July 6, 2005 — Hassan Almrei marked Canada Day for the fourth year in a row in his solitary confinement cell at Metro West Detention Centre, where he has been held without charge or bail since October, 2001.
Canada Day in Solitary Confinement: Year 4
Hassan Almrei, Almost Four Years in Solitary Confinement and Now on Day 13 of a Hunger Strike, Seeks Release on Bail
Alexandre Trudeau, Naomi Klein, Avi Lewis and Heather Mallick Join Hassan's Bail Community
Three Jail Guards Testify About Hassan's Trustworthiness and Character
July 6, 2005 — Hassan Almrei marked Canada Day for the fourth year in a row in his solitary confinement cell at Metro West Detention Centre, where he has been held without charge or bail since October, 2001. While Canadians listened to political pieties about freedom and democracy, for Hassan it was just another day in his 9 X 12 concrete cell, on hunger strike (in day 13 on July 6) to demand the same rights as other federal detainees, especially the need for an hour a day outside his cell to exercise an ailing knee.
Canada Day ended a week that began with Hassan's appearance in a Federal Court in downtown Toronto seeking release on bail. A prior attempt had been turned down based entirely on secret evidence neither he nor his lawyers was allowed to see. An appeal to the Federal Court of Appeal ended with a rejection and, to add insult to injury, the claim that it was "premature" to call three and a half years in detention without charge "indefinite detention."
Hassan was able to apply for bail due to a change in circumstances, stemming from a Federal Court finding that a governmental decision to deport him to torture had been made unlawfully, was "patently unreasonable," and was in fact "perverse." Because the government screwed up and must make a new determination on the deportation issue, it adds months and months to the amount of time Hassan spends behind bars awaiting decisions both on the potential for bail (to be heard at the Supreme Court) and whether deportation to torture is legal.
And so on Monday, June 27, here he was again in court, with a group of supporters from Edmonton, Montreal and Durham among his friends in Toronto. The hearing itself was a study in contrasts. The first day was a collection of half-truths and what one might delicately conclude were outright lies presented by a spokesman for the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) and for the paid-to-be-paranoid group of spies at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, CSIS.
Day two was marked by a much more hopeful collection of testimony from people who have become Hassan's friends: Alexandre Trudeau, Diana Ralph, and Hassan Ahmed, as well as from three of the guards from Metro West Detention Centre, who spoke to Hassan's trustworthiness and good character.
Like many such hearings, it was like going through a connect the dots game in which one knows there will be bumps along the way. If you ask certain questions, objections will be made by the government, which will claim "national security" privilege in demanding the question either not be answered or withdrawn. There is also the usual collection of howlers from the CSIS agent, who this time, despite being a self-proclaimed expert, didn't seem to know that the U.S. funded the resistance to Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
But there were also fine moments of integrity and humanity, especially on day two, where a variety of forms of courage were on display when individuals came forward to say Hassan is not some shadowy figure in a faded passport photo, but a real human being, a funny, compassionate man who has been wrongly incarcerated for years on end to suit a bizarre political agenda. Indeed, he is our brother, our friend, and many of us love him as we would a member of the family.
What will happen next is up to the Court, and to all of us. For the court, it must now set a date for a secret hearing to hear more "evidence" against Hassan, and then determine what may be released to him and his lawyer for further submissions. There is also an outstanding request for a CSIS officer who actually knows something about Hassan's case to testify as well.
As for the rest of us, Hassan Almrei is on his sixth hunger strike
in four years, demanding the same rights as federal detainees.
Specifically, he wants to be able to get out of his cell, where he is cooped up for 24 hours a day, for one hour per day to exercise his ailing knee. The jail's doctor has ordered him to exercise, but the jail is so far not going along with it. He wants an end to interference with his mail and books that are ordered for him, and he would like a radio or television in his cell (rights which are accorded, for example, to one of the most reviled prisoners in Canada, Paul Bernardo).
Details on what you can do to help Hassan appear at the bottom of this email.
Below is a sketch of some of what took place over his two days of hearings.
HASSAN'S APPEAL FOR BAIL
The Monday hearing begins with one of Almrei's lawyers, Barb
Jackman, offering up affidavits for new individuals who have come forward to be part of Hassan's proposed bail community. They are writers including Alexandre Trudeau, Naomi Klein, Heather Mallick and Avi Lewis. There is a buzz in the court as the names are read out, and the judge wears a "what kind of case am I getting involved with" look.
The government then calls as its first witness Louis Dumas, the
Manager of Security Review at the Canadian Border Services Agency, and no stranger to such proceedings. A former Immigration Control Officer (since renamed in Orwellian fashion "Immigration Integrity Officer), one of his former jobs was working with local governments and airlines to detect what he calls "fraudulent travel to Canada" from Palestine (which really means
trying to prevent refugees from getting on planes and declaring refugee status in Canada).
