?”

Harkat, 47, has enlisted the support of dozens of high-profile Canadians, including Alexandre Trudeau, the prime minster’s brother. In a letter to Goodale, issued in Februrary, Alexandre Trudeau said he’s “absolutely convinced” that Harkat poses no danger to public safety in Canada.

In May 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the government’s revised security certificate regime and affirmed a decision that found Harkat to be an active member of the al-Qaida terrorist network.

The case against Harkat was built on 13 wiretapped phone conversations and at least two unnamed informants, one of whom failed a lie-detector test.

Harkat insists he will be tortured or killed if returned to Algeria, the country from which he fled in March 1990 during a military crackdown on government opponents.

Last week, Harkat underwent shoulder surgery to correct a longstanding injury that he suffered in a fall while delivering pizzas before his arrest in December 2002.

© 2016 Postmedia Network Inc. All rights reserved.

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