Appeal from Canada: detainees on hunger strike for 76 days

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From: Roch Tassé: International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group Coordinator

At the request of the solidarity committee with the "security certificate" detainees in Canada, I am forwarding to you the following call for action in the hope that you can assist in bringing international attention to the situation of the detainees who have been on a hunger strike for 76 days now.

SPECIFICALLY, you are being asked to please send or deliver letters in a delegation to Canadian embassies or consulates near you; organise a picket outside a Canadian embassy or consulate; or seek press coverage of the situation in your local media.

If possible, please also circulate the call below to your own contacts.

Thank you.


Thanks to all of you who responded to this urgent appeal (below) about the hungerstrikes at Canada's "Guantanamo North" prison.

The Canadian government is continuing its closed door policy & misinformation campaign (see our six-point response to our public Safety Minister's lies at In the absence of response from the government, the men have expressed their intention to continue the hungerstrike. Today is day 76 of the hungerstrike for Mohammad Mahjoub, day 65 for Hassan Almrei and Mahmoud Jaballah. The prison is refusing to provide or permit daily medical monitoring - normally
recommended after 10 days of hungerstrike - thus the situation could become critical at any moment.

We are therefore RENEWING OUR APPEAL to allies and friends internationally to PLEASE DO ALL YOU can to put pressure on Canada's appalling and racist treatment of Jaballah, Mahjoub and Almrei. This is not only about the lives and dignity of these men and their families; in Canada, the struggle of these migrants for dignity and justice has become a symbol of the struggle against Canada's support for a racist system of global apartheid in the name of "the war against terrorism" and "national security".

SPECIFICALLY, please send or deliver letters in a delegation to Canadian embassies or consulates near you; organise a picket outside a Canadian embassy or consulate; or seek press coverage of the situation in your local media.

FOR MORE INFORMATION or to INFORM US OF AN ACTION: or 416 651 5800, or 514 222 0205.


Reality check (pdf)

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, 7 February 2007, 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, the situation could become life-threatening at any time.

* 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:

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.

- 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.

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