Dumas's testimony is embroidered with the kind of diplomatic public relations language which should come as a tribute to the work of people across Canada who have committed themselves to ending secret trials. The language is far more "caring" and "aware" than it has been at prior hearings. Indeed, the decision to deport someone to torture, once described blithely as another part of the job, is now, especially in light of United Nations criticism of Canada in May, "not something to be taken lightly."
Indeed, Dumas says that in their attempt to make a final decision
about whether to deport, his department goes through extensive
documentation and "we leave no stone unturned," which sounds good on paper until one remembers that in three separate judicial reviews of such deportation decisions, his department was found legally wanting for its sloppy work, which left many stones quietly gathering moss.
Dumas's testimony is peppered with niceties such as "an individual's fate is at stake here," "I think it is important that due
process takes place," and "we owe it to the individual that the process is as fair as possible." He even says at one point that he is working within the parameters of an immigration act which "does not allow permanent detention," a surprise to people like Hassan, held almost four years, Mahmoud Jaballah, held almost five years, Mohammad Mahjoub, who began his sixth year of indefinite detention the last week in June, Mohamed Harkat,
held since Human Rights Day of 2002, and Adil Charkaoui, held almost two years before release under strict house arrest conditions.
Part of this hearing is to determine whether Hassan would be "removed within a reasonable time" from Canada (one of two criteria to be met in the bail question, the other being the alleged "risk" he might pose to Canada). And so Dumas's testimony is full of ironic statements about improved efficiencies in a process which is slow and cumbersome, leaving individuals such as the Secret Trial Five to languish behind bars.
Part of the problem here is Canada is operating outside of the law, and its refusal to abide by the law, problematic in and of itself, also adds years to the time spent in detention for the secret trial detainees.
Although Canada is a signatory to the Convention Against Torture, which absolutely prohibits deporting anyone where there is a substantial risk of torture or worse, the federal government insists it has the right in special circumstances to do just that, even where its case is based wholly on secret evidence. Unfortunately, the immigration bureaucrats are not going to fall in line with their legal obligations until ordered to do so by the Supreme Court, a process which could still take a number of
And so the government continues going through a process whose
ultimate conclusion will likely be the same as it was in the last round of legally wanting removal orders: despite the risk of torture, these men should be deported, even though there is not enough evidence against any of them to put together a criminal charge. This will require further court challenges before the issue can make its way to the Supreme Court.
If the government were to comply with its legal obligations and end this deportation business, it could shave years off the detention of the four men still behind bars.
REFUGEES AS TRASH
The language Dumas uses is instructive, both for what he says and for what he doesn't. He never refers to Hassan by name, for to do so would be to recognize the Syrian refugee's humanity, his pain, his suffering. He is only referred to as "the individual."
The government lawyers take Dumas through the process of making an individual "removal ready," like trash about to be taken out to the curbside for pickup. He talks of travel documents, of leasing a private plane, all this to "allow this person to return to his country."
It all sounds so simple. The government making the necessary
arrangements to "allow" someone to return to his country. It would all be so simple if what awaited this person in his country of birth were not torture or death. Why, the secret trial five have always asked, do you think they would stay for years behind bars if they could in fact go back and be safe in their countries of origin?
But to the government, it is a simple matter of choice: indefinite
detention here in Canada, or torture abroad. The choice is presented to the detainees like a coke/pepsi taste test. Free to choose, eh? The Canadian way.
"Is there an impediment to Hassan Almrei asking to leave Canada?" government lawyer Toby Hoffman inquires.
"Has Mr. Almrei ever made that request?"
"I do not believe so."
The not so subtle message here is clear. The prison door will open if Hassan offers himself up to electric shocks, beatings, and suspension from the ceiling as an introductory starter to the torture chambers in Damascus.
John Norris, lawyer for Hassan Almrei, cross-examines Dumas. Much of the testimony deals with timelines about how long the government needs to make a new determination about whether, following a balancing act, it still feels Hassan should be deported. Historically, the government sends people like to Dumas to court with hopeful predictions of three weeks or one month to complete a task which then takes months longer than predicted.
Dumas shows up again hopeful that the reports will be done soon, but it all sounds so much like testimony given at similar hearings in 2002, 2003, and 2004.
There is the occasional objection from government lawyer Donald
MacIntosh such as when Norris asks whether in the new disclosure from the government, CBSA sought foreign sources of information.
"That could touch on classified information," MacIntosh declares.
Norris rephrases his question, and then asks why a "danger memo," which often takes months and months of work to prepare from the government side, is allowed only 15 days of perusal by Hassan's lawyers.
"Would you agree 15 days is rather short?" Norris asks.
