Men held under immigration “security certificates” outraged to learn CSIS, top government officials knew cases built on torture

CMAQ via Mic, Sunday, December 4, 2011 - 21:59

(Toronto/Montreal/Ottawa, 4 December 2011)

Logo of CSIS: Canadian Maple Leaf in the middle, 12 blue spikes reach out, four are bigger than the others. Topped by a royal crownSeveral men whose lives were turned upside down when they were labelled and arrested as “threats to national security” were stunned to learn yesterday that CSIS itself believed that the cases against them would fall apart if CSIS were prevented from using information obtained from the use of tortureThe startling admission was made in a secret memo sent from former CSIS head Jim Judd to then Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day in January 2008. Post media made the contents of the memo public yesterday.

“It is unbelievable. CSIS has been lying to us for years! But I don't know which is worse - CSIS's position or the fact that top officials like Stockwell Day were made aware but went ahead and signed the new certificates against us anyway, effectively condoning the use of torture and condemning us to several more years of arbitrary detention,” said Adil Charkaoui.

Charkaoui is a Montreal teacher and father of four who won twice at the Supreme Court and was finally freed in 2009. He is currently seeking an apology from the government through court proceedings.

Despite its own evaluation that the cases would not meet new Canadian legal standards, introduced in February 2008, the agency advised Minister Day to issue the certificates. Day complied.

"It really makes me sick to think that when I was sitting in solitary confinement on secret allegations for almost eight years, the head of CSIS knew that my case, and the cases of the other men held on security certificate, were completely baseless, because they were likely based on information that came from torture," says Hassan Almrei, a Toronto man who was finally cleared of allegations against him in 2009.

"Once again, we see that CSIS uses secrecy to cover up what is not only politically embarrassing, but also clearly immoral and illegal," added Mr. Almrei. Another secret government memo from 2003, released during the Arar Inquiry, shows that government officials knew that it was impossible to charge Mr. Almrei with a criminal offence due to lack of evidence against him.

Among the officials who received the memo from Jim Judd was Richard Fadden, who has since taken over from Judd as head of CSIS. Fadden is overseeing the current security certificate proceedings.

''Our lives have been turned upside down in the name of National Security. All we want is for the truth to come out and the only way this is going to happen is if everything is out in the open for all Canadians to see. There is no transparency under the security certificate regime and each time something like this comes out into the open, CSIS only gets a slap on the hand. In the meantime, we pay the price with our lives and freedom. This is seriously disturbing, but it's also not the first time they have hidden the truth," said Sophie Lamarche Harkat, who is married to Mohamed Harkat. Mr. Harkat, a convention refugee, has been struggling to free himself from a security certificate since 10 December 2002. He remains under house arrest in Ottawa.

Two other men, both based in Toronto, also continue to struggle for their freedom and to clear their names from the torture-based allegations. School principal Mahmoud Jaballah, a survivor of torture in Egypt, was first arrested in 1999, and became the first security certificate detainee to be cleared by the Federal Court. But he was re-arrested in 2001 despite CSIS admitting there was no new information against him, only a "new interpretation" of information that had already been dismissed. After seven years of imprisonment, he remains under house arrest.

Mohammad Mahjoub, a father of two who was arrested in June 2000, will be in court in Toronto this coming week to argue that he should be freed from the house arrest conditions that control every detail of his life. Another survivor of torture in Egypt, Mahjoub spent over eight years behind bars without charge and three under draconian house arrest. His lawyers will show that his continued detention under house arrest is illegal and will also argue that his current conditions constitute “unusual punishment”.


More information:

Coalition Justice for Adil Charkaoui
Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada
Justice for Mohamed Harkat Committee

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