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Groups call for detainees to be freed from Laval facility amid COVID-19 outbreak

posted on February 24, 2021 | in Category Canada | PermaLink

by Pierre Sainte-Arnaud
Source: Presse Canadienne
URL: [link]
Date: February 24, 2021

Several community groups are calling on Ottawa to free those who are being kept at an immigration detention centre in Laval after a COVID-19 outbreak at the facility.

According to information obtained by Solidarité sans frontières, several detainees are on hunger strike to protest poor standards of hygiene at the Centre de surveillance de l’immigration de Laval, saying they are at great risk.

At least five cases of COVID-19 were recorded among the detainees, but 12 to 15 people are in isolation at the facility. Visits have been cancelled since last March — a situation that severely limits their access to legal support and aggravates their isolation, the groups say.

According to accounts from detainees, they are being held in cramped quarters that are badly maintained and there is lots of dust in the air, which causes some to have breathing difficulty and irritations. The detainees say they are not even able to wash their clothes.

Those being held at the CSI Laval are awaiting deportation, are undocumented immigrants or entered Canada in an irregular manner, so they are considered to be flight risks.

However, the groups say their detention is both cruel and dangerous during the pandemic.

© 2021 Montreal Gazette, a division of Postmedia Network Inc. All rights reserved.

Algeria: civil society mobilizes against torture practiced by security services

posted on February 23, 2021 | in Category International | PermaLink

Source: The North Africa Post
Date: February 14, 2021

Algerian NGOs have announced Saturday in Algiers the setting up of a committee to fight torture and violence suffered by prisoners of conscience, after accusations of rape shocked the public opinion.

The testimony in early February of Walid Nekiche, a 25-year-old pro-democracy activist, who claims to have been tortured and sexually assaulted by members of the security services, triggered indignation and forced the general prosecutor of the Court of Algiers to open an investigation.

In reaction, several associations decided to set up a “Committee to fight torture and inhuman prison conditions of detainees in Algeria”, so that “justice is rendered.”

The new body brings together the National Committee for the Liberation of Detainees (CNLD), the National Coordination of Algerian Academics for Change and the Collective of lawyers for the defense of prisoners of conscience.

“By revealing in front of magistrates the abuse he was subjected to, Walid Nekkiche broke the omerta. He showed an exemplary courage,” said representatives of the anti-torture collective at a press conference in Algiers, reported AFP.

Walid Nekiche was arrested on November 26, 2019, for participation in an anti-regime demonstration, known as Hirak. The student, who was placed in pre-trial detention for 15 months, revealed during his trial on February 1 that he had been physically and verbally assaulted, tortured and raped during questioning carried out by elements of the Algerian security services, at the “Antar center”, a barracks on the outskirts of Algiers, notorious for such practices by the security services.

“They tortured me. They sexually assaulted me. They took away my dignity.” It was in these three sentences that Walid Nekiche broke the omerta in a court in eastern Algeria, bringing back to minds the specter of torture in the North African country.

“His rape is our rape, all of us as a people, civil society, activists. It must not go unpunished,” journalist Zoheïr Aberkane, member of the newly created committee, was quoted by AFP as saying.

“We have filed a complaint and we are asking the courts to intervene according to Algerian and international laws”, another member of the committee, lawyer Nacera Hadouche, said.

“The preliminary investigation by the prosecution must not be yet another subterfuge to calm anger and indignation” and “places of torture such as the ‘Antar barracks’ must be banned”, the committee demands.

According to the committee, “the conditions of arrest, incarceration and detention of detainees reported by lawyers confirm cases of ill-treatment, violence and torture in various police structures and security services, as well as in prisons.”

The case of Walid Nekiche was also referred to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights by Riposte Internationale, a NGO for the defense of human rights.

Meanwhile, Communication Minister Ammar Belhimer continues to claim that “there are no prisoners of conscience in Algeria,” while the National Committee for the Liberation of Detainees (CNLD) affirms that more than 70 people have been arrested for participating in the Hirak movement and are currently in illegal pre-trial detention.

Walid Nekiche’s case broke out in a context of tension for the regime as the second anniversary of the “Hirak” is nearing. The Hirak for regime change started on February 22, 2019 and prompted two months later the resignation of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

© 2021 The North Africa Post.


Algerian rights groups demand investigations into rape and torture in custody allegations

posted on February 23, 2021 | in Category International | PermaLink

Source: MorningStar
URL: [link]
Date: February 14, 2021

Algerian rights organisations and lawyers have formed a new coalition demanding investigations into allegations of rape and torture of opposition supporters held in custody.

The National Committee for the Liberation of Detainees (CNLD), the National Co-ordination of Algerian Academics for Change and the Collective of Lawyers for the Defence of Prisoners of Conscience announced the committee on Saturday after Walid Nekkiche claimed he was beaten and raped by security forces earlier this month.