"I would have to agree with you," Dumas nods.
"And when the 15 day clock starts to run, that decision is regardless of whether counsel has time, of whether counsel needs to gather evidence, or if counsel is on vacation…"
"We are aware that the individual is in detention," Dumas responds diplomatically. Again, he reminds the court in Kafkaesque fashion, the process is meant to protect the individual's rights.
Norris asks how extensions to the 15 day period to examine the memo take place. Dumas says an extra 15 days is usually granted but, beyond that, their concern (ahem) is that the individual is still in detention, so efforts to have more examination time on his behalf by his lawyers are seen as a potential violation of his rights!!!!!
Dumas says he is unaware of the fact that Hassan is currently on
hunger strike, but assures the court his department stays in touch with health problems at the jail (a surprise to all of us–many in the court have had to arrange for doctors to visit the facility because immigration never gets involved in the health problems of those it "houses" in detention centres.)
Norris asks what is involved to make Hassan ready for deportation, and Dumas assures him, "We're in the business of removal." Norris wonders if Dumas is aware of Hassan's numerous hunger strikes, of the fact that even Justice Blanchard, in an earlier decision, founds conditions at Metro West "not ideal."
Dumas reports "no knowledge of his conditions of detention."
He is pressed on whether he is aware of United Nations concerns
regarding Hassan's arbitrary detention, Dumas answers that he is, and is asked what steps CBSA has taken to remedy the situation.
"CBSA has taken steps… We could arrange for a doctor, or if
someone needs to see a psychiatrist [if there is a problem] we take every step to reach a solution."
It is bizarre language. Apart from being untruthful, it sounds like
that of the warden about to enter someone into the execution chamber. We make sure the detainee on death row is taken care of before we give him the juice. Here it is similar: we take steps to ensure good health so the individual can be received into the hands of torturers.
But the detainees report they have never seen someone from CBSA regarding their conditions.
"Has CBSA or Immigration Canada taken steps to find an alternative to detention in solitary confinement?" Norris asks.
"It's being actively discussed. It would be imprudent not to take
this into consideration. We need to look at alternatives to removal."
"You recognize that alternatives must exist?"
"IRPA does not allow for indefinite detention."
Norris asks about those options: are they maximum security versus some other form of detention, "or is there some point where detention must end?"
"It must come to finality –that's why we need to have removal,"
Dumas says such discussions continue to take place, but "what
appears to be easy solutions are hard to put in place. We know solitary is not preferable, perhaps it is better to be in general population."
"Are those the only options if he remains detained?"
THE GRAND DELUSION: CSIS ON THE STAND
In the afternoon, a CSIS agent, identified only as "P.G.," takes
the stand. It is very close to, but does not match, the J.P. of another agent. Perhaps CSIS is changing the initials because J.P. became the subject of a satirical Christmas song, "PJ the Agent."
PG sounds more reasonable, like the kind of film you can take the
kids too and they won't be too grossed out. It is always funny how CSIS analysts, who are essentially paper pushers who do not carry guns, just use initials for security reasons. Everyone in court can see what they look like. If they were really concerned about their security, perhaps they should wear paper bags over their heads.
This PG is an "intelligence analyst" who prepares reports for the
government. He is arrogant and complacent, and not shy about the fact that he speaks 12 languages. Formerly a worker at the super-secret Communications Security Establishment (CSE), he failed to complete a doctorate at University of Toronto, and calls attention to his honors BA in French and Spanish and Masters in Spanish.
He "provides training on Mideast and Islamic extremism" to all
levels of government."
He explains that Al-Qaeda is composed of three groups: a core, a
group of associates, and a group of people inspired by the ideology. He talks about a man named Khatab, involved in Chechnya, as someone "involved in insurgency or terrorism, depending on your perspective." It's a telling statement, given that this all depends on perspective.
He says if bin Laden were to be killed it would have little or no
effect on Al Qaeda. He opines that there is a direct threat to Canada that "will be with us for the forseeable future," a great job opportunity that never ends!
He is asked if, even if the allegations against Hassan were true,
public disclosure would have a deterrent effect.
PG says no, for, you have to realize that once someone is under the spell of Al Qaeda ideology, it is something so powerful that one never, never never, ever ever ever gives it up. They hold it till death. He provides no empirical basis for such an astounding claim (nor does he note that CSIS could fit that psychological profile as well).
"Each individual adapts his or her own path to extremism," he says, recalling JP's earlier testimony about "do it yourself" terrorism that does not require wise words from bin Laden. It all sounds like CSIS continues to make this stuff up on the fly, largely in response to court decisions. Indeed, whenever a decision is made that is positive for a detainee, CSIS takes the contrary position, and dredges up some obscure U.S. "expert" to back up its case.
