While Acknowledging Jaballah will be Tortured or Killed if Sent to Egypt, Canadian Government Now Attempts to Remove Jaballah, a Father of Six, to Egypt
Federal Government in Clear Violation of its Signed Commitments Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
(ideas on how you can support the Jaballahs appear below)
Toronto, March 5, 2004 -- Mahmoud Jaballah, an Egyptian refugee who has been held on secret "evidence" without charge or bail since August, 2001, received yet another round of bad news at the Metro West Detention Centre on February 27 when he was informed his application for bail had been turned down. For Jaballah, his wife and six children, and for his community of supporters, the news hit hard. It was met with disbelief as well by the 15 people who came forward to act as bail sureties in the amount of $125,000.
The ripple effect of such a decision is felt by other friends and families of Canada's Secret Trial Five, Muslim men who collectively have been detained without charge, on secret evidence neither they nor their lawyers are allowed to see, for 134 months.
For Jaballah, the rejection of bail -- along with the Canadian government's ongoing efforts to deport him to Egypt despite its own acknowledgment that he faces a substantial risk of incarceration, torture and murder if sent to Egypt -- is yet another setback in a lengthy legal road.
Since 1999, Jaballah has been arrested twice on secret trial security certificates. In the first instance, despite the incredible obstacles of not knowing the full "case" against him, the certificate was thrown out, with the judge concluding the government's case was not credible, and that Jaballah was credible.
Two days before a scheduled refugee hearing in August, 2001, Jaballah was arrested a second time in a public RCMP take-down (despite the fact authorities knew his address and that of his lawyer). That fall, CSIS admitted in the public portion of the secret trial that it had no new evidence against Mr. Jaballah, only a new interpretation of the case which had already been dismissed in 1999. And it is on that flimsy basis that Mr. Jaballah has been held, often in solitary confinement, at Metro West Detention Centre ever since.
Jaballah's family came to Canada seeking peace and freedom from fear and persecution. Yet since they arrived here, they have been in the sights of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), which tends to focus on vulnerable individuals whom they can tar with the "alleged threat" brush because it's easy to condemn anyone when you use secret evidence which is not subject to cross examination. While all this is done in the name of national security in a particularly Islamophobic time, CSIS also relies on the fear and racism of Canadians whom they assume will not speak up with calls for due process.
For Jaballah, as for the other secret trial detainees, all they have ever asked for is disclosure of the "evidence," if such evidence exists, and the opportunity to face an open trial. Absent that, they and their supporters have called for their immediate release.
In the spring of 2003, the second certificate was upheld against Jaballah on fairly flimsy grounds as well as secret evidence neither he nor his lawyer ever got a chance to see, much less cross-examine. That decision also included a finding that then Minister of Immigration Denis Coderre was guilty of abuse of process for extensive delays in making a determination about Jaballah's future, even though the Immigration Department did conclude in August, 2002, that Jaballah was at risk of torture and execution if returned to Egypt. MacKay determined that the decision of the department would have to be the decision of the minister: that Mr. Jaballah is in need of protection.
Yet this same judge, in the denial of bail, now blames Jaballah for the delays, because the Egyptian refugee has made use of his limited access to the courts. It's part of an ongoing trend of judges who sit on these cases, this belief that the incarcerated individuals are free to leave any time they want, so long as they do not contest the allegations. This is easier said than done, for if these individuals consent to instant deportation, an intolerable fate awaits them overseas.
"While Mr. Jaballah is entitled to pursue his legal rights in Canada, he may not rely on any uncertainty in predicting when those matters may be determined as a basis to claim uncertainty about when his removal, if it is ultimately pursued, would be effective," Mackay writes. "Delay resulting from judicial proceedings initiated by the applicant, cannot be considered unreasonable, in my opinion."
One issue to be determined at the bail hearing for Jaballah was whether or not the government could bring forward information that would be denied to the public, Jaballah and his counsel. Mackay argues that although the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) does not "specifically provide for non-disclosure of information in an application for release under ss-84(2)" of the Act, he goes on the assumption that since so many other parts of the act DO allow for the use of secret evidence, it must simply be a Parliamentary oversight which he is willing to forgive, extending the benefit of the doubt not to the refugee but to the government..
