Algeria: Government Bars UN Experts from Probing Human Rights Abuses, AI

posted on March 01, 2016 | in Category International | PermaLink

by Kamailoudini Tagba
Source: North Africa Post
URL: [link]
Date: February 25, 2016


Amnesty International lashed out at Algerian authorities in its human rights annual report presented Wednesday because of their persistent refusal to let UN experts investigate human right abuses and because they granted immunity to the authors of the grave crimes and tortures cased during the internal bloody war of 1990s.

“The authorities persisted in their refusal to allow visits to Algeria by some UN human rights bodies and experts, including those with mandates on torture, counter-terrorism, enforced disappearances and freedom of association,” the report says.

Algerian authorities have maintained state control on human rights and have attacked any one daring to speak against regime.

The report takes in account many aspects of human rights namely freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, freedom of association, the state of human rights activism, the justice system, women’s rights, impunity and the death penalty.

On all those aspects, the Algerian regime is severely slammed for doing nothing to improve its records.

The annual report indicates that over the year 2015, the State brutally handled gatherings and protests by activists and people claiming their rights. The report for instance explained that members of the National Committee for the Defense of the Rights of the Unemployed (CNDDC) were handed prison terms of between one and two years.

The report also highlights government attempts to restrict freedom of association and determination to muzzle organizations and associations that fail to fall in line with government code of conduct.

“Associations seeking legal registration under Law 12-06, including Amnesty International Algeria, were left in limbo by the authorities, who failed to respond to registration applications.” the report says.

Commenting on the report, Amnesty International Algeria local Director Hassina Oussedik charged Algerian authorities for closing eyes on heinous and grave crimes committed during Algeria’s darkest history period of 1990s. For her the national reconciliation immunity granted in the new constitution to authors of grave crimes rolls back victims’ right for justice and reparation.

“The authorities continued to fail to investigate thousands of enforced disappearances and other serious human rights violations and abuses, bring perpetrators to justice, and provide effective remedies to victims’ families,” the report adds.

© 2016 The North Africa Post


God Willing: The Story of Sophie Harkat

posted on February 27, 2016 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

by Zoe Chong
Source: The Carleton chapter of Journalists for Human Rights (JHR)
URL: [link]
Date: February 26, 2016


“Terrorism.” The word threw Sophie Harkat back into her chair, like a bomb emitting a shockwave through the earpiece of the phone. The impact forced out a scream of disbelief, and her concerned colleagues ran to her. It was a Tuesday afternoon and Sophie was at her shared office in the membership fundraising department at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. She’d just received a call from her husband’s immigration lawyer: He had been arrested. For suspected terrorism.

It was three weeks shy of their second wedding anniversary on Dec. 10, 2002, International Human Rights Day, when Mohamed Harkat was arrested under a security certificate—a controversial tool in Canadian immigration law, implemented in 1978, that allows the government to indefinitely detain non-citizens suspected of terrorism. A three-walled prison the government calls it—because the option to go back to your home country is always open, even if that means facing torture and even death. These individuals aren’t charged with a crime and don’t have access to any of the evidence against them. Since 1991, 27 men have been issued a security certificate. Currently, there are three men who have outstanding security certificates.

Mohamed Harkat, 47, an Algerian-native who has lived in Canada since 1995 and goes by Moe—a name well suited for the community handyman—has been living in Ottawa under this security certificate for over 13 years. Sophie has been fighting for his life ever since.

Moe was granted refugee status in 1997 after successfully claiming government persecution based on his political affiliations if he returned to Algeria, where his family still lives and he’ll likely never be able to see again. CSIS alleged that Moe was an al-Qaeda sleeper agent who attended a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan and ran a guesthouse for terrorists in Pakistan, among other circumstantial evidence the government says is too dangerous to reveal.



[ Read the rest ... ]

Dany Villanueva will be allowed to stay in Canada

posted on February 27, 2016 | in Category Canada's Immigration Policy | PermaLink

Source: CBC News Montreal and The Canadian Press
URL: [link]
Date: February 26, 2016


[PHOTO: Dany Villanueva was facing deportation over an armed robbery charge.]


Dany Villanueva, the brother of a man killed by police in 2008, will be allowed to stay in Canada because of the risks he would face in his native Honduras.

Villanueva was facing deportation after pleading guilty to a 2006 armed robbery.

This week, he received a letter from a representative of federal immigration minister John McCallum, confirming that his request for a pre-removal risk assessment was accepted, his lawyer Stéphane Handfield said.

Federal authorities decided that the risk he faces in Honduras is greater than the danger he poses to Canadian society, Handfield noted.

Villanueva is the brother of Fredy Villanueva, who was gunned down by a police officer at a Montreal North park in August 2008.

He was charged again with armed robbery in 2008, just weeks prior to Fredy's death, but was acquitted in 2011.