For example, in the Charkaoui release decision, the judge was
impressed by the amount of public support Charkaoui had received and pointed to the importance of strong family ties. So in the Mahjoub case, CSIS says Mahjoub's family ties are what makes him a risk.
What role could Almrei play if he were released, Norris asks.
"There are people out there looking for a cause," PG explains. "If
they find a persuasive person," he explains, that might turn them into an extremist, even though PG has never met or spoken with Hassan.
PG says CSIS does not believe lengthy detention proves a deterrent. He cites as "proof" 10 people from Guantanamo who returned to Afghanistan and took up the fight against the occupation (without asking whether that is in fact logical: illegally invaded and occupied, sending completely innocent people to Guantanamo, and then expecting them to pretend nothing has happened–wouldn't you want the occupiers out of your country too?)
As per usual, PG knows next to nothing about Hassan. In fact, he only read part of the file the previous Friday. He is not familiar with documents from October, 2001, or November, 2002, and has never met or interviewed Hassan.
Norris cross examines him, asking whether he is aware that many
people took part in jihad (struggle) against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan who were not bin laden followers.
"I have no direct knowledge of that," he replies. He later says
there is "a great deal of information that is classified that supports the allegations that Almrei supports the ideology of Osama bin Laden."
"Is there anything in the public record?"
"Nothing in the open documents supports it."
Norris continues. "You maintain these people maintain a devotion to the cause as long as they live. Upon what empirical studies is that conclusion based? Does CSIS believe it is impossible to renounce this commitment?'
"Nothing is impossible, it's highly improbable….I am not aware of
anyone who has credibly renounced terrorism. I have undertaken studies that I am not at liberty to reveal on individuals who embrace al-Qaeda."
"What is it about this ideology that makes it so lifelong?"
He says Al Qaeda views itself as in a struggle for survival.
Norris asks if there is anything in the public record to show
Hassan has been involved in violence.
"He was in jihad," PG responds, but since he knows nothing of
Hassan's background, he does not discuss Hassan's role as a leader of prayers in Afghanistan during summer vacations.
Norris asks if he is aware that the jihad was funded by the United
"I'm not in a position to comment on that."
Norris takes PG through the allegations. He asks if, in the
newspaper clippings and other primarily useless information that is gleaned as "evidence" there is anything that CSIS would include that is "inaccurate".
"I assume that is safe to say."
Then why is it, Norris asks, that there is a major boo boo in the
so-called disclosure. CSIS says they have no idea about the whereabouts of Nabil Al-Marabh, and yet in their list of newspaper articles they show that Nabil is in Syrian detention. Nabil is the guy Hassan helped procure a false passport for and who was subsequently picked up in the post Sept. 11, 2001 hysteria. Labelled a terror kingpin and detained in the U.S., Nabil was eventually deported under a minor immigration violation, with no terror allegations actually brought forward, and is currently detained incommunicado in Syria.
Despite the fact that the U.S. government has no interest in Nabil (if it did, why was he deported?), CSIS believes Hassan's acquaintance with him poses a threat (without providing public reasons for why).
PG suggests a fear that if released Hassan would contact Nabil.
"Wouldn't it be difficult to contact Al-Marabh if he is in Syrian
detention?" Norris asks,
After a very long pause, PG replies, "Slightly difficult."
Norris politely but firmly shreds the CSIS case, which also claims
Hassan might hook up with Chechans fighting the Russians. The CSIS documents contain an article which show that the number of mercenary fighters in that country has gone from 3,000 to 60.
"The pickings are pretty slim if he would want to hook up with
anyone there," Norris notes.
Norris asks PG if he knows anything about two other individuals
named in the CSIS disclosure, and PG says no.
"Despite your work as a senior analyst?"
"That is correct."
PG claims that Hassan is "preoccupied" with security and
clandestine behaviour, but says the specifics about that information "remain classified."
He says Hassan could serve as an inspirational recruiter for jihad,
that lifelong philosophy you can never drop.
"Is this something you thought of yourself or have you discussed
it with your colleagues?" an incredulous Norris asks.
PG blathers on some nonsensical answer and says he is not aware of the specifics of Hassan's work in Afghanistan, where he went to volunteer as an imam.
Norris treads into dangerous territory with the next questions.
"Are Hassan's contacts monitored?"
Objection on national security grounds.
Are his telephone calls monitored?
Objection on national security grounds.
Are his personal contacts monitored?
Objection on national security grounds.
Is his correspondence monitored?
Objection on national security grounds.
John asks PG if he knows how CSIS comes to the conclusion that no release under terms and conditions would be possible for Hassan.
"No, I'm not aware."
"Are you aware of Canadians who have been targetted by Al Qaeda?"
"I cannot divulge that information on grounds of national security."
