Ottawa criticized for attempting to deport people to countries where they risk torture

Posted by admin on Oct 15th, 2005

Globe and Mail. Canada chided over rights, Ottawa criticized for attempting to deport people to countries where they risk torture

Ottawa — Canada ignores its international legal obligations when it maintains it has the right to deport people to countries where they risk torture, Amnesty International says in a report card to the United Nations. “International law is very clear . . . the international legal protection against torture, including removal to face torture, is absolute and applies in all circumstances, and Canadian law and practice must be reformed accordingly,” Amnesty says.

The Amnesty report, to be presented to the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva next week, also takes the federal government to task for imprisoning four Muslim men without charges as alleged security risks and failing to implement a long promised independent appeal process for people making refugee claims.

The UN panel conducts periodic reviews of how member states are living up to their human rights obligations. This year, Canada is one of the countries being put under the microscope.

Ottawa says it should be able to deport or extradite people to countries where they risk torture in cases involving serious crimes or national security risks. In a ruling three years ago, the Supreme Court of Canada left open this possibility in “exceptional circumstances,” but did not elaborate.

Amnesty says the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights obliges Canada to refuse to send people to countries where they face serious risk of torture. To make sure there is no ambiguity, the rights group recommends amending Canadian laws to incorporate those international treaty provisions.

Amnesty and other humanrights groups say Canada is trying to deport several Muslim men as security risks to Middle Eastern countries where they are almost certain to be tortured.

The government’s own risk assessment says that one of the men, Mohammed Mahjoub, can expect “illtreatment and human rights abuses” if sent home to Egypt. Mr. Mahjoub has been in jail in Toronto for five years fighting deportation. He is one of the four men who have been imprisoned without charges as national security risks.

Amnesty says the process that is being used to hold the men is a violation of basic rights because they are not allowed to see the evidence against them.

Moreover, their right to appeal to the Federal Court of Canada is limited.

The only thing the judge can review is the “reasonableness” of the decision to detain the suspects based on the government’s view of what the suspects might do in the future to endanger national security.

Amnesty also criticizes the federal government’s reluctance to investigate the cases of three Canadian men who were arrested in Syria and say they were tortured on the basis of information provided by Canada.

An independent expert should be appointed “to examine the role of Canadian officials in facilitating or tolerating torture” in these cases, it says.

Amnesty says torture is such an outrageous violation of human rights that Canadian laws should be amended to allow torture victims to sue foreign governments in Canadian courts. This would act as a deterrent, it says.

Amnesty also says the federal government should implement an independent review process for people who claim they are refugees but are turned down in the first instance. Refugee and immigration laws were amended three years ago to establish a new appeal process, but the government has not brought that portion of the law into force.

Immigration Minister Joe Volpe is no longer sure whether the appeal process is needed in light of other avenues of appeal on humanitarian and other grounds and various changes to the system, according to Steven Heckbert, the minister’s spokesman.

The report also says the federal government does not provide adequate social services for aboriginal people, especially women who are victims of violence and children who are in custodial care. Federal financing for child and family services is on average 22 per cent below the level provinces provide to non aboriginal people.

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