Villanueva's lawyer sees this decision as evidence of a "new attitude" in the immigration department since the election of the new Liberal government. "It's like night and day," Handfield said.

©2016 CBC/Radio-Canada. All rights reserved.


Dany Villanueva peut rester au Canada

posted on February 27, 2016 | in Category Canada's Immigration Policy | PermaLink

par La Presse Canadienne
Source: La Presse
URL: [link]
Date: 26 février 2016


Le ministère fédéral de l'Immigration permet à Dany Villanueva de rester au Canada en raison des risques auxquels le jeune homme s'exposerait en rentrant dans son Honduras natal.

Celui qui était menacé d'expulsion en raison de ses antécédents judiciaires a reçu cette semaine une lettre d'un délégué du ministre John McCallum, lui confirmant que sa demande d'Évaluation des risques avant renvoi (ÉRAR) a été acceptée, selon son avocat, Stéphane Handfield.

Dany Villanueva est le frère de Fredy Villanueva, qui était tombé sous les balles d'un policier alors qu'il se trouvait dans un parc de Montréal-Nord en août 2008, un drame qui avait fait grand bruit à l'époque.

Il était sous le coup d'un ordre d'expulsion du Canada après avoir été condamné pour vol qualifié.

Les autorités fédérales ont toutefois déterminé que le risque auquel il s'exposait en rentrant dans son pays d'origine était plus important que le niveau de dangerosité qu'il constituait pour la société canadienne, a expliqué en entrevue téléphonique Me Handfield.

L'avocat voit en cette décision la matérialisation d'une « nouvelle attitude » au ministère fédéral de l'Immigration depuis l'élection du nouveau gouvernement libéral. « C'est le jour et la nuit », a-t-il résumé.

Tous droits réservés © Société Radio-Canada 2016


[AUDIO] CKUT Radio interview with Sophie Harkat (Jan 2016)

posted on February 05, 2016 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

by Rose W
Source: CKUT News Collective
URL: [link]
Date: February 5, 2016

CKUT’s Rose W recently talked to Sophie Harkat, whose husband Mohamed Harkat was arrested 13 years ago under a secret trial Security Certificate.

Listen:





[VIDEO] ICLMG calls for strong Oversight & Review of our national security agencies

posted on January 27, 2016 | in Category Security Certificates | PermaLink

by ICLMG
Source: YouTube.com
URL: [link]
Date: January 25, 2016

Here is a video the ICLMG has made to call for stronger and more integrated review of Canada's national security agencies and specifically for the implementation of Justice O'Connor's recommendations. Please share widely via email, on social media and link to your website:




‘Troubling’ Conservative torture policy up for review, Goodale says

posted on January 23, 2016 | in Category Security Certificates | PermaLink

by Jim Bronskill (CP)
Source: National Newswatch
URL: [link]
Date: January 19. 2016


OTTAWA — The Trudeau Liberals will review controversial directives enacted by the Harper government that allow for the sharing of information even when it might lead to torture, says the public safety minister.

The "troubling set of issues" raised by the foreign information-sharing policy "will be raised in the course of our consultations" on the overall national security direction of the new government, Ralph Goodale said in a recent interview with The Canadian Press.

The news follows pressure from human-rights and privacy advocates to conduct a wide-ranging examination of security policies introduced by the Conservatives, whisked from office in the October election.

The federal policy on foreign information-sharing has been roundly criticized for effectively condoning the torture of people in overseas prisons, contrary to international law and Canada's United Nations commitments.

A four-page 2010 framework document, released under the Access to Information Act, says when there is a "substantial risk" that sending information to, or soliciting information from, a foreign agency would result in torture — and it is unclear whether the risk can be managed through assurances or other means — the matter should be referred to the responsible deputy minister or agency head.

In deciding what to do, the agency head will consider factors including the threat to Canada's national security and the nature and imminence of the threat; the status of Canada's relationship with — and the human rights record of — the foreign agency; and the rationale for believing that sharing the information would lead to torture.

Critics say when there is a serious risk of torture, there should be no sharing — period.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the RCMP, the Canada Border Services Agency, National Defence and the Communications Security Establishment, Canada's electronic spy agency, are bound by the federal policy on sharing information with foreign agencies.

"That's a very troubling set of issues," Goodale said, adding the government intends to develop a response "that reflects what Canadians want."

"We'll be listening very carefully for the messages from Canadians on that subject."

Goodale said the Liberal government is open to a general rethinking of national security legislation, not just a few changes the party has promised to the omnibus bill known as C-51.

The government plans to give Canadians their say before deciding what changes to make.

Follow @JimBronskill on Twitter

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

© 2016 National Newswatch Inc.


