I doubt that the inquiry is worrying much about credibillity. They are worried about getting finished. The whole inquiry is designed to protect CSIS and the government. Nothing will be revealed that could give the three in whose name the inquiry was called the slightest help in clearing their names or in suing the government. I am surprised that the lawyers have bothered even to participate.
The last What's new entry on the inquiry website was April 12 and the last news release on May 31. In spite of having a public website the inquiry has not bothered to post even any periodic descriptions of what it is doing or has done. The less public notice and input the better it seems. Whether the court challenge to the secrecy aspects of the inquiry will be fruitful is doubtful. It was designed to be secret and national security can always be invoked in order to keep any significant info from the public. From the government and intelligence community point of view if terrorism did not exist it would have to be invented.
Secrecy undermining credibility of federal torture inquiry, critics say
OTTAWA - A federal inquiry into torture allegations levelled by three Arab-Canadians is facing a crisis of confidence, with participants complaining an obsession with secrecy is undermining the credibility of the proceedings.
Former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci was appointed last December to investigate the cases of Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muayyed Nureddin, all of whom say they were wrongly labelled as terrorists and tortured in Syria or Egypt - with the complicity of Canadian police and security officers.
The allegations call to mind the better-known case of Maher Arar. But unlike a previous inquiry into Arar's ordeal, the current investigation has been conducted almost entirely behind closed doors so far.
Lawyers for the three, and human rights groups who have intervened on their behalf, say they're not questioning the integrity or good faith of Iacobucci. But they feel he's handicapped by the ground rules set for him by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government.
"With each passing week and month now, it becomes more and more apparent that it was very problematic and misguided for the government to set terms of reference which require this to be overwhelmingly an in camera process," says Alex Neve of Amnesty International.
"We have no sense of how far they are in the assessment of the evidence, what kind of tentative conclusions and findings are coming to light."
After months of uneasy silence, Amnesty and a coalition of other groups, including the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and the Montreal-based International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, are set to go public at a Parliament Hill news conference Tuesday where they will likely appeal to the Harper government to open up the inquiry to greater public scrutiny.
The three complainants and their lawyers are considering a followup public appearance later in the week to air their own grievances.
"The thing that concerns me is how this affects our clients," says Barbara Jackman, the lawyer for El Maati and Nureddin. "These kinds of hearings are stressful for anybody. ... It's worse when you don't have any idea of what really is happening."
Paul Copeland, the lawyer for Almalki, says he's beginning to wonder whether the inquiry can achieve its chief goal of determining whether the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service provided tips to authorities in Syria and Egypt that led to the torture of the three men.
"I don't know how they can deal with (the issue) adequately, from what I know of the process," said Copeland. "Maybe they will. But do I have confidence in it? No."
Sources close to the three men say there have been discussions behind the scenes about whether to persevere or to pull out of the inquiry. So far they think it's better to stay, but insiders say they haven't ruled out withdrawal if things don't improve.
John Laskin, chief counsel to the inquiry, said he understands their frustration but pleaded for patience and insisted they'll be pleased with the result once all the work is done.
"This is a process which the commissioner, certainly, believes to be a sound one," he said. "There's always a danger in making judgments based on a snapshot at any one point in time."
Laskin said inquiry lawyers have interviewed some 40 witnesses under oath, including key players from the RCMP, CSIS and the Foreign Affairs Department. They've also examined mountain of documents, all handed over in their entirety with no deletions for national security reasons.
The next step will be to consider "more formal" proceedings, including the possibility of full-dress hearings at which witnesses would be examined and cross-examined - but it's not clear whether any of that would occur in public.
The current intention is to hold at least some public proceedings between now and the end of November, said Laskin. But that could be confined to arguments by lawyers or the various parties about points of law - such as whether any Canadian officials should be held liable for misconduct.
Inquiry officials insist the process they're following will save time compared with the hearings into Arar's case. That work was delayed by incessant haggling over how much of the evidence could be made public.
There's no guarantee, however, that the supposedly streamlined process will enable Iacobucci to meet the Jan. 31 deadline for handing in a report that will finally make his findings public. He has the option of seeking an extension if need be.
The cases of the three men were previously touched on, but not explored in depth, by Justice Dennis O'Connor at the inquiry that cleared Arar of terrorist allegations.
Almalki, like Arar an Ottawa-based communications engineer, was detained in Syria on a visit in 2002 and says he was tortured repeatedly during 20 months in captivity.
El Maati, a Toronto truck driver, was arrested by the Syrians in late 2001 and later transferred to Egypt. He says he, too, was tortured into false confessions of ties to al-Qaida, including a non-existent plot to bomb the Parliament buildings in Ottawa.
Nureddin, a Toronto geologic, spent 34 days in detention in Syria in December 2001 and January 2002 after being arrested while crossing the border from Iraq.
All believe their captors had been tipped off to their travels by the RCMP or CSIS and say they were asked questions that could only have come from Canadian police or intelligence officers.