Mackay states that he did meet "with counsel for the Minster, in camera, with only a registry officer present, in secure chambers, in the absence of Mr. Jaballah and his counsel, to consider the information sought to be adduced on behalf of the Minister but not disclosed on the grounds that its disclosure would be injurious to national security or the safety of any person."
Mackay is satisfied that certain portions of the secret evidence were not relevant to Jaballah's application for release, but nonetheless is still basing his decision on the use of secret "evidence."
"No information provided to the Court, which I considered relevant but the disclosure of which would be injurious to national security or to the safety of any person...was included in the summary provided to Mr. Jaballah. Nor is any such evidence filed in the Court's file available to the public."
Mackay, after concluding that Jaballah's unreasonable amount of time behind bars is not the fault of the government, goes on to conclude he still believes, on the basis of secret evidence, that Jaballah somehow might pose a threat to national security.
As if the denial of bail were not enough, Jaballah is now also faced with a negative decision by the Immigration "minister's delegate," who was charged with balancing the risk allegedly posed by Jaballah versus the risk that Jaballah would be exposed to if deported to Egypt.
In August, 2002, Jaballah's pre-removal risk assessment (a decision made by the federal government) was concluded with the declaration that Jaballah would be tortured or killed if sent to Egypt, a decision with which Amnesty International is in full agreement.
Despite this conclusion, the Immigration department intends to remove Jaballah from Canada. The removal decision is based on CSIS' second security certificate allegation (the "evidentiary" basis for which was dismissed two years earlier) that Jaballah is a member of Al Jihad (unproved in open court). The decision is also based on a CSIS "interview" with Jaballah for which no taped version or verbatim transcript is available (Indeed, CSIS officers readily admit that they rarely take notes at the time of an interview and only later draw up a one or two-page summary of what can be a two or three hour grilling. Notes from such interviews are then destroyed. As in all such cases, these interview "summaries" are filled with guilt-by-association language (i.e., Jaballah seemed "evasive" or "reluctant" to answer the question.)
The minister's delegate's decision also relies on the "public summary" of CSIS allegations drawn up in August 2001, again a useless collection of unfounded inferences and CSIS beliefs that are not grounded in any fact. The Minister's delegate states that he "has taken into consideration all the information [sic] provided to Mr. Jaballah and his submissions, as well as that classified information that could not be released to Mr. Jaballah. I consider the classified information very compelling, and have given it considerable weight in my balancing decision."
That someone might be deported to torture on the basis of untested secret information is truly frightening. That the word of CSIS is all that's heard behind these closed doors is scary as well, especially considering the agency is annually taken to task by its generally accommodating "oversight" committee for getting its facts wrong or for withholding information that runs counter to its conspiracy theories.
As a heartless appendage to his decision, the minister's delegate also concludes that it would be easy, if Jaballah were sent to Egypt, for his family to uproot themselves and return as well. "Mr. Jaballah has been detained apart from his children for some time; I cannot therefore conclude that Mr. Jaballah's removal from Canada would deprive his children of his emotional and financial support any more than his current detention has," he writes.
The bail decision comes on the heels of a Human Rights Report which details what it calls an "epidemic" of torture in Egypt. ""Torture in Egypt is a widespread and persistent phenomenon. Security forces and the police routinely torture or ill-treat detainees, particularly during interrogation," the February 2004 report concluded. "In most cases, officials torture detainees to obtain information and coerce confessions, occasionally leading to death in custody. In some cases, officials use torture detainees to punish, intimidate, or humiliate. Police also detain and torture family members to obtain information or confessions from a relative, or to force a wanted relative to surrender."
The idea that the family can go back to Egypt under such conditions is beyond comprehension. Indeed, Mrs. Jaballah has herself been tortured as well, and the children would be exposed to high risk too. Human Rights Watch points out that children are increasingly targets for arrest, and "During arrest these children are routinely beaten with fists and batons. Children also told Human Rights Watch that police subjected them to sexual violence or tolerated sexual violence by adult detainees while in custody. They face brutal and humiliating treatment and, in some cases, this ill-treatment was so severe as to constitute torture."