Liberals must end Canada’s complicity in torture

posted on January 07, 2016 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

by Monia Mazigh and Azeezah Kanji
Source: The Toronto Star
URL: [link]
Date: January 7, 2016


The spectacle of torture haunts the “war on terror.” From Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo Bay to “black sites” and prisons all over the world, thousands of men and women (but mostly men) have been imprisoned and made subject to horrific forms of physical and psychological violence. Beatings, rapes, threats of rape, electric shocks, waterboarding, forced feeding, forced nudity – these are some of the barbarisms performed in the name of saving civilization from the threat of terrorism.

Canada’s participation in this global network of torture is less visible than the United States’. Our involvement has been less direct. Our hands appear cleaner, our consciences less tainted. And yet, Canada has also been complicit in torture in the years since 9/11, under both Liberal and Conservative governments. We have also breached law and principle for the sake of “national security”: a “security” that seemingly continues to elude us, despite the sacrifices of rights and freedoms made at its altar.

Canada’s position on torture is currently on trial in the case of Mohamed Harkat.

Harkat arrived in Canada in 1995 as a refugee from Algeria. Seeking security, he was instead labelled a security threat, and detained without trial under Canada’s security certificate regime in 2002. Accused of being a sleeper agent for Al Qaeda, Mohamed Harkat was incarcerated for four years and then held under extremely restrictive bail conditions – all on the strength of secret evidence that he was not allowed to see.

Now, Harkat is facing deportation to possible torture in Algeria. In 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the security certificate against him, paving the way for the government’s deportation efforts. Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, who wrote the decision, acknowledged that Harkat “potentially faces deportation to a country where he may be at risk for torture or death, although the constitutionality of his deportation in such circumstances is not before us in the present appeal.”

This assessment is corroborated by human rights groups. Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada, observed that deporting Harkat would expose him to risk of serious mistreatment. Indeed, Algeria is notorious for torturing prisoners, particularly those suspected of involvement in terrorism.

International law condemns torture in the strongest possible terms. The ban on torture is absolute: no reason or excuse can justify the use of any form of torture. Article 3 of the United Nations Convention Against Torture forbids deporting or transferring individuals to states where they may be tortured. Relying on pledges not to torture from states known to torture is also prohibited – as foolish as delivering a mouse into the jaws of a lion that has promised not to eat it.

International law notwithstanding, the Conservative government initiated deportation proceedings against Mohamed Harkat during this last election, proceedings that the recently elected Liberal government have not halted so far.

Disturbingly, this is not the first instance of Canadian government complicity in torture in the “war on terror.” For example, the O’Connor and Iacobucci inquiries revealed the role that Canadian government officials played in the secret detention and torture of four innocent Canadian citizens – Maher Arar, Ahmad El-Maati, Abdullah Almalki, and Muayyed Nureddin – in Syria (and also in Egypt, in the case of El-Maati).

The ghastly details of Syrian and Egyptian torture chambers have long been public knowledge, documented in reports by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. But instead of protecting its citizens from abuse at the hands of these torturous regimes, our government took advantage of the situation: Canadian intelligence agencies sent information for the Syrians and Egyptians to use in their interrogations.

The United Nations Committee Against Torture castigated the Canadian government for its complicity in the torture of Arar, El-Maati, Almalki and Nureddin. But while Maher Arar has received compensation for his ordeal, Canada’s other torture victims continue to fight lengthy legal battles for recompense.

More recently, we have learned through media reports that Salim Alaradi, a Canadian citizen of Libyan descent who has been incarcerated for more than 17 months in the United Arab Emirates without charges, has been tortured. His lawyer Paul Champ told the media that the Canadian government knew Alaradi was tortured, but did not tell the family until he became involved in the case as lawyer. Is it a privacy issue as the government claims, or yet another deafening silence when it comes to denouncing torture?

These shameful episodes did not only occur under Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, infamous for its willingness to discard the basic human rights of certain humans, but also during the post-9/11 reign of the Liberal Party.

The Liberals and their “sunny ways” are back again. Will they finally banish the dark shadow of Canadian complicity in torture?

Dr. Monia Mazigh is an author, academic, and human rights activist, and is national coordinator of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group. Azeezah Kanji is a graduate of University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law and programming coordinator at Noor Cultural Centre.

© Copyright Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd. 1996-2016




Amnesty International warns Ottawa man faces serious mistreatment if deported

posted on December 14, 2015 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

by Jim Bronskill (CP)
Source: CTV News
URL: [link]
Date: December 10, 2015


OTTAWA -- Amnesty International says Mohamed Harkat faces serious mistreatment if he is returned to his native Algeria and it joined the Ottawa man Thursday in urging the Trudeau government to halt his deportation.

Harkat, a former pizza delivery man, was taken into custody 13 years ago on suspicion of being an al-Qaida sleeper agent -- an accusation he denies.

The federal government has been trying to deport the Algerian refugee on a national security certificate -- a seldom-used tool in immigration law for removing non-citizens suspected of extremism or espionage.