PG is asked whether he knows if any of the so-called three-digit
terror suspects — referred to in Senate testimony earlier this year by the head of CSIS when asked how many terrorists are in Canada — are detained or under security certificate.
"I cannot answer that due to lack of knowledge and due to national
Norris concludes by asking PG if he realizes that under a number of sections of the criminal code an individual may be released on a recognizance to prevent alleged acts of terrorism.
"Not at all, no."
Barb Jackman rises and tells the court, "PG is a nice man who
probably does his job well, but he doesn't know anything about Hassan Almrei's case." She asks the court to compel a CSIS witness who is familiar with the file; the judge reserves her decision.
TUESDAY: HASSAN'S FRIENDS
On Tuesday morning, Alexandre Trudeau takes the stand. He talks of how he has met Hassan at Metro West on two occasions, found him to be a likable guy and that they got along very well. "I was sympathetic to his condition," he says, adding he learned about the Charkaoui case in January, and "I was surprised by the existence of security certificates."
He discusses his substantial contact with the Muslim community in Canada and the Middle East, and of his travels to Iraq and Israel/Palestine.
Asked about Hassan, Trudeau says "I found him to have faith, and also to be tolerant, which is the majority of Muslims."
How can we be sure Hassan wasn't pulling the wool over his eyes?
"I've learned to put my trust in people in the Middle East," Trudeau says, adding, "I presume he's innocent."
There's that presumption of innocence thing again. Surely, if the
government had something against Hassan, they would charge him and try him in an open court. But Canada's spy agencies don't do well in open court–look at how CSIS was criticized for gross negligence in the Air India case.
Why is Trudeau prepared to come forward with a $5,000 surety?
He says he is doing it "for my country. It's in the interest of
Canada to not be detaining people without charge."
Trudeau is also asked if he knew that Hassan lied when he was first asked a few questions by CSIS.
Trudeau explains that people seeking refuge are often under duress and that, unfortunately, the process sometimes requires lying, for when you face being returned to torture you will do whatever you can to escape that. One lie is an unfortunate reality, he says, but it does not take away from the integrity of one's case.
Diana Ralph is then called to the stand. She has gotten a list of
neighbours who would also be willing to accompany Hassan if he were to be released on bail. She talks of the extensive renovations she and her partner Jean Hanson have made to their house to make an apartment available for Hassan. She offered support at first on principle but then got to know him quickly. "I got the idea from [watching government lawyer Donald MacIntosh ask questions at the 2003 hearing]" she says of her idea that she could help supervise Hassan if released.
"Hassan is gentle, kind, funny, thoughtful, intelligent," Ralph
explains. She says Hassan has been frank with her about his history, about the initial lies he told, and about the misunderstandings in the CSIS summary of allegations.
"You cannot fake the kind of compassion that I see him showing
consistently," Ralph says, explaining that her partner, Jean, recently had knee surgery, while Hassan's knee causes him no end of pain. "But he doesn't talk about his own knee, instead he calls us and sings to Jean, and tells her, 'Give me your pain, I can bear it!'"
She recalls their discussions about her being a Jewish lesbian and
how, while he disagrees with homosexuality, Hassan welcomes both Jean and Diana as mothers, and says "It is up to God to judge, not me."
Ralph talks about Hassan's family, where the education of girls has a high priority. She also discusses her research on Afghanistan and the creation of bin Laden as a CIA asset. This is objected to, after which Barb Jackman says, "I think she has as much expertise as P.G." noting a lot of stuff gets entered in this court which is hardly expert opinion.
"This is a man who loved Canada from the moment he got here," Ralph concludes. She notes that Hassan has no dreams that don't involve jail, so there is no relief even in his sleep. "He's losing touch with his family, with his Arabic language, he's losing himself daily."
Almrei's old friend Hassan Ahmed testifies again, relating that he
was scared after Hassan's arrest in 2001 to visit the jail. Ahmed's
apartment had been raided by the RCMP and he had been the focus of much CSIS interrogation. "I was told by the RCMP that I was innocent but presumed guilty by association with Hassan," he says.
He says he is here to provide conditional bond for Hassan, noting
that he is an honest and trustworthy person.
Then come the three guards from the segregation unit. They
testified about the freezing conditions when Hassan was on his marathon hunger strike in the fall of 2003 for heat and a pair of shoes.
The jail is a very different world, a different culture, and breaking the code of silence that often permeates the place is an act of
John Delarge has spent 18 years at Metro West, 5 and a half of them in solitary. He describes the lack of programs at the jail, noting cutbacks closed even the limited programs that did exist. He notes that Hassan's cell is the smallest in the segregation unit, and that it looks out onto a courtyard with no greenery or plants. There is a hatch to look in and a small hatch to place food through. There are no stools and there's a concrete bed with a metal frame.