The 25-year-old student was detained in November during a march by students as part of the anti-government protest movement known as the Hirak, which marks its second anniversary on February 22.

The CNLD estimates that more than 70 people are currently imprisoned in Algeria in connection with the protests.

“If today we ask for a trial, it is a fair trial: the torturers have not been directly condemned, we have filed a complaint, we have told the justice system to intervene according to domestic and international laws,” Algerian lawyer Nacera Hadouche said.

Journalist Zoheir Aberkane said: “What shocked us is that when Walid Nekkiche is abused, we are all abused, as a people, as civil society, as activists, as citizens, etc. And that, in my opinion, should not go unpunished.”

(c) Copyright Morningstar Online. All rights reserved.


Algerian NGOs create committee to protect prisoners after rape claims

posted on February 23, 2021 | in Category International | PermaLink

by Afia Owusu
Source: Ghana Crusader
URL: [link]
Date: February 15, 2021

Rights groups in Algeria have created a new committee to fight against abuse of prisoners after claims by 25-year-old protester Walid Nekkiche who was beaten and raped by security forces while in custody.

The committee says it will fight against what they call out as torture and inhuman prison conditions.

“What shocked us is that when Walid Nekkiche is abused, we are all abused, as a people, as civil society, as activists, as citizens, etc. And that, in my opinion, should not go unpunished,” said Algerian journalist Zoheir Aberkane.

The committee is made up of the National Committee for the Liberation of Detainees (CNLD), the National Coordination of Algerian Academics for Change and the Collective of lawyers for the defense of prisoner of conscience.

The CNLD estimates more than 70 people are currently imprisoned in Algeria in connection with the Hirak protests or for individual freedoms.

“If today we ask for a trial, it is a fair trial: the torturers have not been directly condemned, we have filed a complaint, we have told the justice system to intervene according to domestic and international laws,” said Algerian lawyer Nacéra Hadouche.

Nekkiche, a student, was arrested in November during a march by students of the anti-government Hirak protest movement.

The second anniversary of the Hirak is on February 22.

The movement forced the resignation of President Bouteflika but they still protest against the government to this day.

Copyright © Ghanacrusader 2021.


Outrage after the testimony of a “tortured” student

posted on February 12, 2021 | in Category International | PermaLink

Source: PiratePress.org
URL: [link]
Date: February 7, 2021

The testimony of a young Algerian democracy student who claims to have been tortured by members of the security services sparked indignation in Algeria for several days.

“I lived through hell,” said 25-year-old Walid Nekkiche, who was recently released after more than a year in prison in the French-language daily Liberté. “I went through a lot during those fourteen months in prison, and especially the six days I spent in the Ben Aknoun barracks,” known as the Antar Center in Algiers, testifies to the student at the Higher Institute of Sciences of the Sea and Regional Planning (Ismal).

“There was a lot of pressure on me. After this long and excruciating passage in this eerie place, I was introduced to the examining magistrate of the court of Bab El-Oued (north of Algiers) before I was imprisoned in El Harrach prison.” he added.

Sentenced to six months in prison

The young man was released Wednesday after being sentenced to six months in prison for “distributing and possessing leaflets in order to harm the interest of the country”. The prosecutor of the Dar El Beida court in Algiers on Monday requested a life sentence against the student, who was charged with “conspiracy against the state”, “attacking the integrity of the national territory” and “inciting the population to take up arms” very much serious charges under Algerian law.

Tizi Ouzou, a native of Kabylia, was accused of belonging to the Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylia, an illegal separatist organization, according to Algerian media. “Fortunately, I did not collapse because I was confident that the lawyers were determined and well equipped to bring the false charges against me. I had to hold on for my parents,” said Walid. Nekkiche from Liberty.

I was attacked sexually, physically and verbally

During the trial on Monday, the student said he was “sexually, physically and verbally assaulted by security services during his interrogation.”

The discovery of this abuse sparked outrage and received extensive commentary on some media and social networks, with calls for an investigation increasing. Authorities have not commented.

“We asked for an independent investigation and a judicial investigation to be opened to determine who was responsible,” said Said Salhi, vice-president of the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights.

The request follows “serious statements” made by Walid Nekkiche during his trial in which he alleged “he was tortured in police custody,” Salhi said. According to him, the student’s attorney filed a complaint in July but “there was no follow-up”.

In a joint statement, the National Committee for the Liberation of Prisoners (CNLD) and the National Coordination of Algerian Academics for Change condemned “torture” and “normalization of violence, which in Algeria are reaching alarming proportions”.

