News from ICLMG

LRWC & ICLMG on Canada’s response to the UN Committee against Torture in the case of Omar Khadr

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To the Human Rights Program, Department of Canadian Heritage:

Following the sixth review of Canada’s performance in respect of its obligations under Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT) the Committee against Torture (CAT), in Concluding Observations published on 25 June 2012,[2] identified 18 specific subjects of concern and recommendations for remedial action needed to bring Canada into compliance with UNCAT. […]

In July 2012 CAT recommended, inter alia, that Canada ensure that [Omar Khadr] receives appropriate redress for human rights violations that the Canadian Supreme Court has ruled he experienced” (para. 16(b)). In the List of Issues Prior to Reporting (LOIPR), at para. 28(b), CAT poses the question, “Has [Omar Khadr] received appropriate redress for the human rights violations that he suffered, as ruled by the Canadian Supreme Court?”

LRWC and ICLMG request that, in responding to the LOIPR and reporting to CAT, the Government of Canada (GOC) treat the term “redress” as encompassing the full range of Article 14 duties identified by General Comment No. 3,[5] including duties to fully investigate the torture and ill-treatment to which Omar Khadr was subjected during his imprisonment, to punish those responsible, and to adopt measures to prevent further occurrences, in accordance with the provisions of UNCAT.

CAT, in General Comment No. 3 (para. 2), has determined that the term “redress” in UNCAT Article 14 is a comprehensive reparative concept that “entails restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition and refers to the full scope of measure required to redress violations under the Convention.” […]

LRWC and ICLMG remain concerned that the continuing failure to prevent, investigate and punish torture and ill-treatment in the Omar Khadr case not only constitutes a continuing violation of the rights of Omar Khadr, but also encourages and enhances the danger of torture by state and non-state actors alike. We note that CAT in General Comment No. 3, para. 42 expresses concern that impunity “bars victims from seeking full redress as it allows the violators to go unpunished and denies victims the full insurance of their rights under article 14.” […]

Canada has contravened 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 or complaints and the determination and implementation of redress prosecution of suspected perpetrators and full redress for the victims. Canada will also have to develop a programme for delivery and assessment of education and training about UNCAT duties to all 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.

READ THE FULL REPORT HERE

[2] Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 19 of the Convention – Concluding Observations of the Committee against Torture – Canada, CAT/C/CAN/CO/6, 25 June 2012.

[5] UN Committee Against Torture (CAT), General comment no. 3, 2012: Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment: implementation of article 14 by States parties, 13 December 2012, online: http://www.refworld.org/docid/5437cc274.html [accessed 16 December 2015]

Many hopes and challenges for 2016

Dear friends and supporters of ICLMG,

This is my last blog for 2015. This year has been a roller coaster year for everyone working on civil liberties and human rights. The International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group has been vigilant and always consistent about the call to respect human rights for all Canadians with no exception.

Fighting terrorism should never be an excuse to eliminate or diminish our civil liberties. Unfortunately, the new Anti-Terrorism Act 2015, or what everyone knows as C-51, was passed this year. It greatly endangers our civil rights and makes them vulnerable. Meanwhile, the government never brought any evidence to show how this new highly intrusive piece of legislation will make Canadians safer.

Basically, C-51 gave the government the green light to spy on us without a warrant. The intelligence officers have now huge additional powers to “disrupt” any activities they suspect related to terrorism. Guess what that can mean: they can do everything except killing you or sexually abusing you. The promotion of terrorism is now an offence, even if no terrorist act is planned or committed. The act of expressing strong opinion supporting or which could be interpreted as supporting terrorism in general – regardless of intentions – is now considered a crime. Freedom of expression has taken a toll from this.

The No-fly list has been perpetuated and expanded. The same opacity surrounding this list since its creation in 2007 remains unchanged if not worsened. C-51 allows for a judicial hearing that may occur outside of public view and for the use of secret evidence. We have always opposed this list and we are asking the government to make it public.

The former Canadian government has activated the deportation procedures against Mohamed Harkat. How can we deport a man to a country where he is facing the risk of torture, disappearance and death? Unfortunately, in 2015, the security certificate regime remains a flawed system that targets immigrants and refugees. Despite what the Supreme Court advised in terms of informing a suspect about secret information through his special advocate, that remedy wasn’t taken into account and we still have today a process where an individual can never know the evidence held against him.

