Federal court upholds security certificates

Posted by admin on Dec 10th, 2004

Globe and Mail, 10 December 2004

It is constitutional to hold suspected terrorists without charge or appeal, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled Friday.

The decision is a blow to the hopes of Moroccan-born Adil Charkaoui, whose supporters have been fighting against the “security certificate” under which he has been held since the spring of last year. Mr. Charkaoui has lost three bids for bail. He is accused of being an al-Qaeda agent and faces deportation to his native country, where his supporters say he could be tortured.On Friday, the three-judge Court of Appeal upheld a lower-court ruling that the security certificate sections of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act are constitutional.

Also Friday, Public Safety Minister Anne McLellan defended the certificates in the House of Commons, rejecting a Bloc Québécois accusation that the government is “totally insensitive” to human rights.

“These certificates are one of the tools we use to protect the national security of Canadians. Security certificates, while obviously controversial in the minds of some, have been reviewed by the courts,” Ms. McLellan said.

“It is an exceptional remedy. That’s why it’s been used very infrequently since 1991 when it was first legislated. I will also point out … that we in this country have not deported anyone to any country where they would face a substantial risk of torture.”

Mr. Charkaoui’s lawyers were “unable to demonstrate that the procedure for reviewing the reasonableness of the security certificate issued against him… do not meet the requirements of the Charter,” the Court of Appeal concluded in an 89-page ruling.

The legal predicament that Mr. Charkaoui and four other Muslim men face in Canada has attracted close attention from human-rights advocates.

On Friday – which happens to be International Day for Human Rights – the security certificate was criticized by Amnesty International and the Canadian branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

“The security certificate process does not conform to a number of essential international legal standards,” argued Alex Neve, leader of Amnesty International Canada. “The security certificate denies both justice and security.”

Supporters of the five men released Friday a statement signed by over 300 groups and individuals. Some of the signatories included NDP leader Jack Layton, singer Bruce Cockburn, filmmaker Denys Arcand and former Progressive Conservative MP Flora MacDonald.

“For many Muslims and Arabs, security certificates embody an arbitrary and non-transparent legal process that they never expected to find in a democratic country they now call home,” said Riad Saloojee, head of CAIR-Canada.

“Muslims and Arabs have unfortunately been the most common casualties under this deeply flawed process.”

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