UK’s New Anti-Terrorism Bills Criticized by Civil Rights Activists

The UK government has published the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill ahead of its first reading in the House of Commons, scheduled for today. It includes several measures that have civil rights activists concerned.

Among them is the ability to temporarily exclude British citizens from returning home if they have been suspected of engaging in terrorists activities outside of the UK. This could leave some UK nationals stateless while overseas.

Another concern regards forcing internet providers to retain more identifying data to provide to the government for anti-terrorism purposes.

Other issues involve the ability to cancel passports at the border for up to 30 days, a ban on insuring ransoms, requiring more data from airlines, mandating anti-radicalization measures from educational institutions, and greater control on the domestic movements of suspected terrorists.

David Anderson, QC, the independent review of terrorism legislation (and appointed by the government), voiced his concern over the bill.

“The concern I have about this power and the central concern about it is: where are the courts in all of this? …One could look at it in terms of young, possibly vulnerable people caught up with the wrong crowd in Syria – didn’t really know exactly what they were doing… Do you want to throw the book at them straight away in terms of arrest and charge? Or is there something to be said, even though you do suspect them of having fought, of keeping them under a very light regime where they might have to report daily to a police station? They might have to notify [of] their residence; they might have to go along to meetings with probation or with some similar which perhaps might be for some people be a more sensible way of dealing with them than putting them straight into the criminal justice process.”

For more details of the bill and its specific concerns, see here.

Le SCRS rabroué

Le Service canadien de renseignement sur la sécurité (SCRS), à qui le gouvernement fédéral souhaite octroyer plus de pouvoirs en matière de surveillance, aurait délibérément trompé la Cour afin d’obtenir un mandat visant à traquer deux Canadiens à l’étranger.

Le banc de trois juges de la Cour d’appel fédéral a unanimement confirmé le jugement de première instance, selon lequel ” les représentants du SCRS, après avoir consulté leurs conseillers juridiques, ont décidé d’omettre [stratégiquement]” les informations concernant leur volonté de recourir à l’assistance d’agences de renseignement étrangères afin d’intercepter les communications des individus visés par le mandat. Read the rest of this entry »

Justin Bourque sentencing phase underway this week in Moncton

Earlier this week, a two day sentencing hearing commenced in Moncton for Justin Bourque, the 24-year old who pleaded guilty to 3 counts of first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of 3 police officers in Moncton earlier this year.

CBC has reported that as a result of a change of Criminal Code sentencing laws in 2011, the ineligibility period of parole for Bourque for these convictions may be as high as 75 years. Crown prosecutor Cameron Gunn is reported to be seeking the maximum parole ineligibility period, whereas defence attorney David Lutz has argued for a parole ineligibility period of 50 years. In argument, Lutz stated that anything besides 50 years would be academic as Bourque would be 99 before being eligible for parole under the maximum ineligibility period. More can be read on these proceedings here.

Today in an interview with the CBC, St. Thomas University criminology professor Karla O’Regan weighed in on the sentencing hearing and called for a more methodological and uniform approach to criminal justice sentencing rather than basing it on potent emotions and reactions of fear. Her entire interview can be seen here.

Suicide, Violence and Over-Crowding Up in UK Prisons

The UK prison system is under fire this month after a comprehensive report was released.

The report details a 69% rise in self-inflicted deaths in prison in just one year, totaling 88. One article cites 125 suicides in 20 months, averaging on 6 suicides a month. The report also details a 14% rise in prisoner-on-prisoner assault, including a 38% rise in serious assault among adult male prisoners. Additionally, it lists a rising problem with drugs.

The report blames overcrowding as the root cause of the problem. The prison system is currently using 99% of “the usable operational capacity”. One group also attributes the problems to massive budget cuts. While the numbers are uncertain, between 27 and 41% of prison jobs have been cut since the election of the Cameron government. Meanwhile, employees who have spoken publicly about the safety implications these job cuts have created are allegedly being reprimanded and may loose their jobs.

For more, see here.

B.C. Legislature Contemplating Heightened Security Measures After Ottawa Shooting

In light of Wednesday’s tragic events in Ottawa, questions are being raised about security measures at the B.C. Legislature. CTV Vancouver reports that the premises continue to remain closed to the public for a second day, as staff reassess safety protocols and determine whether to increase security. CTV’s Lisa Rossington said “some people at the B.C. legislature are suggesting the guards should carry firearms and that all public entrances should have metal detectors.”

Speaking to MLAs on Wednesday, B.C. Premier Christy Clark said there would be a careful review of security at the B.C. Legislature. According to CBC, Clark also told reporters that “it was important to find a balance between necessary concerns over security and being very careful not to shut the public out,” adding that ensuring public access to the Legislature and other institutions was a priority. The debate was intensified by reports that Clark and select members of the B.C. Legislature received information about security concerns in Ottawa in the days prior to the shooting.

Security in Metro Vancouver has also been increased for the time being, with a more noticeable police presence at select public buildings and near transit. The CBC reports that heightened security is to be expected at upcoming Remembrance Day ceremonies as well. The scope of these heightened measures is likely to be affected by information regarding the nature and motive of the Ottawa shooting, to be released in the days to come.

Read more here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conservatives to Expand CSIS Powers

Public Safety Minister Stephen Blaney will table a bill when Parliament returns next week to expand the Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s powers. The legislation is a response to the growing number of Canadian citizens traveling abroad to fight for extremist groups like ISIS, as well as a Supreme Court decision in May that declined to grant a class privilege to CSIS informants.

