High-security centre to house Security Certificate detainees

Posted by admin on Feb 2nd, 2006

High-security centre to house terror suspects. Detention unit for half dozen men being built on grounds of Millhaven. Globe and Mail

Call it Guantanamo North, or perhaps Guantanamo Lite. What’s for sure is that the new high-security detention centre being built near Kingston to house foreign terrorism suspects is exceedingly small, with space for just six inmates. As things stand, that should pose no problem for Canada’s security needs. Just four people — all Arab nationals — are believed detained under the government’s controversial security certificates. All are resisting deportation on grounds that they fear persecution if sent home. A fifth man is free on bail in Montreal, subject to severe restrictions. None of the five has been charged with a crime.

The self-contained unit, under construction behind the walls of maximum-security Millhaven Penitentiary, is due to open at the end of March and all four suspects will be going there, Correctional Service Canada spokeswoman Michele Pilon-Santilli said yesterday. “It’s within the grounds of Millhaven but is a totally separate facility, being built specifically to house security-certificate detainees,” she said. “[Prisoners] will be kept separate from other inmates at all times; there will be absolutely no contact.”

Authorities would not say what the new facility is costing to build, or disclose the size of its cells. Each inmate will be held separately, CBSA spokeswoman Cara Prest said, with visitors subject to the same scrutiny as those who enter the rest of Millhaven. Word of the new prison-within-a-prison follows a recent report by a United Nations human-rights group. After touring Canada last year, the group said it was gravely concerned” about the use of security certificates. Chiefly at issue, it concluded, are the detainees’ right to a fair hearing and their ability to challenge the evidence used to hold them, portions of which are often kept secret. Nor is there any mechanism for a judicial review of the circumstances of incarceration.

The unit is a response to a request by the Ontario government, which currently oversees the inmates’ detention, Ms. Pilon-Santilli said. “This was based on needs. If and when there are more [detainees], we’ll look at them on a case-by-case basis.” Ottawa lawyer Matthew Webber, counsel for long-time detainee Mohammed Harkat, voiced dismay at his client’s prospects. “One might view this obviously remedial step as an alternative to bail,”he said. “It’s an obvious recognition of the fact that the current circumstances are unacceptable, but this is really just a Band-Aid.”

The certificates pertain only to non-citizens believed to pose a security threat. Canadians accused of terror-related offences must be charged under the Criminal Code. All four men are suspected of being allied to Islamic extremists: Algerian-born Mr. Harkat, a refugee claimant who worked at an Ottawa gas station before his arrest in December, 2002, is being held at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre. Syrian-born Hassan Almrei, imprisoned since October, 2001, is at Toronto’s Metro West Detention Centre. Egyptian-born Mohammed Mahjoub, arrested in June, 2000, and Mahmoud Jaballah, also of Egypt, have been detained since August, 2001. They, too, are behind bars at Metro West. Adil Charkaoui of Morocco, who was held from May, 2003, to February, 2005, is free on bail in Montreal.

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