Sunday, October 26, 2008

Critics demand review of "culture of impunity" in security.

This is from the Ottawa Citizen.
The culture of impunity exists because the security intelligence bosses, our government, want it that way and have done everything to ensure that the impunity continues to exist. Both Liberal and Conservative governments have been complicit in this. In spite of all the Arar inquiry did for Arar, it did absolutely nothing to punish the incompetence and harm so serious that Arar was awarded compensation of millions of dollars.
If you read the government submission to the Iacobucci inquiry they were adamant that the torture charges should not be examined no doubt because it could impact on the civil suits that Almalki et al will bring against the government. It will be interesting to see if the suits go ahead or are settled out of court.
What I find sickening about the Iacobucci report is that he himself seems clearly complicit with the government in encouraging the culture of impunity. In spite of his own comments about the effects of labelling and criticism of the quality of the evidence he then turns around and says that the operatives were simply seeking to do their jobs conscientiously. For an eminent legal mind this is completely lame and beyond comprehension to put it mildly.

Saturday » October 25 » 2008

Critics demand review of 'culture of impunity' in security
Most officials linked to faulty intelligence still in positions

Andrew Duffy
The Ottawa Citizen
Friday, October 24, 2008
CREDIT: Jean Levac, The Ottawa Citizen
Human rights activists say this country will foster "a culture of impunity" if security officials are not held accountable for actions that contributed to the suffering of four Canadians tortured in Syria and Egypt.
Kerry Pither, a human rights activist and author of Dark Days: The Story of Four Canadians Tortured in the Name of Fighting Terror, said no Canadian official had been charged, disciplined or demoted for misconduct in the cases of Maher Arar, Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El-Maati and Muayyed Nureddin.
Two federal inquiries have found that faulty Canadian intelligence played a significant role in what befell the men in Syria.
"There is a culture of impunity in this country that is very troubling," Ms. Pither said. "The fact is that most of the officials who were in place and who carried out the deficient action that led to the torture of these Canadian citizens, most of these officials are still in place and many have been promoted, and they're still doing this work."
To date, former RCMP commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli is the only senior official to resign following the torture cases. He submitted his resignation after admitting he gave incorrect testimony to a Commons committee investigating the Arar affair. He now works for INTERPOL in France.
Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, called yesterday for an independent body to determine whether criminal charges or disciplinary measures should be levelled against key officials.
"I do expect, and in fact insist, that a credible effort be put in place now to determine what appropriate accountability there should be in these cases," he said.
Former solicitor general Warren Allmand, a member of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, said the latest federal inquiry had identified RCMP officers "who were, in my view, negligent."
"Certainly something should be done," he said, joining the call for a process to review the conduct of the officials.
Such a process, however, appears unlikely.
Retired Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci this week detailed a series of investigatory and diplomatic failures in the cases of the three Canadians tortured in Syria and Egypt between 2001 and 2004.
However, the judge did not single out any individual for blame. Instead, he said the officials involved conscientiously carried out their duties at a time -- post 9/11 -- when there was "intense pressure" on intelligence and law enforcement agencies.
Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day has said he is satisfied that issues raised by the report have already been addressed by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
The Iacobucci report found that Canadian security officials played an indirect role in the mistreatment of Mr. El-Maati, Mr. Almalki and Mr. Nureddin. The RCMP and CSIS shared faulty intelligence about all three men with other countries; the RCMP passed questions for Mr. Almalki directly to the Syrians, while CSIS sent questions for Mr. El-Maati through a foreign agency.
The judge said he was also troubled by the RCMP's decision to rely upon Mr. El-Maati's alleged confession in Syria to support its application for search warrants in Canada in January 2002. The RCMP did not raise Syria's human rights record or the possibility that the confession had been obtained by torture with the judge who granted those warrants.
Mr. Iacobucci also found the actions of Canada's Foreign Affairs Department "deficient" with respect to Mr. El-Maati and Mr. Almalki.
In both cases, he said, Canadian officials failed to act swiftly to gain consular access to the detainees, failed to properly consider the likelihood that they would be tortured and improperly passed information, collected in the course of consular work on behalf of the men, to CSIS.
Mr. Iacobucci said it was also "regrettable" that the foreign minister had not been informed that Mr. El-Maati told Canadian consular officials, in August 2002, that he had been tortured while in Syrian custody. The minister was not made aware of those allegations even though Mr. Almalki was then in Syrian custody; he was not told of Mr. El-Maati's claims even as he dealt with the subsequent Arar case.
Ms. Pither yesterday called for a parliamentary committee to act on the report's findings.
"This is not something that can be swept under the rug. These are startling findings, this is a huge scandal and we need accountability, or there's no assurance it won't happen again."
In fact, she said, there was every indication something similar was happening in the case of Abousfian Abdelrazik.
Mr. Abdelrazik, of Montreal, was imprisoned in Sudan at Canada's request in 2003 after being labelled an al-Qaeda operative by U.S. authorities. He has told Canadian officials he was tortured while in Sudanese custody.
Mr. Abdelrazik was released from custody in July 2006, but remains stranded in Sudan because Canada has refused to renew his travel documents.
Mr. Abdelrazik's case, Ms. Pither said, demonstrated that the problems identified by two federal inquiries had not been fixed and that "it can, and is, happening again."
Mr. Almalki, an Ottawa resident, said he, too, wanted the officials who played a key role in his Syrian ordeal to be held accountable.
"The government ruined my life, ruined my successful business and ruined my profession as an engineer," he said. "For the government to destroy that whole thing, someone needs to be held accountable."
Mr. Almalki rejected the notion put forward by Mr. Iacobucci that no individual could be blamed for decisions that contributed to his suffering. Had inaccurate information and RCMP questions not been sent to the Syrians, Mr. Almalki said, he would not have been detained and tortured.
"This does not make any sense to me," he said, "when the government and other people say there's no single person to blame, there's no one to blame, as if the country is run by robots and decisions were made by robots."
© The Ottawa Citizen 2008

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