He describes how Almrei has no choice but to be in segregation.
"His reputation precedes him, so if he went to a unit he would be hurt." Because Hassan has worked as a cleaner in segregation, he has, in the eyes of other inmates, helped the guards. He also helped a guard who was attacked by another inmate. "People still remember that 2 years later–the stigma will never leave."
The jail at large is a violent place with drugs and weaponry
fashioned from plastics and metals, and there is a lot of tension in units built on hierarchy.
"A lot of inmates play a game of being friendly to the guards to
manipulate them–that's not [Hassan]" he says.
Delarge's honesty is forthright and refreshing. He recalls being
reluctant to communicate with Hassan at first, especially given his reaction to the events of Sept. 11, 2001. "But I observed him praying and eating, and over a period of time I trusted him as an inmate. I have not found that he has taken advantage of my trust."
Delarge notes there is a note on Hassan's door that says he needs to be walking, "but he hasn't been walking."
He talks of having been a Christian missionary in Senegal and
Guinea and dealing for the first time with Muslim culture. "I came back from there with an understanding of how the West views them. We are largely ignorant." of Islam, he says.
He also describes an incident with a devout Muslim driver who was not honest about his license plates while journeying abroad. He knows Muslims wish to tell the truth, but the man told him, "If I don't lie I don't eat," so he understands the context for the lies Hassan told in 2001.
John O'Connor has spent 20 years at the West. Like DeLarge, he sits confidently but quietly in the stand.
"He's an unusual inmate, he's not part of the criminal subculture,"
O'Connor says of Hassan. "We don't usually have people in segregation for four years. " He says Hassan is friendly and trustworthy.
"We're with him 24/7. I've dealt with thousands of inmates who put on an act all the time, who lie all the time. I've never felt him to be untruthful or not genuine. A few years ago he told me he lied and the reasons for it. It made sense to me at the time."
O'Connor goes so far as to point out that when Hassan was on a
40-day hunger strike for shoes, "we tried to slip him the shoes, but he refused. He wanted to go to court to make sure he got them legally."
He is asked if, from what he understands about Hassan's past, he
would have any hesitation having Hassan as a neighbour.
"No. From everything I've seen of him he's a very honourable man, I would trust him."
Finally there is guard David Goba, who rates Hassan on the risk
level as "very low." "I don't know how he's kept it up for this long, some people can't even stand it for one day."
The hearing ends with the announcement that a date will be set for a secret hearing from which Hassan and his lawyers will be absent. It's scary how easily those words pass through the judge's lips. A Secret Hearing. In a "democratic" country.
Hassan gets cuffed and taken out a back door by the RCMP as he heads back for another night in solitary, where his dreams are only of the world inside the jail.
In the meantime, he has not eaten in almost two weeks. He is asking friends and supporters to contact the Ontario Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services to demand that he get an hour outside of his cell every day to walk. After all, it's doctor's orders.
Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services
18th floor, 25 Grosvenor Street
Toronto, ON, M7A 1Y6
Phone: (416) 325-0408
Fax: (416) 325-6067
Security Certificates – Campaigns
Update- March 23, 2005
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Just Another Busy Day in the Land of Secret Trials
– Mahmoud Jaballah Wins Judicial Review on Deportation to Torture;
– Security Certificate Upheld in case of Secret Trial Detainee Mohamed Harkat;
– Bail Hearing Continues for Secret Trial Detainee Mohammad Mahjoub;
– Security Certificate Hearing for Secret Trial Detainee (now under house arrest) Adil Charkaoui Suspended Pending new Protection Decision;
– Hassan Almrei marks 41 Months, Six Days in Solitary Confinement in Toronto Detention Facility
March 23, 2005–It was just another busy day in the land of secret trials yesterday. In a Toronto courtroom, eloquent arguments were heard in calling for the release on bail of secret trial detainee Mohammad Mahjoub, held without charge on secret "evidence" almost five years in a Toronto detention facility. Government lawyers pressed their case to deport him, knowing full well the torture or death which awaits him if returned to Egypt. The hearing is set to conclude April 22, with a decision hopefully within a month or two afterwards.
Meanwhile, the secret trial security certificate against Algerian refugee Mohamed Harkat, held since his arrest on International Human Rights Day, December 10, 2002, was upheld on the basis of secret evidence. This will mean further jail time, and more court time, arguing that he, like Mahjoub and the other detainees, should not be deported given the cruel and unusual treatment which would be their fate.
Harkat's case has had a number of "too coincidental to be coincidental" coincidences. His arrest was timed to appear in the papers the day that then-Solicitor General Wayne Easter went to Washington D.C. in 2002 to tell the Yankees how well Canada was doing in the "war on terror." And yesterday's decision is perfect timing for Prime Minister Paul Martin who, in meeting today with George W. Bush, is perhaps throwing the Harkat decision as a bone to the "Pissed-that-y'all-didn't-join-us-in-star-wars" President.
The Harkat decision came one day after the security certificate hearing for Montrealer Adil Charkaoui was suspended pending a new determination on his application for protection from deportation to torture. The original decision of the federal government — to deport Charkaoui to torture in Morocco — was suddenly withdrawn two weeks before a planned judicial review of the decision, perhaps based on the fear that a judge would find that this decision, like two others before it in related cases, would be deemed unlawful and unreasonable.
During the Monday Charkaoui hearing, further CSIS malfeasance came to light (in this case, CSIS claims that the so-called "millennium bomber," Ahmed Ressam, had fingered Charkaoui as being in an overseas "training camp." As was revealed Monday, Ressam could not have identified Charkaoui overseas because Ressam himself was not overseas; Ressam was in fact in Montreal at the alleged time, stealing computers and wanted by Montreal police. Ressam is currently detained in the U.S., trading "information" for a reduced sentence.) It's one more piece of the bulging CSIS portfolio of
unacceptable negligence (as was found in the Air India case), untruths, and reliance on information gleaned from torture and jailhouse snitches.
As March 22 came to a close, some good news arrived at Metro West Detention Centre for Mahmoud Jaballah, held without charge or bail since August, 2001. In a stinging rebuke to the Canadian "secret trial and deportation to torture" bureaucracy, Federal Court Judge Andrew MacKay
has called the decision to deport Mahmoud Jaballah to torture in Egypt "not lawfully made" and "was patently unreasonable based upon a finding of facts made without appropriate regard to all of the evidence and circumstances of the case."
It is the third such decision in which the immigration minister's decision to deport to torture has been labelled "unreasonable," "unlawful" and, in one instance, "perverse" by federal court judges. Similar decisions were reached in the cases of secret trial detainees Mohammad Mahjoub and Hassan Almrei, and the government, perhaps sensing a real embarrassment on its hands, has withdrawn its deportation decision in the case of Adil Charkaoui just two weeks before a judicial review would likely have resulted in a similar setback.
It is also good news for secret trial detainee Mohamed Harkat of Ottawa, whose security certificate was upheld yesterday as "reasonable" in a 75-page decision by Judge Eleanor Dawson. While the certificate being upheld kicks into motion the deportation process, Harkat must also undergo a risk assessment, and will likely benefit from these precedent cases which are ultimately testing the legality of deportation to torture, a fate which likely awaits him if returned to Algeria.
It is increasingly important to note that the upholding of the certificate does NOT provide proof that Harkat poses a risk to national security. All it means, in the end result, is that the Judge found "reasonable grounds" to believe that the signing ministers had "reasonable grounds" to sign the certificate. It's a very low threshold (nothing like the "beyond a reasonable doubt" threshold in the Air India case).
In the Jaballah decision, MacKay seems perturbed by the ease with which decisions are now being made by the Canadian government to deport to torture, despite our signatory status to the Convention Against Torture, which prohibits such a practice. He notes, with a fairly disapproving
tone, that a decision by the immigration ministry's pre-removal risk assessment branch that Jaballah faces "a risk of death or torture if he were returned to Egypt" was "accepted, with some apparent reluctance, by the Minister's delegate who determined on December 30, 2003 that Mr. Jaballah's application for protection should be refused."
It is quite disturbing to read that such a hearing would even be taking place, as MacKay notes "both parties [i.e., government and Jaballah] accepted that there is no longer any question that there is substantial risk of death or torture faced by Mr. Jaballah if he were returned to Egypt."
As in the Almrei and Mahjoub cases, MacKay found that the the immigration decisionmaker in Jaballah's case did NOT have all the relevant information necessary to make an assessment of Jaballah's alleged risk to the security of Canada. In a subtle jab at the political bias in the decision making, Mackay also notes that the minister's delegate quotes only a part of the Supreme Court of Canada "Suresh" decision (which talks of "exceptional circumstances" that would justify deportation to torture).
In an interesting analysis, Mackay finds that the oft-abused quotation allowing such exceptions has perhaps been overblown because of what he calls a simple clerical error in mistakenly assigning a paragraph number to the citation. "The effect may be to give undue emphasis to the Supreme Court's acknowledgement that the possibility is not excluded, in exceptional circumstances, of deportation to face torture." He also finds that the Minister's delegate, in quoting the Suresh decision, "omitted words which, in my view, provide context for the passages quoted. The
words omitted are these:
"The Canadian rejection of torture is reflected in the international conventions to which Canada is a party. The Canadian and international perspectives in turn inform our constitutional norms. The rejection of state action leading to torture generally, and deportation to torture specifically, is virtually categoric. Indeed, both domestic and international jurisprudence suggest that torture is so abhorrent that it will almost always be disproportionate to interests on the other side of the balance, even security interests."
