Canadians Detained Abroad

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CCLA Concerned About Detained Journalist Mohamed Fahmy

By on February 27, 2014

CCLA is seriously concerned about the detention of Mohamed Fahmy in Egypt.  Mr. Fahmy is a Canadian citizen and a journalist.

We commend the Canadian government for providing consular assistance, and for highlighting the rights to freedom of expression and the need to protect journalists.  Both Canada and Egypt are state parties to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which protects not only freedom of expression but also fair trial rights.  Both of these rights are implicated in Mr. Fahmy’s situation.

As fellow state parties to the ICCPR, Canada has the right to insist that Egypt comply with its legal obligations under the ICCPR which includes upholding freedom of expression, the rights of journalists and all fair trial rights. We call upon Canada to continue to provide consular attention to Mr Fahmy, with particular regard to the specific observations of Justices O’Connor and Iacobucci regarding consular visits made in the two Federal Commissions of Inquiry.

 

 

CCLA Elated Two Canadians Held in Egypt Released

By on October 6, 2013

CCLA has just heard this morning that two Canadians detained without charge in Egypt since mid-August have been released, and are awaiting their return to Canada.

Dr. Tarek Loubani and filmmaker John Greyson have been held in an Egyptian prison since they were arrested while assisting wounded demonstrators in mid-August, on a short-stop over in Cairo on their way to provide humanitarian assistance in Gaza.  Both men went on a 16-day hunger strike to protest their detention.

CCLA wrote last week to Prime Minister Harper urging him to directly intervene for the immediate and safe release of Tarek and John.  Since hearing of their arrest, CCLA had strongly urged the Canadian government to do everything possible to secure their release.

Canadians Detained in Egypt: CCLA Calls for Government Intervention

By on September 30, 2013

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has written to Prime Minister Stephen Harper urging him to directly intervene with the Egyptian government to demand the release of Canadians Tarek Loubani and John Greyson.  Both men have been detained in Egypt since the middle of August although no charges have been laid against them.  Over the last several weeks Egyptian officials have continued to extend the duration of the detention but have failed to lay any formal charges or afford the Canadians any due process.

CCLA is pleased that the Canadian government has issued a public statement calling for the immediate release of the Canadians but believes further direct and immediate intervention is required.  The continued detention of these two men is contrary to international law and allegations that they are being held in substandard conditions are deeply concerning.

Read CCLA’s letter to the Prime Minister here.

CCLA Extremely Concerned About Canadians Arrested in Egypt

By on August 20, 2013

Canadians Tarek Loubani and John Greyson are being detained in Egypt. (Photo originally published by The Globe and Mail.)

CCLA is very concerned about reports that Canadians Tarek Loubani and John Greyson were arrested in Cairo last Friday, August 16th, 2013, and reportedly are being detained in an Egyptian prison. CCLA was contacted on Saturday, August, 17th by medical colleagues of Dr. Tarek Loubani, an emergency room physician in London, Ontario who is renowned for his humanitarian work in providing medical relief in Gaza. CCLA wrote to our human rights colleagues in Egypt to obtain more information about Dr. Loubani. We know now that award-winning filmmaker and human rights activist John Greyson was also arrested with Dr. Loubani, and we are deeply concerned for both individuals. Read more…

Saudi Arabia sentences women for helping Canadians Nathalie Morin and her children

By on June 19, 2013

CCLA has for years been calling for the right of Canadian Nathalie Morin and her Canadian children, to be able to freely travel from Saudi Arabia to Canada, in accordance with international legal standards that are binding upon both countries.  We have also called upon the Canadian and Saudi governments to urgently investigate allegations of domestic abuse against Ms. Morin and her children, again in compliance with the requirements of international law.   To access our past letters to the Canadian government in this regard please click here, http://ccla.org/2010/06/02/ccla-calls-upon-canada-to-urgently-assist-nathalie-morin/ and here http://ccla.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Aug_16_2011_CCLA-MFA-N.Morin_.pdf.   To read our past blogs on Nathalie’s case click here: http://ccla.org/?submit=Search&s=Nathalie+Morin

Early this week, CCLA was contacted by Nathalie’s mother, Johanne Durocher, who informed us that two prominent Saudi Arabian human rights activists who are women — Ms. Wajeha al-Huwaider and Ms. Fawzia al-Oyouni —  were tried and sentenced by Saudi courts, with respect to a June 2011 incident when they took food to Nathalie Morin, and following a trial that has lasted twelve months. Ms Morin was not allowed to testify at this trial.

