News from ICLMG

VIDEO: Guantanamo meets Hollywood: The case of Ammar al Baluchi

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Amidst speculation about whether the new US administration will move to fill up Guantanamo’s cells rather than close it down for good, the case of Ammar al Baluchi illustrates everything that is wrong with the ongoing detention and trial regime. Raashid Williams, Ammar Al-Baluchi’s defense counsel, was in Ottawa to discuss Al-Baluchi’s case and the human rights issues around Guantanamo Bay prison.

The talk taught us a lot about the kafkaesque universe of Guantanamo – it will blow you away!

If you were unable to attend, we have filmed the presentation and the following Q&A. Please share in your networks so that people are informed of what is happening in Gitmo!

The presentation was co-sponsored by the ICLMG, Octopus Books, and Amnesty International.


About Raashid Williams:

Maj. Raashid Williams is defense counsel for one of Guantánamo’s “high value” detainees Ammar Al-Baluchi.

About Ammar al Baluchi:

“The result of over classification is that my memories are classified, my thoughts are classified, my pain and suffering is classified, my post torture (post trauma) symptoms are classified.” Ammar al Baluchi, December 2015

Taken into custody in Pakistan in April 2003, Ammar al Baluchi was subjected to enforced disappearance in secret CIA custody until he was transferred to Guantánamo in early September 2006. He currently faces an unfair trial before the military commission for an alleged role in the 9/11 attacks. During his three and a half years in CIA custody he was held in a number of locations, the identity of which remain classified Top Secret. The countries in which “black sites” operated by the CIA were located during the time that Ammar al Baluchi was in CIA custody are believed to have included Afghanistan, Poland, Romania, Morocco, and Lithuania.

While the details about his treatment in CIA custody were withheld from Ammar’s legal team, they may have been shared by the CIA with the makers of the 2012 Hollywood film, Zero Dark Thirty. A draft CIA document released under Freedom of Information Act notes that the film “includes several interrogation scenes the first of which is an interrogation of a character who is modelled after Ammar al-Baluchi”. As an article in Time Magazine put it in 2013, “the first 25 or so minutes of the film are largely taken up with torture: Ammar is strung up, beaten, waterboarded and kept awake for 96 hours straight”. According to the scriptwriter’s initial email contact with the CIA’s Office of Public Affairs, “we intend to make accuracy and authenticity hallmarks of the production, for we believe that this is one of those rare instances where truth really is more interesting than fiction”. The matter is currently before US courts.

About Guantanamo:

There are 41 detainees still in Guantánamo. Five are cleared for transfer to third countries while over 20 remain in the legal limbo of continued indefinite wartime detention.

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. Any donations will go a long way to support our work.

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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Government must take action on shocking, disturbing allegations of discrimination and racism within ranks of CSIS: civil liberties coalition

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The International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG), a coalition of more than 40 organizations across Canada, is expressing extreme concern over the shocking allegations of Islamophobia, homophobia, racism and sexism in the workplace brought by five Canadian Security and Intelligence Service employees.

The coalition is calling on the Liberal government to open an immediate investigation to examine both these allegations, as well as a possible culture of intolerance at the spy agency. The allegations have not been proven in court, but are grave enough that the government should be proactive in investigating.

“These allegations are shocking beyond belief. This includes the fact that it appears that once the harassment was reported, the employees were not taken seriously,” said Tim McSorley, national coordinator at the ICLMG. “The government must make sure there is complete transparency and accountability over these allegations.”

In their statement of claim, the five CSIS employees allege a litany of workplace harassment based on religion, race, gender and sexual orientation. These allegations include:

  • A manager yelling that, “all Muslims are terrorists.”
  • A Muslim intelligence officer facing scrutiny about how she could carry out her duties after she started wearing the hijab, and asked to report her activities in the Muslim community (including attending her mosque).
  • A colleague telling a gay employee whose partner is Muslim, “Careful your Muslim in-laws don’t behead you in your sleep for being homo.”
  • A manager writing to a gay employee in an email, “Hey tapette, you’re just a fag hiding in you little corner sobbing
  • The service’s first female Black intelligence officer claiming she was told, “it’s people like you the Service likes to promote.”

For more than a decade, ICLMG and its members have raised concerns about CSIS’ attitude towards Muslim and Arab communities, alleging that these communities were unduly targeted by the spy agency for surveillance and questioning.

These allegations also come as the public is questioning the trustworthiness of CSIS. A recent report on the government’s 2016 consultation on national security pointed to a “growing level of distrust in key institutions involved in national security and law enforcement.”

