Report says deportations illegal

posted on April 15, 2005 | in Category International | PermaLink

Original author: Oliver Moore
Souce: The Globe and Mail
URL: [link]
Date: April 14, 2005

Western governments relying on the "fig leaf" of assurances that a deported terror suspect will not be tortured are nevertheless complicit in any resulting human-rights abuses, a highly critical report argues.

The paper from Human Rights Watch slams countries for ducking the "absolution prohibition" on torture by sending suspects abroad and using the flimsy promises of the recipient country to skirt their legal obligations.

"The assurances are meaningless coming from places like Egypt, Syria, Uzbekistan and Yemen," report author Julia Hall told on Thursday, citing countries that rights groups accuse of systemic abuses.

The report specifically cites Canada and its security-certificate procedure, in which suspects can be tried using secret evidence and deported to countries where torture is believed to be common, as long as that country vows not to abuse that particular person.
"Governments in states where torture is a serious human rights problem almost always deny such abusive practices," Ms. Hall says in the report, titled Still at Risk.

"It defies common sense to presume that a government that routinely flouts its obligations under international law can be trusted to respect those obligations in an isolated case."

Human Rights Watch is one of several organizations worried that the global ban on torture is being eroded by legal manoeuvring and public complacency.

Ms. Hall, who researched and wrote the 91-page report, said that governments were quick to exploit the shock and fear their citizens felt after the terrorist attacks on the United States in September, 2001. She said that it has taken several years, but the pendulum is slowly swinging backs and the natural checks and balances inherent to democracy are being re-established.

"The courts are saying, 'we have serious reservations about whether [these tactics] may be reasonable,' " she said in a telephone interview.

Ms. Hall said that the public has the power to stop governments' trampling the rights of terror suspects, but that it remains complacent. She noted, though, that a furor erupted over abuse at Abu Ghraib and that governments pay strenuous lip-service to their human rights obligations, a sign that those ideals remain important to their citizens.

Although the report focuses primarily on the United States - whose tendency to send suspects overseas the report says has become "pervasive" - it devotes a section to Canada, discussing the cases of three specific individuals it says are part of "the secret trial five."

Public Security Minister Anne McLellan has defended the security-certificate system as a key weapon in the battle against terrorism, but Human Rights Watch rejects the argument that the battle cannot be won with clean hands.

"If these suspects are criminals, they should be prosecuted, and if they're not, they should be released," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of the organization. "But shipping them off to countries where they'll be tortured is not an acceptable solution."