The charges were that Ms. al-Huwaider and Ms. al-Oyouni had tried to turn a wife against her husband, and had tried to help Ms Morin and her children escape.   We are told both women were found guilty of trying to sabotage the marital relationship (takhbib in Saudi law) – but not of trying to assist an escape.  Ms Durocher has forwarded to us an email from Ms al-Huwaider.  Ms. al-Huwaider and Ms. al-Oyouni have protested their innocence, claiming they had no intention of seeking to assist in an escape or interfering in the marriage, and that their only intention was to take food to Ms Morin and her children who allegedly were starving and had been locked up with insufficient access to food, while Ms Morin’s spouse was away on a trip.  Both women have been sentenced to ten months in prison and a two -year travel ban — which means they are not able to leave Saudi Arabia for almost three years.   Ms. al-Huwaider is a known human rights activist who has openly advocated for equality rights for women — she is joined by regional human rights groups in alleging that the charges and sentence were meant to stymie her gender equality activism.  Reportedly,  Ms. al-Huwaider and her supporters have claimed that in taking food to a starving woman and her children, she was acting in compassion which is consistent with the teachings of Islam.  See also a statement issued by Canadian NGO Muslims for Progressive Values here http://mpvummahcanada.tumblr.com/post/53198959628/for-immediate-release-re-saudi-human-rights

CCLA is seriously concerned that Ms al-Huwaider and Ms. al-Oyouni may have been subject to prosecution intended to punish and prevent them from engaging in gender equality advocacy.  CCLA argues that gender equality is a fundamental human right recognized in international law and binding upon all States — it is protected in the foundational documents of international law which include the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (which is considered to be binding as a matter of customary international law).  Further, Saudi Arabia and Canada are both state parties to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women which calls for the full and equal participation of women and men in all fields as being prerequisite to the welfare of the world (see Preamble), and calls in Article 3  for the equal protection of women’s fundamental rights and freedoms — CCLA points out that fundamental rights and freedoms include the right to freedom of expression, freedom of speech, freedom of opinion, and freedom of association — all crucial and intertwined rights in the fight for equality.

CCLA remains seriously concerned that Ms. Morin and her three Canadian children are being prevented from traveling to Canada, which violates their mobility rights — protected in international law and in Canadian law.  CCLA points out that Saudi Arabia has voluntarily assumed its legal obligations in international law by signing on to the CEDAW and UN CRC, and has spoken out in international forums to urge other States to comply with their international law obligations.

Ms. al-Huwaider has indicated that she and Ms al-Oyouni will be appealing their sentence in July 2013.

CCLA urges the Canadian government to call upon fellow State-party Saudi Arabia to comply with its obligations pursuant to international law, and to seek to assist Ms Morin and her three children to be able to travel to Canada in accordance with their rights under international law.

Rights of Canadians detained abroad argued at Supreme Court

By on February 19, 2013

Millions of Canadians travel abroad. Each year, some are charged and convicted of crimes in foreign countries.  These individuals are often detained for long periods of time in foreign prisons, far from their families.  Many will be surrounded by a foreign bureaucracy, culture and language, and may be subject to conditions that fall far below what Canadians would view as acceptable. Over thirty years ago we realized that there was little to be gained by forcing people to serve their prison sentences abroad.  Both for the rehabilitation of offenders, the interest of their family and public safety in general, a sentence in a prison of the country of citizenship is often preferable.  Language barriers, isolation, difficulties in contacting families and friends, and, in some countries, prison conditions may make the sentence particularly harsh or undermine any possibility of rehabilitation and reintegration. For Canadian families, the difficulty and costs of maintaining contact with a loved one may be significant. And since citizens have a right to return to their country of citizenship after their sentence is completed, there is an interest in ensuring that they have access to rehabilitation programs while in prison.  It is for these reasons that most countries have entered into multi-state conventions of bilateral arrangements to provide for such transfers. It is indeed viewed as enhancing public security and not diminishing it to ensure proper rehabilitation to offenders who are more than likely to come back in the country.

In Canada, the International Transfer of Offenders Act was put into place to facilitate precisely this return and rehabilitation.  Once an offender and the foreign detaining country have given their approval, a person can ask the Canadian government to approve the transfer to a Canadian institution.  In recent years, however, the federal Minister vetting these applications has drastically decreased the approval rates – from 100% approval of all recommended transfers between 1999 and 2005, to just 27% approved in 2009-2010.  And in numerous court cases, time after time, judges have reprimanded the Canadian government for improper decision-making and failing to articulate why they are refusing to allow people to complete their sentences in Canada.