Omar Khadr has finally been released from prison under strict conditions. His long detention in Guantanamo marks one of the darkest chapters of Canada since 9/11. He was released despite the continuous legal battle the government waged against him. Three times the Supreme Court ruled in his favour and each time the government didn’t want to listen.

On October 19, 2015, Justin Trudeau became the new Prime Minister of Canada, after a decade of fear. Under the Harper government, many civil society organizations felt intimidated. Some were audited, while others were defunded. We really hope that this will be a new chapter in terms of accountability and transparency. Civil society is a pillar of our democracy and any attack against it is an attack on democracy. Perhaps, a public inquiry into those attacks should be pursued.

The road ahead will be bumpy and full of obstacles. We will keep calling for the repeal of C-51. We are determined to obtain the implementation of Justice O’Connor’s recommendations from the Arar Commission report: a parliamentary oversight and robust and integrated review mechanisms. Parliamentary oversight alone is not enough, review mechanisms are crucial.

We call the government to apologize to Ahmed El Maati, Abdullah Almalki and Muayyed Nureddin and to compensate them. They are suing the federal government for failing to do so and a court date has been set for 2016. We hope that the government won’t wait until then. Instead, we call on the government to correct this wrong as soon as possible.

Salim Alaradi, the Canadian citizen arrested in summer 2014, is still behind bars in the United Arab Emirates. There is news that his file has been sent to the General Prosecutor. This is deeply troubling as he has not been accused of any crimes. We called many times for his immediate release. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International documented the torture he was subjected to. Evidently, Canada is not doing enough. ICLMG called on the Foreign Affairs Minister, Stéphane Dion, to ask for his immediate release and return to Canada.

There are many hopes and many challenges to come. We count on your support and generosity so we can build a better Canada and a better future for our children.

Happy Holidays from the ICLMG

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Please donate as a holiday gift to the ICLMG, or ask your relatives and friends to donate to the ICLMG as a gift to you – thank you for your generous support!

Mohamed Harkat’s deportation should be stopped immediately


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The ICLMG read the following statement today at a press conference on Parliament Hill alongside Mohamed Harkat and his lawyer, the Justice for Mohamed Harkat collective, and two of our member organizations, Amnesty International and the National Council of Canadian Muslims.

Last August 2015, the federal government launched deportation proceedings against Mohamed Harkat, exactly 20 years after he first arrived to Canada and claimed the refugee status.

Mohamed Harkat was arrested on December 10, 2002 – exactly 13 years ago – under a security certificate, and since he has been in a legal limbo. He stayed three years in jail, some of them in Guantanamo North, the 3.2 million dollar prison built specially for Muslim detainees. After he was released, he was subjected to the strictest conditions of house arrest. His wife, Sophie Lamarche, became his “unofficial” jailer at home, thus losing what remained of their privacy. For many years, he had to wear an electronic tracking bracelet to monitor all his movements.

In May 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the government security certificate regime and found that the security certificate against Mohamed Harkat was reasonable.

However, the Supreme Court reminded the judges operating under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that they should be “interventionist”, and clearly stated that the government couldn’t proceed with a security certificate case unless the suspect is reasonably informed of the case against them to ensure their defence.

Unfortunately, today, we haven’t seen any steps taken by the government towards allowing suspects to access the secret evidence, if any, against them. On the contrary, Bill C-51, the Anti-Terrorism Act passed in June 2015, reinforced the use of secrecy even in the cases involving Canadian citizens and has lowered the threshold and expanded the grounds for preventative arrest.

This deportation decision would be the first step towards the removal of Mohamed Harkat from his peaceful life in Canada to torture and very likely disappearance and execution.

Before being sent to torture, an assessment of the potential danger to Canadians posed by Harkat needs to be done. But realistically, what is the threat posed today by Mohamed Harkat?

The Supreme Court has ruled in the past that terror suspects can only be deported in “exceptional circumstances” to countries where they face a substantial risk of torture, but it has not defined the full meaning of that concept.

According to many human right organizations, like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, Algeria is still considered to be a country where grave violations of human rights are common. Can Canada really accept in good conscience the diplomatic assurances that would be given to deport Mohamed Harkat to Algeria? We do not believe it can.

Today, we ask the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, the Honourable Ralph Goodale, to immediately stop the deportation procedures against Mohamed Harkat. And we add: does this government want to be remembered for sending a refugee back to torture or execution?

ICLMG believes that Mohamed Harkat should be allowed to stay in Canada with his wife. After more than a decade of legal fights, secrecy, physical and emotional distress, it is time to give Mohamed his rights and his life back.

Thank you.

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