News from ICLMG

The ICLMG calls for strong oversight and review of Canadian national security agencies

Canada’s numerous national security agencies – including CSEC, CSIS, the RCMP and CBSA – have inadequate or simply no oversight or review mechanisms. This has led to human rights violations such as the rendition to torture of Canadian citizens Maher Arar, Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El-Maati and Muayyed Nurredin, among others.

In 2006, Justice O’Connor concluded the Arar Commission with several recommendations to prevent such atrocities from happening again: Canadian national security agencies must be subjected to robust, integrated and comprehensive oversight and review.

Years have passed and the federal government has yet to implement the recommendations. Here is how you can help:

ACT NOW

Send a letter (mail may be sent postage-free to any Member of Parliament):

Minister of Public Safety, Ralph Goodale
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada
K1A 0A6

Or an email: ralph.goodale@parl.gc.ca

Model letter

Dear Minister Goodale,

I am writing you today to urge the Liberal government to do the following:

  • Repeal the Anti-terrorist Act of 2015 (Bill C-51)
  • Make the “No-fly list” open, transparent and accountable
  • Ensure that spying on Canadians is not permitted
  • Implement the review and oversight mechanisms as recommended by Justice O’Connor in the Arar Commission as soon as possible
  • Do not grant any greater powers to CSIS

Sincerely yours,

****

For more information about Canada’s national security agencies and the bodies in charge of their review, if any, click here.

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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Canadians detained abroad: and now what to do?

alaradi-family-2By Monia Mazigh – One day my husband disappeared abroad and I didn’t know what to do.

Call The Department of Foreign Affairs? Call the police? Call the Canadian Embassy? Call a lawyer? Call the journalists? Call human rights organizations? Call politicians?

The level of anxiety, of distress and the lack of support were tremendous.

Since 2002, I became familiar with the stories of several Canadians and their families who went through these emotional, logistical and political phases. The “lucky ones” came back to Canada safe and they were able to return to some sort of normality. Their resilience was their best ally to regain their stolen lives. Unfortunately, for many others, they are still detained abroad, distraught, in poor health conditions, mistreated, threatened by the uncertainty and/or the arbitrariness surrounding their detention.

Here, I am not pretending to be speaking on behalf of all Canadians detained abroad, but I will focus on the ones that have a political or national security angle attached to their case. By no means am I understating the importance of the cases of Canadians detained abroad for other reasons but I simply don’t have the expertise to speak on their behalf.

The first case that comes to mind is the one of Salim Alaradi. The story of this Canadian businessman originally from Libya who has been in prison in the United Arab Emirates since August 2014 is really appalling. Alaradi’s family, mainly through the incredible efforts of his teenage daughter Marwa, has been campaigning for his release. The Emirati government didn’t feel the heat from the Canadian government until recently when it was reported in the Canadian media that the Alaradi case is a priority for the newly elected Trudeau government. Meanwhile, the family is left on its own with no clear process to follow from the Canadian authorities and with a wall of silence and indifference from the government detaining the citizen.

The media unfortunately won’t closely report on these cases, unless the family is very persistent and unless there is “something new happening” as if the continuous detention of a Canadian citizen in horrible conditions wasn’t bad enough to keep writing about it.

Generally, the Canadian government keeps raising the issue of consular visits. These visits are usually portrayed to the families as the “ultimate” goal that the Canadian government is looking to attain and clear evidence of progress on the file. I don’t want to minimize the importance of consular visits, however to obtain the release of a citizen detained in a brutal and repressive regime, it takes more than that. I understand that it is extremely hard to convince some governments to open their prison doors to Canadian consular officials so they can visit Canadian prisoners but one should also remember that the efforts of the Canadian government should target nothing less than the immediate release of the detained person, especially when the detainee is experiencing health issues and that no charges have been laid or no transparent and open trial is expected. That is exactly what happened to Salim Alaradi. For more than 1 year, he has been sitting in a jail in the UAE without any charges and his health is deteriorating. Two days ago, the Emirati authorities charged him with two counts of supporting terrorism. This news came as a shock to his family and the human rights organizations following the case.

I am not advocating for a forceful and belligerent intervention by the Canadian government, regardless of the country, however my point is to denounce the lack of a clear strategy in getting a citizen out of jail and back to Canada. In this particular case, Canada cannot claim that we have no ties to the UAE as we have both a diplomatic and a trade relationship with the country. We can read on the Canadian government’s website that “It is estimated that approximately 40,000 Canadians reside and work in the UAE. The United Arab Emirates airlines Etihad and Emirates offer direct flights between Canada and the UAE”. And even if, in 2011, there was a dispute between both countries over the landing rights of the Emirati planes in Toronto and the use of the military Mirage Camp by the Canadian army, that seems to be behind us now. So why is Canada so shy and quiet about the rights of one of its citizens?

