Chalk one up for the Canadian government. Federal Court Judge Anne Mactavish ruled on March 12 that Afghan prisoners are not protected by Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They must, she said, rely on international law and Afghan law. The case was brought by Amnesty International and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association. Previously, she had nevertheless expressed concern about “very troubling evidence” of “the type of torture practices that are employed in Afghan prisons.”
On that same day, the Conservative minority government was on the receiving end of less favorable news. The independent civilian Military Police Complaints Commission, fed up with refusal by the government to hand over uncensored documents about the treatment of prisoners transferred to Afghan officials, announced that there would be public hearings. For the hearings, they will subpoena the documents previously received only in highly censored form.
These events are occurring in the shadow of the decision by Canada to resume the transfer of prisoners to Afghan authorities.
Prying loose secret information
Secrecy is in the news. Challenges to secrecy involve the cases of Omar Khadr and Mohamed Harkat. While there has been a measure of success in Khadr’s case, we need to wait and see with regard to Harkat.
Khadr’s defense lawyers have obtained from the military court the right to interrogate a “Lieutenant-Colonel W.,” who in the first instance reported that soldiers had killed the person who injured a U.S. soldier who died of his injuries. W. later changed the word “killed” to “engaged.” The first version would have cleared Khadr. The judge also ruled that the government must provide the defense with a list of all those who questioned Khadr and with any notes taken about him by interrogators and other government agents back to July 27, 2002. It has also come to light that one of his interrogators had pled guilty to taking part in the beating death of an Afghan man.
In the Harkat case, involving one of the men currently under a highly restrictive security certificate in Canada, his lawyer Paul Copeland has petitioned Canadian and American governments for permission to question Abu Zubaydah, a high-ranking al Qaeda official held at Guantanamo, a man who has been subject to interrogation while being tortured by waterboarding. He is alleged to have implicated Harkat.
Zubaydah has a U.S. attorney, but that person is required to keep all information from him secret. Copeland has asked that the secrecy requirement be modified to allow Zubaydah to respond to questions about Harkat and to have these answers made available to Harkat’s defense.
Passport rules tossed out
For the Canadian passport office, Friday the 13th fell on a Thursday. That’s when Federal Court Judge Simon NoŽl tossed out the regulation defining the Minister of Foreign Affairs’ right to deny a passport on the basis of the national security “of Canada or another country.” Too vague, said NoŽl. He gave the government six months to come up with a new regulation that would give the applicant a fair chance to respond to allegations.
In this particular case, Algerian-born Canadian citizen Fateh Kamel wanted a passport to go to Thailand, allegedly on business. He is a Montreal cab driver. Kamel arrived back in Canada in January, 2005, after spending four years of an eight year sentence in a French jail. He was extradited to France from Jordan and was convicted of various crimes, including plotting to bomb the Paris mťtro. It is claimed that he was a member of a cell of the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria (GIA, to use their French initials). The cell engaged in bombings in France in 1995 and hijacked a plane in 1994. He fought in Afghanistan against the Russians and in Bosnia. Media reports allege that he headed a GIA cell in Montreal.
Canadian hurt in Jerusalem
A Canadian citizen was one of the nine wounded when an Arab gunman opened fire on students in a Jewish seminary or yeshiva in Jerusalem on March 6, killing eight. Nadav Eliyahu Samuels, a 14-year-old, was seriously injured by gunshots. While Israeli-born, he is a dual citizen because his father is a Canadian.
Khadr details abuse
Omar Khadr, the Canadian held at Guantanamo, has charged serious mistreatment by his captors and indifference and hostility from Canadian officials. His account is contained in an affidavit, with some passages blacked out, as American authorities were concerned that terrorists would learn of certain techniques that were used and could therefore prepare to resist them.
Canadian officials who visited him are accused of screaming at him and telling him that there was nothing that could be done for him, since the U.S. is so powerful. He says that the officials interrogated him rather than offering any help. Canada has refused to intervene in his case, with the Canadian government declaring that they have been assured by the United States that he is being treated humanely and being given a fair trial.
Calgary mosque squabbles turn violent?
On March 14, someone fire-bombed the home of Dr. Ifikhar Ahmed at four in the morning. No one was hurt. The previous evening, two men came to his door, making threats. In another recent incident, there was an invasion of the home of Najeeb Butts, during which his wife was slashed in the hands.
According to a report in the Calgary Sun, police have not ruled out the possibility of a connection to “the ongoing dispute among Muslim community members which involves human-rights complaints and allegations of misappropriation of funds.”