Walid Nekkiche was arrested on November 26, 2019 in Algiers during a weekly march by students of the anti-regime protest movement “Hirak”, born in February 2019.

His co-defendant Kamel Bensaad (43) was acquitted. According to the CNLD, around 80 people are currently detained in Algeria in connection with the “Hirak” protests and / or individual freedoms. In at least 90% of cases, law enforcement is based on publications on social networks that are critical of the authorities.

Copyright Pirate Press ©. All rights reserved.


Send Holiday Cards for Harkat’s Freedom: Stop Deportation to Torture

posted on December 10, 2020 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

by: Matthew Behrens
Source: Stop Canadian Involvement in Torture
URL: [link]
Date: December 10, 2020

Please send a season’s greeting card or letter to Public Safety Minister Bill Blair to stop the persecution of Ottawa refugee Mohamed Harkat, still fighting to end his deportation to torture and win his long-deserved permanent residence (samples below. No postage needed!). December holidays are rooted in freeing the captives, bringing good news to the poor and brokenhearted, and liberation of the oppressed. You can send the greetings postage-free, and it will have far more impact in the age of electronic communication. Sample messages are below.

Thank you!
Matthew Behrens
Stop Canadian Involvement in Torture

THE ISSUE

Starting December 10, 2002, Mohamed (Moe) Harkat was illegally held for 43 months in maximum security detention without charge on secret allegations he was not allowed to properly contest. He was held under legislation unanimously found to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2007.

Read more...


Canada drags its feet on international convention against torture

posted on September 21, 2020 | in Category Canada | PermaLink

by Lital Khaikin
Source: Canadian Dimension
URL: [link]


Date: September 18, 2020

Canada still hasn’t ratified OPCAT, revealing apathy of Canadian politicians toward human rights standards

Protocol against torture

Not only has the COVID-19 pandemic revealed cracks in Canada’s social services, but it has also shone a stronger light on the shameful conditions endured by inmates in both criminal and immigrant detention centres. Now Canada is facing increasing scrutiny of detention conditions and how they exacerbate racial and economic discrimination.

Earlier this spring, for example, refugees detained at the Laval Immigration Holding Centre held a hunger strike against the abusive treatment meted out by guards and the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA). Well into June, over a hundred inmates at the super-jail in Lindsay, Ontario went on a hunger strike to protest unsanitary conditions and disregard for dietary needs and restrictions. And just a few months ago, the Canadian military was sent in to report on Québec’s long-term care homes, where the province’s worst COVID-19 outbreaks resulted in thousands of preventable deaths, and where seniors were subject to despicable neglect and deprived of their dignity.

What these cases have in common is a lack of consistent oversight and accountability mechanisms to ensure humane treatment. But here in Canada, the connection has rarely been made with a solution that has been embraced by many other countries.

Over 30 years ago, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment came into force as most of the world’s countries agreed to ban the use of torture and establish international standards to hold one another accountable. Through an arduous 11-year process, the United Nations followed this up with another agreement, requiring countries to adopt a preventative mechanism for inspections and oversight of state detention facilities.

This treaty came to be known as the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT). It entered into force in 2006—the same year that Canada was elected to the UN Human Rights Council. But somehow, despite early leadership in developing the Convention Against Torture, almost 15 years of successive Canadian governments have failed to make the prevention of torture in Canadian facilities a priority.

The definition of torture is wide-ranging; it includes “severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental” that is intentionally inflicted to obtain information, to punish, to intimidate or coerce, or “for any reason based on discrimination” with the instigation or consent of a public official. OPCAT is thus relevant not only to police and military facilities, but also any places where people are deprived of freedom. These include immigration detention facilities, senior care centres, psychiatric facilities, and group homes.

OPCAT forces government departments and institutions to decide on how they will meet standards of humane treatment. For Canada to ratify OPCAT would mean creating what’s known as a National Preventative Mechanism (NPM), which would serve as an independent body that visits places of detention to ensure that conditions conform to international standards. It would also integrate existing inspections and oversight mechanisms, like Canada’s Office of the Correctional Investigator.



[ Read the rest ... ]

Canada’s Spy Agency Likely Committed Illegal Acts To Investigate Foreign Fighters, Top Court Rules

posted on July 21, 2020 | in Category CSIS | PermaLink

by Justin Ling
Source: Vice.com
URL: [link]
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 uncertainty

posted on December 20, 2019 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

by: Jillian Kestler-D'Amours Source: Al Jazeera English URL: [link] Date: December 16, 2019 Supporters of Mohamed Harkat, who's spent 17 years under 'security certificate', says he'll face persecution if deported

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 office

posted on December 20, 2019 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

Date: December 10, 2019
WATCH VIDEO ON FACEBOOK, PART 1



WATCH VIDEO ON FACEBOOK, PART 2



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