The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is monitoring the case of Mohamed Zeki Mahjoub, currently being argued in Federal Court. Lawyers for Mr. Mahjoub – who is subject to extremely strict release conditions pursuant to a Security Certificate – are asking the Court to lift these conditions.To read more about Security Certificates and how the process works, click here.
The Security Certificates issued against Mr. Mahjoub
Mr. Mahjoub was granted refugee status in Canada in 1996.
Despite facing no charges, Mr. Mahjoub was arrested and detained in 2000 on a Security Certificate alleging he was a threat to national security. Mr. Mahjoub faces deportation to his country of origin – Egypt – and argues he will be tortured if he returns there.
In 2008, following the Supreme Court of Canada’s finding the previous year that the Security Certificate scheme under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act was unconstitutional, a new certificate was issued against Mr. Mahjoub under a re-crafted regime.
Some of the evidence on which both certificates were issued remains secret and, as discussed below, was found in 2010 by a Federal Court judge to reasonably include information derived from torture.
Mr. Mahjoub’s Detentions and Releases
In 2007, on Mr. Mahjoub’s third application for release from detention, a judge found that he would not pose a threat to national security if released under the strict terms set out in the order. Mr. Mahjoub was held in detention from 2000-2008. In March 2009, Mr. Mahjoub chose to return to the detention facility as his family was having trouble living under the strict conditions of his release, including, for example, the family home being subject to intense surveillance. In late 2009, he was released from the facility once again on stringent terms. He argues that conditions of his release, such as wearing a permanent tracking device, remain invasive.
Mr. Mahjoub’s lawyers reportedly will argue this week that the basis for CSIS’s assessment that Mr. Mahjoub may be a threat to national security, is not sufficient to justify the strict conditions of his house arrest, which have resulted in irreparable psychological harm to him. While Mr. Mahjoub’s broader challenge to the reasonableness of the Security Certificate remains to be heard, his lawyers will challenge CSIS’s assessment of the threat Mr. Mahjoub poses as too vague and lacking reasonable grounds to justify the strict conditions and monitoring he faces.
CSIS and Evidence Derived from Torture
In a 2010 hearing on the admissibility of information relied on by Ministers in their case against Mr. Mahjoub, Justice Blanchard of the Federal Court found that there were reasonable grounds to believe that some of the secret evidence constituting the basis for the Security Certificate, had been procured through torture. In his ruling, the judge held that the Security Intelligence Report about Mr. Mahjoub be reviewed to exclude information obtained through torture, which is inadmissible in Canadian law. Justice Blanchard wrote that, in his view, CSIS policies and practices “do not provide for an effective mechanism to ensure that such information is actually excluded from the evidence relied on by the Ministers.” Click here to read the decision.
This past weekend, the Montreal Gazette reported that it had obtained a January 2008 letter written by the former director of CSIS, Jim Judd, arguing against a legislative amendment that would have legally banned information procured from torture, in the Security Certificate process. Mr. Judd expressed concern that a derivative information ban would hinder the CSIS’s information-gathering and analysis function, and could make Security Certificate proceedings at the time unsustainable. The amendment, which eventually was adopted, made any information obtained from torture, or “derivative information”—information that was derived from information initially obtained through torture– inadmissible.
CCLA is concerned that the comments in Mr. Judd’s letter speak to the extent to which CSIS may have continued to rely on evidence taken from torture in its information gathering and reporting, despite assertions to the contrary.
We will continue to keep you posted on Mr. Mahjoub’s case.