Now the question has come to the Supreme Court of Canada: if a Canadian wants to transfer to a prison in Canada, and the foreign government agrees to the transfer, when can the Canadian government refuse to take a citizen back?  And if they do, does it engage a citizen’s constitutionally-protected right to enter Canada?

On February 18, 2013 CCLA appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada to argue that the government’s decisions in these cases does engage Canadians’ mobility rights, which are constitutionally protected under s. 6 of the Charter.  And although there may be a few exceptional situations where transferring a person to a Canadian prison would actually increase immediate safety risks, in the vast majority of cases public safety will be served by allowing a Canadian citizen to be near their family, to access programs, and be subject to appropriate Canadian supervision.

To read CCLA’s factum click here.

CCLA Reaffirms its Position on “Torture Information”

By on August 8, 2012

There have been recent media stories about CSIS considering use of information either procured from torture, or transferring information to a country where it could be used to torture a detainee.

CCLA’s position is clear:  Canada cannot be complicit in torture Torture is illegal in Canadian law and in international law:

1)    This means that no evidence procured through torture can ever be used as evidence in a Canadian courtroom, or to deprive a person of his or her liberty.

2)    Canada cannot pass on information to a foreign country, knowing that it may result in the torture of a detainee. Four Canadian-Arab men – Maher Arar, Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Abou-Elmaati, and Muayyed Nurredin – were detained and tortured abroad due to direct or indirect faulty sharing of information by Canadian officials with foreign agencies.  Two Federal Commissions of Inquiry have made detailed and specific recommendations (O’Connor Commission) and specific comments (Iacobucci Commission):  CCLA believes the information-sharing recommendations and comments of the O’Connor and Iacobucci Commissions must be followed to ensure that Canada is not complicit in the torture of detainees held abroad.

3)    Finally, the Minister of Public Safety has repeated that Canada will not ‘dither’, and that information procured from torture may be relied upon to “prevent a mass terror event”.  CCLA believes that Canada must not encourage foreign countries to torture.   Canadian police always act upon tips of mass threat – for example an anonymous phone call of a bomb threat will result in police first evacuating the public space, searching for a bomb, and — if a bomb exists — deactivating and disposing of the bomb in a safe manner.  CCLA believes that the comments of the Minister of Public Safety – which conflate the need to act to prevent a mass terror attack, with a supposed need for torture information —  is a harmful syllogism that undermines respect for the law and undermines respect for human life and human dignity – which respect is at the heart of the absolute legal prohibition against torture.

Summer Series #3 – Omar Khadr and the extraordinary obstinacy of the Minister of Public Safety

By on July 27, 2012

The 2012 Summer Series is a collection of essays, articles and op-eds published by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. The Summer Series explores some key questions about rights and responsibilities in democracy and examines topical issues through a civil liberties lens. 

To view all articles of the Summer Series, click here

Every year, thousands of Canadians are arrested around the world. Some are guilty, others are not. Some are treated fairly, but many are not, for various reasons. Whether it is because there is prejudice against foreigners, a weak justice system, corruption, a mistaken application of the law, or a failure to apply international standards, some people are abused, wrongfully accused, subject to torture or imprisoned in abusive conditions.  Subsequently, these Canadians will be judged more or less impartially or plead guilty in more or less coercive circumstance.  Later, their country of imprisonment may decide to accept that they be transferred to a Canadian prison to complete their sentence.  At that point, they become completely at the mercy of the Minister of Public Security. All Canadians can apply to complete their sentence in a Canadian prison and, if the country where they are detained agrees, they may request the transfer. Most countries engage in transfer of prisoners because this enables the country of citizenship to support the rehabilitation of its nationals in a context where they will return to their country of citizenship at the end of their sentence anyway. In Canada, the Harper government has expanded the discretion of the Minister to deny such transfers. This increased the politicization of such transfer decisions.

This is certainly the case in the context of Omar Khadr. The guilty plea entered by Khadr before a military court and after already eight years in Guantanamo prison provided for an additional year in prison in Guantanamo and that the remainder 7 years could be in a Canadian prison.  Omar Khadr who was 15 at the time of his participation in combat in Afghanistan has been imprisoned at Guantanamo since 2002, the only citizen of a Western country to still be there.  The Canadian courts who have had to review his case concluded that the Canadian intelligence services violated his rights during interrogations, and he was not treated in accordance with international conventions, including the Convention on the rights of the Child.  The Americans agreed to the transfer of Mr. Khadr to a Canadian jail nine months ago. Minister Toews still refuses to accept the transfer request and weighs the political costs of such a decision. The National Post invites people to vote on the question: who wants the return of Omar Khadr? People express themselves: they do not like the Khadr family, are afraid of terrorists, want murderers punished more severely. A decision that should be taken on the basis of legislative criteria is converted into a popular plebiscite.

