Today, the UN Committee Against Torture (“Committee”) released its Concluding Observations about Canada’s compliance with the UN Convention Against Torture (“UNCAT”). Because Canada has ratified the UNCAT, it has specific legal obligations it must implement.
As you know, CCLA has been concerned that Canada was falling short on its commitments. In earlier posts, we referred you to CCLA’s written submissions and a summary, and provided you with a description of our oral presentation to the UN Committee in Geneva on May 18th, 2012. After being briefed by the CCLA and two other Canadian NGOs, the UN Committee met with the Canadian Delegation on May 20th and 21st, 2012 in Geneva, to engage in a “constructive dialogue” about Canada’s implementation of UNCAT.
Well, we are happy to tell you that the UN Committee seems to have picked up on CCLA’s key concerns and incorporated our suggestions into their Concluding Observations. Some of the issues CCLA highlighted, which appear in the Committee’s Concluding Observations include (but are not limited to) the following:
- the use of information tainted by torture in the Hassan Almrei Security Certificate and potentially in other Security Certificates;
- the limitations of Special Advocates in the Security Certificate process and recommendations to ensure fundamental justice is upheld;
- risks to Canadians detained abroad;
- the need to recognize that non-State or private actors may commit torture — for example through domestic violence — and this triggers legal obligations for Canada as a State Party — namely to investigate and to provide a remedy, or to risk acquiescing in torture;
- the legal argument to interpret Canada’s State Immunity Act to allow torture victims to have access to civil recourse and remedies against foreign State torturers;
- Canada’s use of deportation, rather than prosecution, of individuals over whom Canada would have universal jurisdiction for serious crimes such as war crimes or crimes against humanity — and potential impunity of such ‘deported’ individuals;
- Bill C31 – excessive Ministerial Discretion to deem groups as “irregular arrivals”, mandatory detentions, and the lack of appeals on the merits for all;
- the complicity of Canadian officials in the human rights violations of Omar Khadr at Guantanamo Bay and our call for Mr. Khadr’s immediate repatriation to serve the remainder of his sentence in Canada, and that he receive appropriate redress;
- the principle of non-refoulement inadequately upheld in Canadian legislation and practice;
- Canadian security agencies uses of information tainted by torture;
- our repeated call for an integrated oversight mechanism of security agencies be implemented, as recommended by Justice O’Connor in the Arar Commission Report;
- CCLA’s concerns over the detention conditions and segregation of mentally ill individuals;
- CCLA’s concerns over the disproportionately high rates of violence and incarceration found with respect to Aboriginal women;
- CCLA’s concerns over the use of tasers;
- and CCLA’s concerns about policing demonstrations including the G8, the G20, and Montreal student protests.
The Committee has asked Canada to implement specific recommendations regarding the above concerns, and to respond in writing to specific questions by June 1, 2013, in its Concluding Observations – You can read it here. CCLA will continue working to ensure that Canada complies with its legal obligations pursuant to UNCAT, we will monitor Canada’s responses to the UN Committee’s recommendations, and we will continue to keep you posted.