Unfortunately, this would be nothing new for the Jaballah family. Mahmoud Jaballah was still a teenager Egypt in 1981 when Anwar Sadat was assassinated. At that time, he was imprisoned as part of a huge arbitrary indiscriminate, and illegal dragnet which threw thousands of people behind bars. His crime was the perception that he was a devout Muslim. He was imprisoned without charge and tortured for two years, then released.
Jaballah was subsequently arrested, held without charge, and tortured for two months in 1985; arrested and held without charge and tortured again for two months in April, 1987 (his wife was also arrested and tortured, causing her to miscarry); he was later arrested and held without charge and tortured for an additional 6 months as of August 1987. This pattern continued with additional arrests without charge and torture (over two months in 1988); August, 1989; and September, 1990 (for an additional 6 months).
These torture sessions included beatings, lashings, electric shocks to the body, hanging from the ceiling with arms behind his back, sleep deprivation, water and food deprivation, and preventing him from access to bathroom facilities. In-between detentions he was constantly harassed and threatened, and prohibited from working in his chosen profession of teaching.
Mrs. Jaballah was arrested and tortured twice. She says the first arrest was an attempt to pressure Mr. Jaballah into withdrawing a complaint he had made to the Minister of Education with respect to his teaching position. She says Egyptian security agents told her "to talk some sense into my husband and that it is better for him to shave his beard and to stop going to the mosque so often." She says her torture often took place (10 to 15 times) with her husband present "so that it would force him to withdraw the case against the government." She was subjected to physical beatings and electrical shock. "Every time they would question my husband and he denied the allegations [that he had been involved in a particular incident], they would come back and start beating me up in front of him."
Neither Mr. nor Mrs. Jaballah was ever charged with, much less tried for and convicted of, any offence following these arrests
The Jaballah family someone manages to carry on, day in and day out, raising the kids, putting food on the table, keeping a roof over their heads, all with the horrible threat that they may never embrace their beloved father and husband ever again. That children should grow up in such terror is a sad commentary on the state of Canada.
There are many ways you can support the right of Mahmoud Jaballah to remain in Canada and not be deported to Torture.
1. Letters can be sent protesting the deportation efforts, as well as the secret trial security certificate. Please demand that the ministers show compassion and immediately release Jaballah and the rest of the Secret Trial Five. (please, if possible, cc us at firstname.lastname@example.org or at PO Box 73620, 509 St. Clair Ave. West, Toronto, ON M6C 1C0). They should be addressed to the following:
Anne McLellan, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
c/o Solicitor General of Canada
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A6
Judy Sgro, P.C., M.P.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 1L1
In your letters, it would be valuable to remind the ministers that Canada is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ("No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment") and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (under which it is expressly forbidden to return someone to a country where there are substantial grounds to believe that individual would be in danger of being subjected to torture.).
(You might also wish to point out that under the current Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, these obligations have yet to be fully enshrined, and that the legislation must be changed to reflect this.)
2. Personal letters of support. In our society you are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. The use of secret evidence and security certificates reverses this assumption and makes one guilty until proven otherwise. It would be great to send a few words of encouragement and support to Mahmoud.
c/o Metro West Detention Centre
111 Disco Road
Rexdale, ON M9W 5L6
(Please either type or print clearly)
3. Letters of support to the Jaballah family can be sent c/o
Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada
PO Box 73620, 509 St. Clair Ave. West
Toronto, ON M6C 1C0
(please indicate on the envelope if it is a personal letter for the family--there are six children aged 5 to 17)
4. Take part in public actions against secret trials and for the rights of refugees and immigrants, which are increasingly under attack in this country. Join the April 24 days of action for immigrant and refugee rights.
5. If you are in the Toronto area, join us on Monday, March 15 for March Break Madness at the CSIS offices. Gather at 11:30 am at the big old clock in front of Union Station on Front Street, then head over to CSIS for the noon hour with the children of secret trial detainees. Bring your kids, bring games, bring music!).
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