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UN Report: Canada failed to provide full redress for its involvement in the torture of five Canadians

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Canada failed to provide full redress for its involvement in the torture of five Canadians, says UN Committee Against Torture

11/12/2018, OTTAWA – A new UN report is once again criticizing Canada for failing to provide full redress for its involvement in the torture of five Canadians.

The UN Committee Against Torture just finished its regular review of Canada. In its report, it found that Canada has continued to fail to provide full redress for five Canadians who were tortured abroad, with Canada’s complicity. They are:

  • Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muayyed Nureddin, who were all subjects of the Iacobucci Inquiry, which found that Canadian security agents were complicit in their torture abroad;
  • Omar Khadr, who was illegally imprisoned, and tortured in the Guantanamo Bay prison;
  • Abousfian Abdelrazik, who was arbitrarily imprisoned, and tortured in Sudan, while the Canadian government blocked his attempts to return home.

Canadian officials have been found or are alleged to have been complicit in torture in each of these cases.

For the first four men, Canada has provided cursory apologies and financial compensation. Regarding Abousfian Abdelrazik, the government has been criticized for refusing to negotiate a settlement or proceed to trial, and instead taking action that will draw the case out — possibly for years.

The Committee reported that Canada has failed to meet some of the most important requirements of redress under the Convention Against Torture, namely:

  • Investigation into those complicit in torture and mistreatment, and criminal prosecution where warranted;
  • Verification of the facts, and full and public disclosure of the truth, ideally through a public inquiry; and,
  • Official declaration or judicial decision restoring the dignity, the reputation and the rights of the victims. Particularly in the case of Omar Khadr, the government and political officials have continued to share misleading and prejudicial information about the violation of his rights.

The Committee also noted Canada’s continuing failure to provide adequate training about Convention duties for law enforcement officials, judges, prosecutors and medical personnel.

The International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG) and Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC), which raised these concerns in a joint report to the Committee, welcomed the findings and are calling for the government to take immediate action to meet its legal obligations to oppose torture and ill-treatment.

“The duty to provide redress for torture, one of the most egregious violations of a person’s human rights, does not end with an ambiguous — or in the case of Omar Khadr, obfuscating — apology and financial compensation,” said Gail Davidson, Executive Director of LRWC. “We must also see a full investigation to discover the facts, public disclosure of the truth, acknowledgement of the responsibility of Canadian officials, and prosecutions of those responsible for the torture and other ill-treatment.”

For example, the government’s statement of regret regarding Omar Khadr referred to Omar Khadr’s torture, ill-treatment and illegal detention as an “ordeal abroad” and expressed regret about “any role Canadian officials may have played” in “any resulting harm.” Another statement attributed the settlement as a measure to prevent costs of litigation. These statements are not true apologies and fail to meet the Convention requirements of redress. Similar issues exist in the cases of Abousfian Abdelrazik and others.

Ensuring in full this kind of redress is necessary to prevent reoccurrence of participation in torture by Canadian officials.

“By making all facts public, we are able to bring the changes necessary to end Canada’s complicity in torture. By pursuing those found to be complicit, we can end impunity and make sure that those who may wish to push, or entirely skirt, the boundaries of Canadian and international law know that they cannot do so unpunished,” added Tim McSorley, National Coordinator of the ICLMG.

Marking the seriousness of these concerns, the Committee also took the extraordinary step of requesting that the Canadian government file an interim report in one year, as opposed to the usual four-year review period, explaining the steps the government has taken to address the failure to provide full redress.

The submission from LRWC & ICLMG is online here.

The full report from the UN Committee Against Torture can be found here.

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For more information:

Gail Davidson, Executive Director
Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada
604-736-1175
lrwc@portal.ca

Tim McSorley, National Coordinator
International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group
613-241-5298
national.coordination@iclmg.ca

Canada is deporting a man to torture. Will we let that happen?

By Anne Dagenais Guertin & Tim McSorley

This is a story about a man who came to Canada as a refugee out of fear of persecution in his home country. Several years later, though, he was jailed without charge based on allegations from a secret informant who failed a lie-detector test and whom the judge refused to make available for cross-examination.

After his arrest, the government proceeded to destroy the original “evidence” against him. Only a summary was given to a special, security-cleared lawyer, who wasn’t allowed to discuss the evidence with the person in question. The process that followed, based on a special law, was so skewed that the courts were allowed to make their decisions based on information not normally admissible in a court of law.

It doesn’t end there. Over the next 16 years, this person faced constant monitoring and harassment by government officials, three-and-a-half years of detention, including one in solitary confinement, and years of house arrest but has never event been charged, let alone convicted, of a crime.

On top of all this, he is now facing deportation to torture because he is not a Canadian citizen.

After hearing this story, do you think it unfair? Do you think it is shocking that this could happen in Canada? Do you believe this needs to stop — and should never have happened in the first place?

