Day 75 of Hunger-Strikes at Canada's "Guantanamo Bay" Prison

 
CALL FOR EMERGENCY ACTIONS at CANADIAN EMBASSIES
WEDNESDAY, 7 February 2007

Canada's Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister seems to think that human rights violations are okay as long as prisoners have access to chocolate sauce. Canada has its own mini-version of Guantanamo bay, a new six-cell prison that was opened in April 2006 specifically for immigrants and refugees who are detained without charge or trial, under secret evidence, indefinitely, under threat of deportation, to places where it has been recognized that they are at risk of torture.


Canadian Consulate General - New York City
1251 Avenue of the Americas
Concourse Level
New York, New York
USA
10020-1175
Tel: 1 (212) 596-1628
Fax: 1 (212) 596-1790

from: People's Global Action North America

"[They have a] refrigerator stocked with a variety of juices, soy milk, honey and chocolate sauce." -- Canadian "Public Safety" Minister Stockwell Day, asked on 2 February about the hunger strike at Canada's Guantanamo Bay

Canada's Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister seems to think that human rights violations are okay as long as prisoners have access to chocolate sauce. Canada has its own mini-version of Guantanamo bay, a new six-cell prison that was opened in April 2006 specifically for immigrants and refugees who are detained without charge or trial, under secret evidence, indefinitely, under threat of deportation, to places where it has been recognized that they are at risk of torture.

The three detainees - Mahmoud Jaballah, detained since August 2001, Hassan Almrei, detained since October 2001, and Mahmoud Jaballah, detained since June 2000 - have been held under Canada's draconian "security certificate" process (see background below), on vague allegations that they may have something to do with that increasingly meaningless but all-powerful label "terrorism". They have never ceased to insist on their innocence and demand a fair and open trial, which is no more than the legal right of every person in Canada.

All three are currently on hungerstrike, demanding minor improvements to their conditions of detention, amounting to being treated with some degree of dignity. Their demands include access to an independent ombudsman to receive complaints (something which exists at other prisons in Canada). The Canadian government's response has been consistent with the way the detainees and their families have been treated from the very beginning of their ordeal: stony silence, callous denial, misinformation and outright lies. The spirit is captured by the Minister of Public Safety's response to a public appeal by family members - on day 70 of a potentially deadly hungerstrike - that the prisoners have access to chocolate sauce in the detention centre.

As of Wednesday, it will be day 75 for Mahjoub, and day 64 for Almrei and Jaballah of a juice and water only hungerstrike. Because the men are even being denied the daily medical monitoring that is standard in a hungerstrike (see letter from almost 70 health professionals calling for medical monitoring at www.homesnotbombs.ca/health.htm), the situation could become life-threatening at any time.

==> WE ARE ASKING PEOPLE IN ALL PARTS OF THE WORLD TO ORGANIZE EMERGENCY ACTIONS AT THE CANADIAN EMBASSY OR CONSULATE NEAREST YOU ON WEDNESDAY, 7 FEBRUARY. We believe that international pressure - particularly media attention - could have a significant impact.

Actions could take the form of delegations to present letters to Canadian officials, pickets, or theatrical media actions (orange jumpsuits and chocolate sauce: chocolate sauce in Guantanmo! or Let Them Eat Chocolate Sauce!) at Canadian consulates or embassies.

Actions should highlight the following demands:
1) Act immediately to find a solution to the hungerstrike before the men die.
2) Release the five people who are currently subject to "security certificates", or charge them and provide them a fair and open trial.
3) Close the new Kingston Immigration Holding Centre ("Guantanamo North"), Abolish security certificates, and End deportations to torture.

==> PLEASE LET US KNOW at  abolissons@gmail.com and  tasc@web.ca or tel. + 1 514 222 0205 if you can carry out an action. We can supply background material, model letters, and updates. It is very important that we receive copies of any letters you write, reports on your actions, and media coverage.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

* For more updates on the hungerstrike:
www.homesnotbombs.ca/gitmonorthstrike.htm

* Open letter from the hungerstrikers:
www.homesnotbombs.ca/openletter.htm

* Links to reports by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, UN Committee against Torture, UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, UN Human Right Committee on Canadian security certificates:
www.adilinfo.org/dossier.htm.