“The latest allegations speak not only to concerns about CSIS’ workplace culture, but also to the beliefs and attitudes brought to their work as the country’s spy agency,” said McSorley. “This concern is compounded by the fact that governments continue to grant CSIS more and more powers.”

In 2015, CSIS was granted broad powers of “disruption” on top of its traditional surveillance role. While the proposed Bill C-59 attempts to regulate some of those powers, they remain on the books until any reforms are passed.

“The ICLMG has long been concerned about the transparency and accountability of CSIS,” said McSorley. “While the government has recently made moves to rectify the situation, the ongoing ‘culture of secrecy’ pointed to in the statement of claims makes it impossible to know for sure what is happening at the spy agency.”

The allegations made by CSIS employees should be of concern to all Canadians, not just those communities allegedly derided, said McSorley. “How can an agency been trusted to protect the security of Canadians’ if, as the statement of claim describes, managers harass and discriminate openly in the workplace?”

The coalition is asking that Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and the Liberal government act to shed a light on these allegations, and calling on Canadians to let their MPs know that they expect action. “Speaking up about these issues cannot be left to Muslim, LGBTQI and Black communities,” said McSorley. “When these kinds of issues arise, all Canadians must speak out.”

Read the full statement of claim here: https://www.scribd.com/document/353767258/CSIS-harassment-lawsuit-statement-of-claim#from_embed

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Omar Khadr apology and compensation long overdue, but systemic changes are also needed to protect human rights

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The International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG) and the Rideau Institute welcome the Canadian government’s decision to settle the lawsuit launched by Omar Khadr, apologize for its failure to protect one of its citizens and a minor, and compensate Khadr for the illegal detention and the torture he suffered.

At the same time, the government must also go further and make systemic changes in order to avoid such horrendous abuses of civil liberties and human rights in the future.

Last March, both ICLMG and the Rideau Institute also welcomed the Canadian government’s apology to, and compensation of, Mr. Almalki, Mr. Abou-Elmaati and Mr. Nureddin who were tortured in Syria and Egypt because of erroneous information sent by Canadian officials. And in March 2015, Benamar Benatta reached a settlement with the Canadian government for having spent five years in a US prison where he suffered abuse, after Canadian officials falsely labelled him a terrorist suspect and unlawfully transferred him over the US border to FBI agents in the middle of the night.

As welcome as all these apologies and compensation awards are, these settlements were reached after many, many years of litigation and pro bono legal work, and only when the Canadian government realized it couldn’t win these lawsuits.

This is worrisome in the current context: Anti-terror legislation continues to “creep,” growing all the time and further threatening civil liberties. The government has continued to stall the repeal of Canada’s ministerial directives on torture, which allow the government to use information from countries that engage in torture, and to share information with those same countries, in direct contravention of Canada’s legal obligations under the Convention against Torture. Refugee Mohamed Harkat continues to suffer under a security certificate and faces deportation back to Algeria where he risks detention and torture. The Liberals have also refused to hold a public inquiry on Canada’s role in the torture of Afghan detainees, despite calling for one when they were in Opposition.

Just before going on recess for the summer, the government tabled Bill C-59, its long-awaited national security reform. We were pleased to learn that the legislation aims to create a new all-agency review body for national security, one of the many (still unimplemented) recommendations of Justice O’Connor in the 2004 Maher Arar inquiry (which also resulted in a settlement and apology for Mr. Arar for Canada’s complicity in his rendition and torture in Syria). However, as we have said many times, review mechanisms do not and cannot make up for bad laws. The fact that the Anti-terrorism Act of 2015 (also known as Bill C-51) hasn’t been repealed is of serious concern. Especially worrying is the fact that Bill C-59’s changes to the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act (enacted by C-51) still don’t contain any additional guarantees to protect against the subsequent disclosure of information to, for example, foreign governments. This means that the risks that erroneous information being shared with other countries, potentially leading to serious human rights violations, like in the cases of Arar, Almalki, Elmaati and Nurredin, are still very real. Haven’t we learned anything?

Canada should not wait for lawsuits from torture victims to recognize and repair its mistakes. Instead, we need to see systemic change. If the Canadian government really wants to call itself a champion for human rights and show that it really doesn’t condone torture, it needs at a minimum to repeal the Anti-terrorism Act of 2015, get rid of the torture memos, stop the deportation proceedings against Mohamed Harkat, and hold a public inquiry on Canada’s role in the torture of Afghan detainees.


Read ICLMG’s official statement on the news of Omar Khadr’s settlement: Omar Khadr settlement just & necessary, says International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group

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. Any donations will go a long way to support our work.

On the fence about giving? Check out our Achievements and Gains since we were created in 2002. Thank you for your generosity! 
make-a-donation-button
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