The Guardian 2 November, 2005

Canada turns blind eye to torture,
report charges

Tim Pelzer

Canada is deporting persons to countries where they risk being cruelly treated and tortured, Amnesty International (AI) said in a report released October 13.

Titled Protection Gap: Strengthening Canada's compliance with international human rights obligations, the report says AI has repeatedly reminded the Canadian Government that deporting refugees to countries that employ torture violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Canada signed and is obligated to follow.

Noting that the government has said it has the right to deport persons to such countries in the interests of "security", the report counters, "The appropriate response is to pursue justice through lawful investigations, charges and trial, not to breach international law and create further injustice by exposing individuals to a serious risk of torture."

It points out that the UN Committee against Torture has told the Canadian Government that international legal protection against torture applies in all cases and that the nation's laws must reflect this.

The report also expresses concern that Canadian security agencies were involved in the arrest of four Canadian men of Syrian origin who were sent back to Syria, where they were tortured.

The most well-known case is that of Syrian-born Maher Arar. US officials arrested Arar in 2002 in New York's Kennedy Airport on his way to Canada and then flew him to Syria where he was held for a year without charges. Arar reported that Syrian prison guards tortured him and forced him to live in inhumane conditions. The three other men also say that they were tortured. Syria eventually released Arar and the three other men and allowed them to return to Canada.

"It also appears that information provided by Canadian sources likely served as the basis for the interrogation sessions in Syria during which these individuals were subjected to torture. There are concerns that information coming out of these interrogations was then transferred back to Canada and may have been used by Canadian officials in the course of ongoing investigations of these four men and other[s]." AI makes it clear that international law forbids the use of information obtained under torture.

Among other things, the report also accuses the Canadian Government of practising arbitrary detention because it arrests, detains and deports non-citizens, who don't have the right to a fair trial. Detainees do not have to be fully informed of the charges against them and have no opportunity to legally challenge their detention.

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