Activists call for end to ‘secret trials’ and security certificates

Posted by admin on Oct 21st, 2007

Canadian Press, 19 hours ago

OTTAWA – Demonstrators in about a dozen Canadian cities Saturday demanded an end to “secret trials” and the controversial security certificate process after the federal Conservatives signalled in this week’s throne speech plans to introduce new measures to the country’s anti-terrorism laws. Activists in Ottawa accused the government of crafting a “two-tiered” justice system after the Conservatives vowed in the throne speech to respond to the Supreme Court decision on security certificates through new legislation that would also add new measures to the Anti-Terrorism Act.

“My concern is that the new legislation will not provide the immigrants and the non-status people with a fair trial,” Monia Mazigh told a crowd of about 60 people gathered at a human rights monument in downtown Ottawa. “We never expected something like this.

Mazigh’s husband, Maher Arar, was not present at the Ottawa event. The Syrian-born Canadian engineer was detained in New York and deported to Syria in 2002, where he was imprisoned for almost a year and tortured on false allegations of terrorist ties before being exonerated by a Canadian inquiry.

The demonstrators called on Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day and Immigration Minister Diane Finley to immediately withdraw all security certificates that have been issued and to release detainees currently in jail or under house arrest.

They also demanded an end to deportation proceedings against five men being held under security certificates.

In an e-mail to The Canadian Press, Day’s communications director, Melisa Leclerc, wrote that the Conservatives plan on bringing forward legislation next week to “address the particular issues the Supreme Court has asked the government to give attention to.”

“The only way a person could be subject to a security certificate would be a person that is not a Canadian citizen who represents a serious threat to Canada,” she wrote.

She also took a shot at the Liberals, calling them “soft on terror” while insisting the Conservatives “will not waiver when it comes to safeguarding the security of Canadians.”

In February, the Supreme Court overturned the current system of security certificates used by Ottawa to detain and deport non-citizens on public safety grounds, saying it violates the Charter of Rights.

The country’s highest court also suspended the full legal effect of the ruling for one year, giving legislators time to rewrite the law and comply with constitutional principles that guarantee fundamental justice and prohibit arbitrary detention.

At a rally outside a CSIS building in downtown Toronto Saturday, organizer Matthew Behrens questioned the credibility of the “secret evidence” CSIS has on the security certificate detainees, given the revelations that arose out of the Arar and Air India inquiries about how CSIS operates.

The protesters say the Conservatives will announce the appointment of “special advocates” to represent those detained under security certificates. Those advocates would have access to evidence brought against their clients, but would not be allowed to share it with them.

The move would not be without precedent, said Martin Rudner, a retired Carleton University professor and director of the Canadian Centre of Intelligence and Security Studies. He said Britain uses special advocates to represent detainees.

However, disclosing all the evidence against a detainee would compromise Canada’s intelligence-gathering methods by revealing sources and means used to collect it, he said.

An intelligence agency typically inserts an informant into a terrorist cell or uses technological means to intercept communications, he said. Revealing the identities of informants could jeopardize their lives, while disclosing means used would force the government’s hand on its technological capabilities, he said.

“What we’re talking about here is the kinds of information which the suspect cannot get for very, very good reasons,” he said.

Rallies are to be held over the weekend in Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton, Vancouver, Fredericton and Halifax and the Ontario communities of Kitchener-Waterloo, London Durham, Orillia, Midland and Sudbury.

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