Canada’s Secret Trial Five are five Muslim men whose lives have been torn apart by accusations that they are not allowed to fight in a fair and independent trial.
Three men are imprisoned in Toronto: Mohammad Mahjoub, a refugee from Egypt who has been in prison since June 2000; Mahmoud Jaballah, a refugee from Egypt who was arrested in August 2001, and Hassan Almrei, a refugee who has been facing deportation to Syrian torture, just like Maher Arar, since October 2001. The fourth man, Algerian refugee Mohamed Harkat, was arrested in Ottawa in December 2002, ironically on Human Rights Day. The fifth, Adil Charkraoi from Morocco, was arrested in Montreal in May 2003.
All five men were arrested under "Security Certificates," a measure of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) that has been described by Amnesty International as "fundamentally flawed and unfair". They are imprisoned indefinitely without charges on secret evidence and face deportation to their countries of origin, even if there is a substantial risk of torture or death.
The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act can be found at: http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/I-2.5/index.html.
[The Relevant Provisions are §33 to 34, §76 to 85 and §112]
Security certificates and secret evidence reverse the fundamental rule of innocent until proven guilty.
Neither the detainee nor his lawyer are informed of the precise allegations or provided with the full information against him. Additional information can be presented at any time to the judge in the absence of the detainee and his lawyer. Normal standards of evidence are explicitly waived. There is no right to cross-examine witnesses who have made allegations. The result is that both the original approval of the certificate (by the Minister), and then the judgement on whether it is "reasonable" (by a Federal Court judge), are based on one-sided arguments.
The court is not given the power to decide on the truth of the allegations. There is no appeal. The detainee can be imprisoned for years without bail. They can be held for years without charge. In the case of Mohammad Mahjoub, this has meant jail for over four years. For permanent residents like Adil Charkaoui, the court is required to conduct a detention review every six months.
The men can be deported, even if their lives are threatened. This is a discriminatory measure. Security certificates only apply to Permanent Residents and Refugees. They thus deny certain classes of people in Canada their fundamental rights – a completely unacceptable discrimination. Human rights are inalienable and do not depend on citizenship status.
The security certificate process is undermining international norms. Amnesty International "is of the view that the security certificate process may very well result in arbitrary detention and thus violate the fundamental right to liberty." Amnesty also believes that the Secret Trial Five are "effectively denied their right to prepare a defense and mount a meaningful challenge to the lawfulness of their detention," which puts Canada on the wrong side of articles 9 and 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Amnesty International, 31 March 2004). Canada’s position on deportation to torture is despicable.
The Security Certificate dates back to 1993 and was reintroduced in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act in 2002. It is a tool that has been put to use in the post-9/11 climate of racist hysteria around "national security" to attack the Muslim and Arab communities, migrants and broader civil liberties. It was used to justify Bill C-18, a failed attempt to introduce a security certificate process for naturalised Canadians (i.e. stripping them of their citizenship and deporting them under a secret trial). With the Anti-Terrorism Act, similar violations of rights are extended to all citizens and more arbitrary powers are put in the hands of police and security forces. The historical parallels are clear: Japanese-Canadians interned and deported from Canada during World War II and the "red scare" of the McCarthy era. These should stand as warnings to us.
These five men have been held, as of December 2004, a collective total of 178 months in Canadian prisons, much of it in solitary confinement.
Welcome to Canada's own Guantanamo Bay.
The families of these men and their supporters demand FOUR things:
1. That the five men be released immediately; or, if any case against them actually exists, that they be allowed to defend themselves in open, fair and independent trials with full disclosure of the case against them.
2. That they not be deported.
3. That the federal government abolish the secret trial security certificate process.
4. That CSIS, RCMP, and CIC end its ongoing harassment and intimidation of individuals and communities of Arab, Middle Eastern, and South Asian heritage and/or Muslim faith.
Standing up for the rights of the Secret Trial Five is a concrete way to confront the politics of racist fear.
More background information is available at:
Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada (Toronto): www.homesnotbombs.ca
Coalition for Justice for Adil (Montreal): www.adilinfo.org
Committee for Justice for Mohamed Harkat (Ottawa): www.zerra.net/freemohamed
Letters supporting the demands of the Campaign can be sent to:
Judy Sgro, P.C., M.P,
Citizenship and Immigration Canada,
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 1L1
Fax: 613 947 8319
Tel: 613 992 7774
Anne McLellan, P.C., M.P,
Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
c/o Solicitor General of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A6
Fax: 613 990-9077
Tel: 613 991 2924