Harkat, 47, fears he will be tortured if forced to leave Canada.

"I love this country and I came here for a better life," he said during a news conference.

"I just want my life back."

Amnesty International's research suggests a return to Algeria could put Harkat at serious risk of being placed in "incommunicado detention," meaning he would be denied access to family, legal counsel or an independent doctor, contrary to international human rights law, said Hilary Homes of the organization's Canadian branch.

People suspected of terrorism-related offences are often detained by the Algerian security forces and denied contact with the outside world, sometimes for prolonged periods, she said.

In addition, Algerian courts continue to accept confessions extracted under torture or duress, resulting in unfair trials, Homes said.

"Effective safeguards against torture or ill-treatment in Algerian law and practice are lacking and security forces continue to enjoy impunity for their acts of torture and ill-treatment of those they detain," she told the news conference.

"It's time for Canada to do the right thing and stop trying to deport Mohamed Harkat."

Harkat's lawyers have long argued the security certificate process is unfair because the person facing deportation doesn't see the full case against them.

The Supreme Court of Canada upheld the certificate against Harkat last year and the government has since taken initial steps toward removing him.

Amnesty is concerned the federal government might rely on Algerian assurances that Harkat would not be mistreated in ultimately deciding to return him, Homes said.

"Such assurances from governments with a poor human rights record are inherently unreliable and do not provide an effective safeguard against torture or ill-treatment."

© 2015 Bell Media All rights reserved.


Harkat calls on Liberal government to cancel his deportation

posted on December 11, 2015 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

by Andrew Duffy
Source: The Ottawa Citizen
URL: [link]
Date: December 10, 2015


[PHOTO: Mohamed Harkat (left), who was arrested and detained under a secret trial Security Certificate, stands with lawyer Leo Russomano during a press conference to mark the 13th anniversary of his detention and International Human Right's Day on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. ]



Ottawa terror suspect Mohamed Harkat has called on the Liberal government to halt his deportation and end his labyrinthine journey through the federal security certificate process.

The Algerian-born Harkat, 47, issued a public plea Thursday for clemency on the 13th anniversary of his arrest at a Vanier townhouse complex.

He subsequently spent three years in jail and another seven years under strict house arrest during a legal odyssey that twice saw his case go the Supreme Court.

This August, more than a year after the high court affirmed a decision that found Harkat to be an active member of the al-Qaida network, the government launched deportation proceedings against him.

“I would like to start a new page and be given a chance to move on with my life,” Harkat said in an interview Thursday. “I have big hope in this government.”

Harkat said he would be imprisoned and tortured if returned to Algeria, a country from which he fled as a university student in March 1990 because of his opposition to the military government.

After five years in Pakistan — security agents allege that he made terrorist contacts during that time — Harkat flew to Canada and claimed refugee status. He came to the attention of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service almost immediately, but was not arrested until December 2002 during the heated aftermath of 9/11.

“I’ve spent my adult life in this country,” Harkat said Thursday, “and I love this county. I love the people.”

Amnesty International has said returning Harkat to Algeria would likely expose him to “incommunicado detention,” a situation often faced by terror suspects in which they’re put at increased risk of torture through extended periods of isolation.

Harkat’s wife, Sophie, said Canada has a legal and moral obligation not to deport someone to a country where they could face torture. “During the election,” she said, “the Liberals liked to describe themselves as the party of the Charter so we’ll be putting a lot of pressure on them to hold them to that.”

What’s more, she said, it makes no sense to deport her husband when he has been living in the community for years without incident and has proven that he poses no threat.

“Let’s just save everyone a lot of time, a lot of heartache and money, and end it right now,” she argued. “We’re not asking for an apology or anything else: We’re just asking them to drop the whole procedure. We just want to lead a normal life. That’s it.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s brother, Alexandre, supported Harkat in June 2006 when he first applied for bail. Alexandre Trudeau filed an affidavit and offered a cash bond in support of Harkat’s application; he also wrote, directed and produced a documentary, Secure Freedom, that highlighted the injustices of the original security certificate process.

Harkat lawyer Leo Russomanno said Thursday that he has received no indication from government officials whether they’re going to proceed with the deportation, which was initiated during the election campaign.

Deportation promises to raise difficult legal issues. A government official will first have to determine whether Harkat remains a serious threat to national security. If the minister’s delegate concludes such a risk exists, the official must then assess what kind of torture risk Harkat would face if returned to Algeria, and whether the government can rely on diplomatic assurances that he won’t be mistreated. Those two risk assessments would then be weighed against one another to arrive at a deportation decision.

The Supreme Court has ruled that terror suspects can only be deported in “exceptional circumstances” to countries where they face a substantial risk of torture.

© 2015 Postmedia Network Inc. All rights reserved.


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