Security concerns not a justification

posted on November 03, 2005 | in Category International | PermaLink

Original author: Michelle Shephard Source: The Toronto Star URL: [link] (subscribers only) Date: November 3, 2005 Torture never justified: U.N. Canada's role in deportations attacked Report urges federal government probe Canada could be breaking law

Canada would violate international law if terrorism suspects are deported to countries where they face torture, a U.N. Human Rights Committee report states. The strongly worded report urged the federal government to investigate claims of complicity in the torture of three Canadian citizens. An independent report last week backed up claims by Ahmed Elmaati, Muayyed Nureddin and Abdullah Almalki that they had been tortured in Syrian jails."(Canada) should recognize the absolute nature of the prohibition of torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, which in no circumstances can be derogated from. Such treatments can never be justified on the basis of a balance to be found between society's interest and the individual's rights," the report states.

Alex Swann, spokesperson for Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan, said yesterday the report would be reviewed and an official response prepared for the U.N. group. But Swann disagreed with the findings that stated Canada risks breaching international conventions prohibiting torture.

The decision on whether terrorism suspects can be returned to countries where they'll face torture will be debated next year when the Supreme Court hears arguments about the constitutionality of an immigration provision known as national security certificates.

The certificate, if upheld by a federal court justice, allows the government to deport non-citizens deemed security risks. A 2002 Supreme Court decision ruled that such a deportation could occur in "extraordinary circumstances" even in the face of torture.

Five non-citizens currently being held on security certificates say they will be tortured if deported from Canada. Two are destined for Egypt, and one each to Syria, Morocco and Algeria.

Last week the Canadian government demanded answers from the Syrian government concerning the torture of the three Canadians and that of Ottawa engineer Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian, who was tortured in Syria after being sent there by American officials in 2002. The U.N. report yesterday recommended an investigation to "determine whether Canadian officials have directly or indirectly facilitated or tolerated their arrest and imprisonment," and said the committee was "concerned by allegations that Canada may have co-operated with agencies known to resort to torture with the aim of extracting information from individuals detained in foreign countries."

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