Amnesty International writes a letter of concern about the hunger strike

The Honourable Stockwell Day
Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0P8
By fax: 613 952 2240

February 2, 2007

Dear Minister,

Amnesty International is writing this open letter to you out of increasing concern about the health and well-being of Mahmoud Jaballah, Mohammad Mahjoub and Hassan Almrei, who have been on hunger strikes for more than eight weeks now at the Kingston Immigration Holding Centre (KIHC). We believe that the government can and must do more to respond to this mounting crisis.

These men are held under immigration security certificates and have all been detained in excess of five years. Their detention has truly become tantamount to being indefinite as they have limited choices: either remain detained while continuing to pursue legal challenges to the unjust procedure that governs their cases, or agree to be returned to countries where Amnesty International believes they face a serious risk of torture.

Amnesty International recognizes that a hunger strike can be a form of non-violent protest against an abuse of human rights. It comes as no surprise that these individuals, facing great stress and with no other effective options, have resorted to such action.

Numerous human rights organizations, legal academics, as well as expert United Nations human rights bodies such as the Human Rights Committee, the Committee against Torture and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention have expressed serious concerns about the fact that the security certificate process fails to meet international standards governing detention and fair trials. They have also expressed concern with the government's position that it is justifiable to deport these men to countries where they are at risk of torture.

These concerns about lack of a fair process and risk of return to torture lie at the heart of the hunger strikes. Amnesty International has repeatedly called on Canada to reform laws and practice regarding security certificates and detention conditions for security detainees. We have also called for amendments to Canadian law in order to unequivocally ban the deportation of anyone to a country where they face a serious risk of being tortured. These men have felt compelled to take this desperate step as a result of the government's failure to address these serious human rights shortcomings.

Amnesty International has also highlighted concerns with respect to the nature of family visits, access to prison programs, access to medical care, regular exercise and outdoor access for the detainees. We have urged that an independent complaints process be instituted, to look into concerns about detention practices. The federal Correctional Investigator raised the concern that the transfer of these three men to the KIHC would result in the loss of "the benefit of a rigorous ombudsman's legislative framework to file complaints about their care and humane treatment while in custody." That has indeed proven to be the case.

The current hunger strikes have raised concerns about the regular medical monitoring of the health of the detainees. It has been reported that there has not been any medical check-ups of these three men during the course of the hunger strikes. This is of grave concern given indications that their health is failing rapidly. The World Medical Association., in its 1992 Declaration on Hunger Strikes, highlighted the importance of daily medical visits to ascertain whether or not individuals wish to continue with hunger strikes.

Given the lack of an independent complaints process and the apparent failure to carry out ongoing medical monitoring, it is vital that the government move without delay to ensure there is impartial review of the allegations and demands made by the hunger strikers. Amnesty International requests that you:

-- urgently appoint someone to carry out that review; and

-- ensure that regular medical monitoring of these three men begins immediately and is not made subject to any arbitrary or unreasonable conditions.




Alex Neve André Paradis

Secretary General Directeur Général

Amnesty International Canada Amnistie Internationale

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