The context of the hungerstrikes that have been repeatedly waged by the detainees at Canada's "Guantanamo North" prison (the Kingston Immigration Holding Centre) is the security certificate process under which these prisoners are being held. The reason they are on hungerstrike, the reason they will be on hungerstrike again in a few months - if they survive this round - is that they are in indefinite, arbitrary detention under a threat of deportation to torture. What makes the daily prison abuse to which they are subject intolerable is that they are locked up for no reason at all, that the imprisonment is indefinite, that they are threatened with torture, and that they are rendered powerless to challenge the injustices and to clear their names.

The security certificate process is set in motion when the Federal Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and the Solicitor-General of Canada (that is, the Minister of Public Safety), on the request of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), sign a certificate. In the case of refugees, this automatically means detention without bail until the certificate undergoes a judicial review; a process which can take years. In the case of Permanent Residents, there are detention reviews every six months.

The certificate is reviewed by a Federal Court judge in a process that has been very widely criticised for failing to meet international standards of a fair trial: by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (Still at Risk: Diplomatic Assurances no Safeguard against Torture, April 2005), the Canadian Bar Association, the United Nations Human Rights Committee (2 November 2005, CCPR/C/CAN/CO/5), the United Nations Committee against Torture (May 2005, CAT/C/CO/34/CAN), the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (5 December 2005, E/CN.4/2006/7/Add.2), Members of Parliament, as well as a wide range of other organizations and individuals across the country.

Briefly:
- the process applies ONLY to those without full citizenship in Canada and so is discriminatory from the outset;
- information against the individual is secret - that is, it is not disclosed either to the detainee nor their lawyer;
- closed hearings between the judge and the Ministers, without the participation of the individual or their lawyer, can be held at any time;
- the presiding judge is restricted to assessing whether the allegations are "reasonable", rather than "beyond all reasonable doubt";
- key terms (such as "national security", "terrorism" and "membership") are simply undefined;
- hearsay (i.e. gossip) and other dubious information (newspaper articles, information from foreign spy agencies) is accepted; and
- if the judge upholds the certificate, there is no appeal.

The certificate then becomes a deportation order. Though Canada's position - completely contrary to international law - is that it has the right to deport people on security grounds even if they face torture, the fact that all current detainees face a substantial risk of torture has delayed their deportation. In practice, this has translated to indefinite detention under a continued threat of deportation to torture.

Security certificates are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of abuse Canada metes out to migrants in the name of "national security". Refugees can be subjected to similar treatment under other parts of Canada's immigration law. Bachan Singh Sogi, for example, was deported on 1 July 2006, after spending almost four years in prison without charge under secret evidence. The deportation was carried out on the grounds of national security, but not under a security certificate. It went ahead despite a positive assessment of "risk of torture" and "risk to life or risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment" by Canada's own immigration officials itself.

A constitutional challenge to the security certificate was heard by the Supreme Court of Canada in June 2006. A decision is pending. A parliamentary committee is also apparently in the process of reviewing the legislation. But that has made no difference for the people currently deprived of their liberty under a security certificate, nor for their families.

* Out under conditions:
- Mohamed Harkat, married, born in Algeria, was accepted as a convention refugee in Canada before being arrested in December 2002. He was released on bail under virtual house arrest in June 2006.
- Adil Charkaoui, married with three children, was born in Morocco and came to Canada as a permanent resident with his mother, father and sister in 1995; he was arrested in May 2003 and released under harsh conditions in February 2005.

* Detained in "Guantanamo North", the new detention facility for security
certificate detainees near Kingston, Ontario:
- Mohammad Mahjoub, married with two children, is a torture survivor from Egypt who was accepted as a convention refugee in Canada in 1996. He was arrested in June 2000 in Toronto. He was denied bail in November 2003 and again in November 2005. He is waiting for a third decision on bail.
- Mahmoud Jaballah, married with six children, is a torture survivor from Egypt and a school principal who arrived in Canada in 1996. He was arrested under his second certificate in August 2001, days before his refugee hearing. He is now waiting for a decision on his application for release on bail.
- Hassan Almrei, born in Syria and accepted as convention refugee in June 2000, was arrested under a certificate in October 2001. He has been refused bail twice.


Hungerstrike Support Committee (Montreal)
 abolissons@gmail.com
tel. + 1 514 859 9023

Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada (Toronto)
 tasc@web.ca
tel. + 1 416 651 5800

homepage:: http://nyc.indymedia.org/

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