All Canadians should be concerned about the way this case has been handled.  The Khadr case dramatically exposes the inconsistencies of our politics: we sign international agreements such as the Convention against Torture or the Convention on the Rights of the Child and ignore their application in concrete cases. We claim to want impartial justice, free from politics, but when the courts rule in the Khadr case, the Minister refuses to comply or to acknowledge the implications of the judicial pronouncements. Detention conditions at Guantanamo violate international conventions of human rights, and Canada still does not care.

The rights of all Canadians are weakened by indifference and intransigence of the Minister in the Khadr case. The Minister is dragging his feet and refuses to promptly approve a transfer in the case of a prisoner in a context of multiple violations of human rights recognized by Canadian courts.  When there are rights violations or abusive conditions of detention, the Minister should act promptly.  Approving a transfer is not a “favour” to Mr. Khadr,  it is the application of the same law for all Canadians.  The process is designed to ensure that the Canadian correctional service is involved in the rehabilitation of persons who, in any case, will be returning to Canada when they finish their sentences.  Public safety is best served by this involvement of the correctional service. The obstinacy of the Minister does not help anyone here: Canadians are not better protected by Khadr’s detention in Guantanamo instead of in Canada, the Americans who may want to do other plea bargains with other prisoners do want Canada to honour the deal.  What the obstinacy of the Minister is doing is weakening the rule of law and every Canadian’s right to believe that he or she will be treated according to law at all times.

 

Nathalie Des Rosiers

General Counsel

Summer Series #1 – Petition – Minister Toews: Bring back Omar Khadr from Guantanamo Bay

By on July 13, 2012

The 2012 Summer Series is a collection of essays, articles and op-eds published by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. The Summer Series explores some key questions about rights and responsibilities in democracy and examines topical issues through a civil liberties lens. 

To view all articles of the Summer Series, click here

Senator Romeo Dallaire and Omar Khadr’s Canadian legal counsel are teaming up withChange.org to launch a petition in support of Khadr’s repatriation. Given your commitment to human rights and basic justice, we’d like to a call on your support to help promote this initiative.

Specifically, we would like you to draw attention to this petition.

Change.org is sending the email on behalf of Senator Dallaire to approximately half a million Canadians, but we are hoping to reach many more with your help.

Sukanya Pillay, director of the national security program at CCLA, recently wrote an op-ed for Huffington Post detailing six reasons for which Omar Khadr should be allowed to come back to Canada.

Please read at attached petition, and thanks in advance. Hope to hear back from you soon.

Nathalie Des Rosiers

General Counsel

 

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About this Petition

The case of Omar Khadr-a Canadian citizen and former child soldier-is a stain upon our society and shows a blatant disregard for Canada’s obligations under international law.

During his 10 nightmarish years at Bagram and Guantánamo Bay, Omar Khadr’s rights have been violated time and again. He has been denied the right to due process and a fair trial, the right to protection from torture, and the rights stemming from the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol on Children in Armed Conflict.

After years of dragging its feet, Canada finally agreed to his return in 2010, so long as he served one additional year in Guantánamo. No one forced the government’s hand. It made its promise voluntarily. That year has passed, and yet the transfer request continues to gather dust on the minister’s desk awaiting his signature. This is simply unacceptable.

Just days ago, Marine Col. Jeffrey Colwell, chief defense counsel for military commissions openly chastised Canada for crippling US efforts to enter into plea agreements: If the US “can’t carry through on their end of the bargain, it has a chilling effect on the willingness of others to plead. There was an expectation by all parties involved that Khadr was going to be home last fall. It’s July, and he’s not.”

The Americans have held up their end of the deal. Omar Khadr has held up his end of the deal. Why is the Canadian government refusing to follow through on its commitment?

Enough is enough. Canada must keep its word – and Minister Toews must authorize Omar Khadr’s return without delay. A deal is a deal.

If thousands join me, we can force Canada to honour its promise. Now is the time to speak up and spread the word. Please sign this petition and help me bring Omar Khadr home.

LGen Honourable Roméo A. Dallaire, (Ret’d), Senator

UN Treaty Body Incorporates CCLA’s Specific Concerns

By on June 1, 2012

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.