A fairly important omission, but nonetheless one which is regularly made in the rush to deportation to torture.
MacKay also deals with Jaballah's argument that consideration should be given to the best interests of his six children, two born in Canada, one in Pakistan, three in Egypt, "There was no consideration that one of those children, born in Pakistan, may have no status in Egypt,"MacKay writes, adding, "Whatever their status in Canada, simply to conclude, as the decision does, that Mr. Jaballah's 'proposed deportation from Canada would not deprive his children of his emotional and financial support any more than his current detention has,' implicitly ignores the substantial risk of death or torture facing Mr. Jaballah if he be deported to Egypt, and the effect that may be expected to have upon his family members, including children born in Canada or in Pakistan….Simply put the decision, in my opinion, does not adequately take into account the best interests of any of Mr. Jaballah's children, who would be directly affected by a decision that he is, or is not, a person in need of protection at this time."
MacKay also finds that in the determination of alleged risk to Canada, "there is no reference to circumstances facing Canada or its security, other than the [unsupported] conclusion that it is endangered by Mr. Jaballah's presence in Canada." Again, it appears to be a political decision based on fear, racism and the unjustified labelling of Mr. Jaballah, not on any factual basis.
MacKay closes his reasons by reminding us that for a decision to be lawful, it must be made within the law. With that obvious-sounding caveat (which nevertheless appears to elude the immigration ministry), Mackay concludes with a cautionary note about the need to canvass the issue of "the full implications of Parliament's inclusion of paragraph 3(3)(f) of the IRPA [Immigration and Refugee Protection Act] that 'this Act is to be construed and applied in a manner that…(f) complies with international human rights instruments to which Canada is a signatory."
As the Jaballah protection decision is remitted for a new determination, it is hoped that years of litigation will not be required to further battle the question of deportation to torture, and that finally, someone within the ministry will make a decision based not on Islamophobia, CSIS pressure, or plain old-fashioned racism, but on the law, which, as MacKay states, is clear: Canada's immigration decisions MUST comply with international human rights instruments to which this country is a party.
We are a party to the Convention Against Torture, which prohibits return to torture. The Secret Trial Five are facing a substantial likelihood of torture if returned. So put an end to these horrible proceedings to deport to torture, provide protection, and release the remaining four on bail.
For Hassan Almrei, yesterday was a relatively quiet day in his 9 X 12 solitary confinement concrete cell, his home since October, 2001. No court decisions, no media frenzy, just another day in the land of secret trials, awaiting word on whether Canada will come up with a new decision to deport him to a fate even worse than that which awaited Maher Arar in Syria. Hassan is also appealing his denial of bail to the Supreme Court;the Federal Court of Appeal recently declared it "premature" to label his three and a half years of detention without charge indefinite detention.
Demonstrations are scheduled in Toronto and Ottawa today at 5 pm to protest the Harkat decision; a major march against secret trials takes place this Saturday in Montreal.
Also on the drawing board is "24 Hours Against Torture," a round-the-clock vigil at Immigration Minister Joe Volpe's office to secure his commitment to end deportation to torture. On Monday, April 4,Toronto's Lula Lounge hosts a major benefit for the campaign to stop secret trials, with readings from Kafka's The Trial by Ann-Marie Macdonald, Nino Ricci, Avi Lewis, Gordon Pinsent, Charmion King, Heather Mallick, Linda McQuaig, Bernard Behrens and Stuart McLean. (Tickets available at 416-651-5800).
And on April 22, Monia Mazigh comes to Toronto to join Mona Elfouli and Ahmad Jaballah for an evening against secret trials at Bloor Street United Church, 7:15 pm.
To support our ongoing efforts to end secret trials, donations are gratefully accepted at Homes not Bombs, PO Box 73620, 509 St Clair Ave., West, Toronto, ON M6C 1C0.
(report from Matthew Behrens of the Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada)
Feb 18- Charkaoui Free on Bail
On February 17, 2005 Adil Charkaoui, a permanent resident detained under a security certificate for more than 20 months, was granted conditional liberation on bail. This gives us a lot of hope. At the same time, the struggle is far from over. Though the Federal Court has ordered that he be liberated on condition, Adil is still under an (in)security certificate and he is subject to a large number of conditions: he must be at his home from 8:30pm to 8am, must be accompanied by specified people when he leaves his house, cannot leave the island of Montreal, cannot use a cellphone or computer (the only phone he can use is his home phone), must carry an electronic monitoring device, cannot communicate with certain people, must report to CBSA once a week or more, must allow any CBSA officer into his home at any time.