Two other complex cases of Canadians detained abroad are those of Husseyin Celil and Bashir Makhtal, respectively detained in China and in Ethiopia.

We need to acknowledge that talking to China about its human rights record is a very sensitive issue. It should be reminded here that Stephen Harper didn’t do any favour to the Canadian-Chinese relationship by not visiting China for many years after he became Prime Minister. Husseyin Celil was arrested in Uzbekistan in 2006 and rendered to China because of his alleged ties to the Uyghur mouvement which asks for more linguistic and religious rights in China. Many years ago, I met Husseyin’s wife, his lawyer and members of his community advocating on his behalf. It is unfortunate that today his case is neither on the media radar nor a government priority.

Bashir Makhtal case is equally troubling. He was arrested in 2006 by Kenyan authorities and rendered to Ethiopia where he was jailed for having ties with a separatist group considered to be a terrorist organization by the Ethiopian government. Former Foreign Minister John Baird promised he would do everything he could to bring him home and he didn’t. We also remember what Baird said about the “imminent” release of Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy, arrested in Egypt, whereas it took more than 8 months after that statement for Fahmy to be released and brought back to Canada.

All these cases share one thing in common: the families are left on their own. The outcome will depend on their judgement and sometimes, frankly, the “right” circumstances. The families who are perseverant, have advocacy skills, financial means and good legal advice can obtain some justice but unfortunately the families who have no connections, and no skills when it comes to contacting politicians and media, they will most likely be forgotten.

It is time for Canada to adopt a clear, comprehensive, and effective strategy to help their citizens detained abroad so nobody is left to face arbitrariness and injustice by themselves.

Press release: Two Canadian Human Rights Organizations Urge Canada to Comply with the UN Committee against Torture Recommendations in the Case of Omar Khadr

bkg-Khadr-WaterIn May 2012, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) and the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG) provided the UN Committee against Torture (CAT) with a report—the Briefing to the Committee against Torture, 48th Session, May 2012 on the Omar Khadr Case—identifying contraventions by Canada of its obligations under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT) in the case of Canadian citizen Omar Khadr.

Following the sixth review of Canada’s performance in respect to its obligations under the UNCAT, the CAT, in Concluding Observations published on 25 June 2012, identified 18 specific issues of concern and recommendations for remedial action needed to bring Canada into compliance with UNCAT. Several of these Concluding Observations mirrored the remedial action identified by LRWC/ICLMG as necessary to compliance with Canada’s UNCAT obligations.

Today, more than three years later and in response to an invitation from the Department of Canadian Heritage, LRWC and ICLMG provided an additional report outlining LRWC/ICLMG’s recommendations for measures necessary to implement CAT recommendations.

LRWC and ICLMG requested that the Government of Canada, in answering the questions posed by the CAT (the LOIPR), treat the term “redress” as including duties to fully investigate the torture and ill-treatment to which Omar Khadr was subjected during his imprisonment, to identify and hold accountable those responsible, to ensure proper redress for Omar Khadr and adopt measures to prevent further occurrences, in accordance with the provisions of the UNCAT.

LRWC/ICLMG state that the proper definition of “redress” captures and makes Canada responsible to provide redress for the torture and ill-treatment suffered by Omar Khadr throughout his entire period of imprisonment by the United States.

LRWC and ICLMG request the Government of Canada to provide CAT with full details of the efforts Canada has taken or plans to take to address:

  • CAT recommendations relevant to the Omar Khadr case and the issue of redress as defined by CAT;
  • LOIPR questions relevant to the Omar Khadr case and Canada’s duties to ensure full redress for the torture and ill-treatment of Omar Khadr;
  • Recommendations outlined in the LRWC/ICLMG briefing to CAT and the LRWC report to the Canadian Department of Heritage; and
  • The LRWC and ICLMG concerns set out in the report.

Canada has contravened to every aspect of its UNCAT duties in the Omar Khadr case. To remedy these sweeping contraventions, Canada must enact legislation to create a process by which complaints can be made and to ensure the investigation of complaints, the prosecution or discipline of suspected perpetrators and full redress for the victims. Canada must also develop a programme for delivery and assessment of education and training about UNCAT duties for public servants, including judges, charged with responsibility for detained people. Canada should develop this legislation and these programmes and policies in consultation with civil society organizations with expertise.

LRWC and ICLMG request involvement in the implementation of the CAT recommendations.

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