What if we told you the person we are talking about is a Muslim man named Mohamed Harkat, who Canada is attempting to deport based on secret, unproven national security allegations? Would that change your answers to the questions above?

Unfounded fear and hatred of Muslims, migrants and refugees, already long-standing, became worse after Sept. 11, 2001, and are now acceptable public discourse. The examples are many: Politicians winning elections on hatred of Muslims and foreigners; fear-mongering over the refugee caravan and asylum seekers forced to cross the U.S.-Canada border between official points of entry because of the Safe Third Country Agreement; and the stunning increase of reported hate crimes in Canada in 2017, up 151 per cent for Muslims alone.

The fear of Muslims is now so pervasive that, in 2017, a young man was convinced that committing a terrorist attack and killing six worshippers at a Quebec City Mosque would protect people… from a terrorist attack. Fear leads us to do illogical things. And it leads us to renounce long-held principles that we otherwise say define us as Canadians, including freedom of thought and religion, the prohibition of torture, the fundamental right to due process and a fair trial, and the principle of innocence until proven guilty before a court of law.

Our point is that we are being duped: duped into giving up our rights and our ideals — including a more just and equal society for all, legally, economically and socially — through fear-mongering. We are being distracted by people who want to hoard more money and power for themselves by pointing the finger at people simply in search of a better life. People who come here in fear of persecution in their home country. People like Mohamed Harkat.

Moe, as he is affectionately known to his family, friends and supporters (including the ICLMG, fighting alongside him for the past decade), arrived in Canada in 1995 and obtained refugee status in 1997. On Dec. 10, 2002, he was arrested outside his home in Ottawa, alleged to be a threat to national security and subjected to a security certificate. He spent years in jail despite never having been accused let alone convicted of a crime, and was released on bail in 2006 with the strictest conditions in Canadian history. He has been happily married to a French-Canadian woman for 19 years, he is a hard worker and is loved by his family, community and colleagues.

Now he faces deportation to Algeria where he will be tortured.

It’s not a fear, it’s a fact. Canada gave him refugee status in 1997 because his fear of persecution was deemed founded. Now that his name is tainted by unproven, secret national security allegations, he will be detained and tortured if he is sent back to Algeria. And we are not the only ones to acknowledge this: GermanyFrancethe U.K. and the Supreme Court of Ireland consider it unsafe to deport refugees to Algeria.

At Moe’s last bail hearing, CSIS did not file a threat assessment, and his bail conditions have been significantly lowered over the years, including the removal of his ankle monitor five years ago, demonstrating he is no longer considered a threat.

However, Moe and his wife Sophie continue to be harassed by government agents and live in fear that Moe could be deported any day. Their health and quality of life have been greatly impacted for too long. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has the power to stop Moe’s deportation to torture and allow him to stay in Canada with his family and friends. He can prevent Canada from once again being complicit in torture, and he can rectify the great injustice that has been done to Moe in violation of what Canada claims to be: a country respectful of human rights and civil liberties.

You can change that today, on International Human Rights Day. Take action by calling Prime Minister Trudeau, sending a letter to your MP, signing the petition – and more! – to stop the deportation to torture of Mohamed Harkat.

It’s the right thing to do.

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. Here at ICLMG, we are working very hard to protect and promote human rights and civil liberties in the context of the so-called “war on terror” in Canada. We do not receive any financial support from any federal, provincial or municipal governments or political parties.

You can become our patron on Patreon and get rewards in exchange for your support. You can give as little as $1/month (that’s only $12/year!) and you can unsubscribe at any time. Any donations will go a long way to support our work.panel-54141172-image-6fa93d06d6081076-320-320You can also make a one-time donation or donate monthly via Paypal by clicking on the button below. On the fence about giving? Check out our Achievements and Gains since we were created in 2002. Thank you for your generosity!
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Support ICLMG on Giving Tuesday!

#GivingTuesday is a global movement for giving and volunteering, taking place each year after Black Friday. It provides a platform to encourage people to donate their time, resources and talents to make the world a better place for everyone.

In the spirit of this day, we would like to say thank you to our very generous supporters and donors, without which our work of protecting civil liberties from the negative impact of national security would not be possible, as we receive no government or corporate funds. If you would also like to support our work, click the button below.

Your support will allow us to continue to:

  • Fight for the protection of our civil liberties
  • Push for the National Security Act of 2017, Bill C-59, to be heavily amended
  • Work to end deportations to torture and to keep Mohamed Harkat in Canada
  • Call for a public inquiry into the case of Dr. Hassan Diab
  • Abolish Canada’s No-Fly List and prevent the US No-Fly List from being applied to Canadian flights that do not go to the US
  • Ensure civil liberties are front and center in the 2019 federal election
  • Publish our weekly News Digest
  • And much more!

Thank you for your help protecting civil liberties in Canada!

– Anne & Tim