Appeals court upholds security certificates

posted on December 10, 2004 | in Category Security Certificates | PermaLink

Original author: News Staff
URL: [link]
Date: December 10, 2004

The Federal Court of Appeal has ruled that the security certificates federal officials use to detain terror suspects without charge or bail are constitutional.

Upholding a December 2003 lower court ruling, a three-member panel of Federal Court justices issued its decision on Friday.

In the decision, the court said that Moroccan-born permanent Canadian resident Adil Charkaoui can be lawfully imprisoned while the courts consider the merits of his security certificate.

Issued to individuals whose cases are deemed relevant to national security, the certificates are reviewed and signed by the public safety and immigration ministers before being referred to the Federal Court.

A judge then hears evidence in the absence of the accused.

Charkaoui, 31, has been in custody since May 2003 on suspicions he is linked to the al Qaeda terror network. During his 20 months in detention, he has lost three bids for bail and has yet to be charged or see all the evidence against him.In its 89-page ruling, the Federal Court of Appeal said the Montrealer had failed to prove that the process violated his rights. "The appellant has been unable to demonstrate that the procedure for reviewing the reasonableness of the security certificate issued against not meet the requirements of the Charter." Charkaoui is just one of five men currently detained in Canada under the security certificate scheme. Law criticized

At a press conference in Ottawa shortly before the Court of Appeal rendered its decision, several concerned Canadians urged the federal government to abandon the way it handles such cases. "They're feeding off the legitimate sense of insecurity of people in a democracy to bring in draconian legislation, but that doesn't justify it," NDP MP Ed Broadbent told reporters. According to Deborah Bourque of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, "These secret trials may just be Canada's worst dirty little secret." Focusing on federal anti-terror legislation enacted in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, Bourque told reporters it's not working. "This legislative change was meant to make this country safer, but on the contrary it has sanctioned ... harassment of those who are most vulnerable in our society," she said, referring to visible minorities from Asia and the Middle East. Timing their protest to coincide with the International Day for Human Rights, the group is calling on Ottawa to scrap the certificates and free five Muslim men currently detained without bail or charges under the scheme. "The security certificate process does not conform to a number of essential international legal standards," said Alex Neve of Amnesty International Canada. "Justice and security will prevail only when we disallow violations of fundamental human rights such as arbitrary detention and torture, and instead institute fair proceedings. But the security certificate denies both justice and security." Harkat hearings

The group is also pressing their case now, as it coincides with the end Mohamed Harkat's security certificate hearing. Harkat is the 36-year-old Algerian-born Ottawa man who has been detained on suspicion of links to terror groups since December, 2002. The federal government is trying to deport Harkat based on intelligence the Canadian Security Intelligence Service claims proves he has collaborated with Osama bin Laden's terror network. Harkat flew to Toronto from Malaysia in 1995, using a fake Saudi Arabian passport. Once in Canada, he filed a refugee claim and settled in Ottawa. He was arrested in December 2002, on claims he is affiliated with extremists from Afghanistan, Chechnya and Pakistan. During closing arguments on Thursday, government lawyer James Matheson said Harkat had lied to officials about his time in Pakistan as well as the route he took to get to Canada. Harkat's lawyer Paul Copeland countered that many of the allegations involve sweeping generalizations not necessarily relevant to his client. Harkat acknowledges working in Pakistan between 1990 and 1994, but insists he was helping provide Afghan refugees with relief supplies. Federal Court Justice Eleanor Dawson can either uphold or quash Harkat's security certificate. If she finds the application reasonable, Harkat will likely face deportation. Where he would be sent, however, remains unclear as he could face torture if returned to his native Algeria. © 2004 Bell Globemedia Inc. All Rights Reserved.