News from ICLMG

ICLMG, among 300 prominent Canadians, urge PM Harper to take action to bring Mohamed Fahmy home

UPDATE: Mohamed Fahmy and his Al Jazeera colleague Baher Mohamed have been pardoned by the Egyptian president on September 23rd, 2015, and were subsequently released. Mohamed Fahmy is now back in Canada.

September 8, 2015

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper Prime Minister of Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Dear Prime Minister Harper:

Re: Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy

We write to you today to add our voices to those of Mohamed Fahmy’s family, his legal team and rights organizations around the world. Like them, we implore you to take personal and immediate action to secure Mr. Fahmy’s deportation to Canada.

Mr. Fahmy’s conviction and sentence by the Egyptian court to three years in prison for his work as a journalist has been described as a ”farcical verdict which strikes at the heart of freedom of expression”. The charges against Fahmy and his colleagues were baseless and politicized; the journalists should never have been arrested and tried in the first place.

These sentiments have been echoed by governments around the world including those of the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union as well as by the United Nations and countless human rights and press freedom organizations.

Canada’s Minister of State has expressed “disappointment” with a verdict that “severely undermines confidence in the rule of law in Egypt”. Indeed, it is beyond dispute that Mr. Fahmy was denied the most rudimentary due process and was convicted on the basis of evidence so flimsy and distorted as to be absurd.

The world knows that Mr. Fahmy is an innocent man trapped in a political nightmare – that he is in prison simply for doing his job. The world also knows that the conditions of Egypt’s notorious Tora prison pose a grave danger to Mr. Fahmy’s safety and health.

Mr. Fahmy’s legal team, together with experts from around the world, are unanimous in the view that direct and persistent requests from you personally to President al-Sisi are Mr. Fahmy’s only hope for release. In the words of Amnesty International Canada’s Secretary General Alex Neve, “the Egyptian government needs to hear frequently, firmly and consistently from the Prime Minister himself”.

There is certainly positive precedent to suggest that this is the case. Maher Arar, for example, was freed from a Syrian prison only after the Canadian Prime Minister became directly involved in his cause. Peter Greste, convicted alongside Mr. Fahmy on identical charges in June 2014, was returned home seven months ago after direct and persistent intervention by Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

While we recognize and appreciate Canada’s efforts to date – including consular services on the ground in Cairo and the Minister of State’s repeated expressions of concern – it is clear that new efforts are required.

We urge you, as Canada’s Prime Minister, to communicate directly with President al-Sisi the need to have Mr. Fahmy returned home safely and swiftly. It goes to the very heart of what it means to be Canadian that we defend the rule of law and protect our fellow citizens from harm.

We call on you to make these commitments meaningful in the case of Mr. Fahmy.

Yours sincerely,

The National Council of Canadian Muslims

The International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group

The Honourable Louise Arbour, C.C., G.O.Q.

Paul D. Copeland, C.M.

Marlys Edwardh, C.M.

Atom Egoyan, O.C.

John Fraser, C.M.

The Right Honourable Paul Martin, P.C., C.C.

Rick Mercer, O.C.

Alex Neve, O.C.

Michael Ondaatje, O.C.

Stewart Phillip

Sarah Polley, O.C.

John Ralston Saul, C.C., O.Ont.

See the full list of signatories here.

Press release: The ICLMG welcomes the announcement that the RCMP is laying criminal charges against one of the Syrian torturers of Maher Arar

Ottawa  – The International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG) welcomes the announcement that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is laying criminal charges against one of the Syrian torturers of Canadian citizen Maher Arar.

“The ICLMG has supported the Maher Arar case since the beginning, when he was incarcerated and tortured in Syrian prisons,” said Roch Tassé, former National Coordinator of the ICLMG. “On many occasions we have asked the Canadian government to respect Arar’s rights and repatriate him to Canada.”

Today, the RCMP announced that formal criminal charges have been filed in Canada with the public prosecutor against Colonel George Salloum, from the Syrian military intelligence, one of those accused of involvement in the torture and mistreatment of Maher Arar during his detention in a Syrian prison in Damascus.

It is worth remembering that, in 2004, the ICLMG obtained “intervenor status” before the Commission of Inquiry headed by Justice O’Connor and has played an active role in the monitoring of the entire public process, and the coordination of strategic contributions to the group of stakeholders from civil society. “Today, we believe this announcement is a big step forward to bring those who commit torture to the justice system and for them to be held accountable for their horrific acts,” said Monia Mazigh, National Coordinator of the ICLMG.

“We would like to see this announcement as an opportunity for the Canadian government to apologize and compensate Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Abou El-Maati and Muayyed Nureddin, all tortured in Syrian prisons and whose abuse has been indirectly caused by the actions of Canadian agents, because of the sharing of incorrect information, as concluded by Justice Frank Iacobucci.”

Monia Mazigh, ICLMG’s National Coordinator, reads a statement from her husband Maher Arar after the RCMP lay criminal charges against one of his Syrian torturers. Watch the video:

Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 8.41.38 PM

Read the statement here.

Press release: ICLMG joins other rights groups to denounce the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act as discriminatory and anti-Canadian

Toronto, August 20, 2015 — The International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG) is joining its voice to the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL) to denounce the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act (formerly Bill C-24) as unconstitutional and anti-Canadian.

BCCLA and CARL have launched a constitutional challenge to the new Citizenship Act, a federal law relegating over one million Canadians to second-class status.

The lawsuit argues that the new Citizenship Act, in force since the passage of Bill C-24, creates a two-tier citizenship regime that discriminates against dual nationals, whether born abroad or in Canada, and naturalized citizens.  These Canadians will now have more limited citizenship rights compared to other Canadians, simply because they or their parents or ancestors were born in another country.

Under the new law, these Canadians could see their citizenship taken away if convicted of certain serious crimes in Canada or abroad (including in a country that does not have due process or rule of law). New Canadians who became citizens after the passage of Bill C-24 could also lose their citizenship if they move abroad for work, school, or family reasons. Other Canadians would not be vulnerable to losing their citizenship.

“The ICLMG opposed Bill C-24 since it was tabled in Parliament” said Monia Mazigh, National Coordinator of the ICLMG. “The Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act is a step backward for our democracy and rule of law principle. With this new Citizenship Act, Canadians are divided into two classes: those who will keep their Canadian citizenship no matter what and those who can be stripped of their Canadian citizenship if some federal bureaucrats decide so. Thus, if you are born in Canada but you have parents or ancestors from another country, your Canadian citizenship is worth less. It can be revoked not by the court but by the government and this is unacceptable by any democratic standards.”

Despite the public outcry, the criticisms and concerns formulated by legal experts, academics and media commentators, Bill C-24 became law.

“The ICLMG is really happy to support this constitutional challenge and to send a strong message that the Canadian citizenship should have the same meaning for all Canadians regardless of their genetic background.”

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