Thursday, July 5, 2007

Iacobucci Inquiry: Lawyer for El Maati calls for review of terms of reference

I doubt that the review will change anything. This review is designed specifically so that most information is not made public and to protect the intelligence services from public perusal outside the charmed realm of associates of Torys LLP. The three parties involved will not be allowed to clear their names or even see the evidence against them. I am a bit surprised they have bothered to remain in the process.

Alleged torture victim taking feds to court over inquiry secrecy
Wed, 2007-07-04 16:19.

OTTAWA (CP) - The secrecy shrouding the inquiry into the arrest and torture of three Canadians in the Middle East is being challenged in court by one of the main parties in the probe.

Ahmad El Maati's lawyer, Barbara Jackman, has applied in Federal Court for a judicial review of the terms of reference of the inquiry. Former Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci, the commissioner of the inquiry, had released the terms a month ago and underlined that most of the proceedings would be private.

He and the federal government had argued that for the so-called "internal" inquiry to proceed expeditiously, most of the process should occur in camera. They also underlined that there were national security concerns at play that needed to be respected.

That means that lawyers for the three men who were arrested and tortured after entering Syria are also not permitted to participate in the continuing interviews and hearings with witnesses. The inquiry is supposed to look at the role Canadian officials played in the arrest and alleged torture of the men, all picked up in Syria. They say faulty intelligence linking them to terrorism was to blame for their plight.

Jackman argues in her submission to the Federal Court that Iacobucci's insistence on secrecy is not supported by the federal Inquiries Act.

While the other two men involved in the inquiry, Abdullah Almalki and Muayyed Nureddin, are not specifically part of the application for judicial review, they have had similar complaints about the process. Other interveners, including the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, are backing Jackman's action.

They point out that the government specifically asked that the inquiry be done through a "credible" process that "inspires public confidence in the outcome."

"If this is allowed to go on in private totally and they make a finding that nothing was done wrong by the officials ... and the public, including the media, hasn't had any access to what was said and what the evidence was, and they're just left with this decision of the royal commission, they're going to be asking a lot of questions," said Warren Allmand, lawyer for the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group.

"Their confidence is going to be undermined."

The application has so far not stalled the work of the inquiry, which for the last two weeks has been interviewing witnesses. They included officials from the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service and Foreign Affairs.

Some of the names also appeared at the commission of inquiry into Maher Arar's detention and torture in Syria, such as former Canadian ambassador to Syria, Franco Pillarella. Pillarella was criticized for telling the previous inquiry that he had no reason to believe Arar was being tortured or that human rights abuses were occurring in Syria.

Those interviews should wrap up by the end of next month.

The Arar inquiry, which cleared Arar's name and issued sharp rebukes to the government's handling and sharing of intelligence about Arar, also went through a period of interviews before the public hearings component began. But in the case of the Iacobucci inquiry, public hearings are expected to be the exception rather than the rule.

"We expect that there will be hearings to the extent that they're regarded as necessary in light of the outcome of the interviews," said inquiry lawyer John Laskin, noting that those hearings won't necessarily be public.

The current inquiry sprang directly from the Arar process, with Justice Dennis O'Connor recommending the government also look into the other three cases of arrests abroad. El Maati and Almalki had links to the Arar, as all three were being investigated by authorities for links to al-Qaida.

O'Connor also noted that a full-blown public inquiry was not necessary, as it could entail some of the lengthy delays that his did.

The three men want to know whether the Canadian government helped orchestrate their arrests and interrogations with foreign allies. Like Arar, all three were questioned and imprisoned by Syrian authorities who they say also tortured them.

El Maati, a Toronto truck driver, was arrested in Syria on a visit in 2001, then sent to Egypt in early 2002. He was imprisoned there for almost two years.

Almalki, an Ottawa electronics engineer, was detained in Syria in 2002 and held for 22 months.

Nureddin, a Toronto geologist, was held for 34 days in Syria in late 2003 and early 2004.

No comments: