Kafka's Canada at 15: The secret trials of Mohamed Harkat

posted on December 01, 2017 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

by Matthew Behrens
Source: Rabble.ca
URL: [link]
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.

Two-tier justice

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.



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