Saturday, March 24, 2007

Iacobucci Inquiry: The Right to View Evidence

Full story is here.
Fairness is contextual. This means I presume that in the context of his inquiry fairness might not involve access to the evidence against the three! Way to go Frank!
If the lawyers cannot be at these hearings it makes sense for them to simply walk out. Perhaps there is some compromise possible in that some of the evidence might be available. The Tory LLP people in negotiation with the govt. could perhaps work out something. Otherwise the whole process has zilch credibility.

The terms do allow Iacobucci to conduct some public hearings if he considers them "essential" to his work, and he signalled Monday that he will take advantage of the opportunity.

"I intend to take that provision most seriously," he declared.

But commission counsel John Laskin said it's premature to speculate on exactly how much of the evidence will be available to the media and the general public. He also dodged the question of whether the three complainants and their lawyers will have access to closed-door sessions.

The issue is reminiscent of the debate over federal security certificates, the legal vehicles used by Ottawa to deport non-citizens suspected of terrorist activity.

In a landmark ruling last month, the Supreme Court struck down the system because it relied on judges hearing key evidence in private, with neither the defendants nor their lawyers present.

Laskin suggested, however, that the procedural rules deemed essential for a court case may not apply at a commission of inquiry.

"The Supreme Court has said many, many, many times fairness is contextual," he told reporters. "And the context here is a different context."

The matter won't be resolved until another hearing is held in mid-April.

Jasminka Kalajdzic, one of the lawyers for Almalki, said security-cleared counsel for the complainants must have access to closed-door proceedings.

Almalki seconded that opinion during a break in the hearing Monday, saying he needs to know the evidence against him to clear his name.

He added that he's looking to the inquiry to finally get to the truth of what happened to him - and to hold those responsible accountable.

"I don't think we can afford (to have) people in our government who are complicit in torture stay in their positions."

Nureddin, who attended the hearing, declined to speak about his case.

El Maati was absent because he's just undergone back surgery - the latest of seven operations to repair injuries suffered at the hands of his foreign jailers.

El Maati, a Toronto truck driver, was arrested in Syria on a visit in 2001, then transferred to Egypt in early 2002 for further interrogation.

Almalki, an Ottawa electronics engineer, was detained in Syria in 2002 and held for 22 months, while Nureddin, a Toronto geologist, was held for 34 days in Syria.

Their stories bear striking similarities to that of Maher Arar, who was arrested by U.S. authorities in 2002 and deported to face torture in Syria. Arar's name was cleared by another inquiry that concluded he was the victim of misinformation supplied by the RCMP.

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