The bill is expected to contain three key provisions:

Read the rest of this entry »

Le massacre de Beslan à la CEDH

Le 14 Octobre la Cour européenne des droits de l’homme s’est penchée sur les évènements entourant la prise d’otage de Beslan dans le Caucase russe en 2004. Les griefs de plus de 400 ressortissants russes, parmi lesquels l’on compte de nombreuses victimes, furent présentés devant la Cour qui tâchera d’éclaircir les zones d’ombre entourant le drame. La Cour tentera aussi d’établir la responsabilité du gouvernement russe, qui s’est défendu dans la matinée par le biais d’envoyés gouvernementaux.

Rappelons rapidement l’historique du drame. Le 1er Septembre 2004, des séparatistes tchétchènes armés prennent des centaines d’enfants et d’adultes en otage dans une école de la municipalité de Beslan, en Ossétie du nord [Russie]. Une vingtaine d’adultes sont tués dans l’opération. Après trois jours de pourparlers, le 3 septembre 2004, une explosion dans l’école cause la panique parmi les otages. Un affrontement armé chaotique des ravisseurs et des forces de l’ordre s’ensuit, dans laquelle il est allégué notamment que des chars d’assaults et des lances flammes furent utilisé par l’armée russe. Le bilan de l’échauffourée : 331 civils tués, dont 186 enfants.

447 ressortissants russes, anciens otages rescapés ou proches des victimes, demandent donc à la Cour d’éclaircir le rôle de Moscou dans les explosions initiales du 3 septembre ayant déclenché la bataille ainsi que dans sa réponse qu’ils qualifient de disproportionnée. Ce dernier a toujours blâmer les séparatistes tchétchènes pour l’explosion initiale, mais des preuves documentées des requérants pointent le doigt vers une entité extérieure de l’école.

La Cour à ajournée l’audience et est en délibérée depuis la fin de matinée du 14 Octobre. Elle se prononcera sur la recevabilité des plaintes ainsi que le fond de l’affaire à une date ultérieure non fixée.

Pour en savoir plus :
Le figaro :
http://www.lefigaro.fr/flash-actu/2014/10/14/97001-20141014FILWWW00069-la-justice-se-penche-sur-le-massacre-de-beslan.php
La Presse :
http://www.lapresse.ca/international/europe/201410/14/01-4809069-la-justice-europeenne-se-penche-sur-beslan.php

The Burqa Ban: Thinly Veiled Discrimination

On Thursday, the Australian Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS) released a circular outlining a new security measure that segregates Muslim women who wear face veils from other visitors to Parliament. The so-called “burqa ban” is an interim measure, which follows Liberal Sentator Cory Bernardi’s request to have burqas banned entirely from Parliament.

Earlier this week, The Guardian reported that the Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, found the burqa “a fairly confronting form of attire” and “wish[ed] it was not worn.”

The divisive statements prompted an immediate outcry from human rights commissioners, politicians, and the Muslim community. Tim Soutphommasane, the Race Discrimination Commissioner, stated: “No one should be treated like a second-class citizen, not least in their own parliament.”

Following the backlash, the Prime Minister has allegedly asked Speaker Bronwyn Bishop and Senate President Stephen Parry to reconsider the new security measure. As of midday Friday, a spokesperson for the Speaker denied having received any such request from the Prime Minister or his office.

The need for the “burqa ban” has been couched in terms of national security and the facilitation of proper identification, leaving the impression that the public gallery in Parliament is riddled with extremists in disguise.  In reality, the Prime Minister himself has noted that, “as far as we are aware, no one has ever sought to enter into the building so attired.” As Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull notes: “We don’t want to have debates like this being turned into some sort of coded attack on the Muslim community.”

Op Ed: The Right to a Fair Trial is a Fundamental Human Right

When I came to law school three years ago, I had no idea what a security certificate was. I first learned about this regime in my immigration and refugee law class. I remember thinking that I must be missing something because it couldn’t be possible that this existed in Canada – the right to a fair trial is a fundamental human right. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court upheld the security certificate regime as constitutional.

Security certificates allow the government to deport or detain persons indefinitely that are deemed to be a risk to the security of Canada. The named person need not be charged with a crime. In a criminal trial, the accused must be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Under the security certificate regime, there must be reasonable grounds to believe that the person is a risk to the security of Canada. It is also easier for the government to use secret evidence in a security certificate proceeding than a criminal trial (see paras 65 – 66 of the Harkat decision).  The security certificate regime is not a criminal trial, but the consequences of each are the same: a deprivation of liberty, and, in the case of named persons subject to security certificates, the possibility of deportation to a country where there is a risk of torture or death. Like a criminal trial, the security certificate regime involves the same fundamental human right – the right to a fair trial.

What I find most striking is the contrast to the Supreme Court’s discussion of the right to a fair trial in Harkat compared to criminal law cases I have read in law school. For example, in R v NS, when considering the right to a fair trial for an accused in a criminal proceeding, Chief Justice McLachlin wrote:

The right to a fair trial is a fundamental pillar without which the edifice of the rule of law would crumble.  No less is at stake than an individual’s liberty — his right to live in freedom unless the state proves beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed a crime meriting imprisonment.  This is of critical importance not only to the individual on trial, but to public confidence in the justice system (para 38).

In contrast to NS, the Harkat decision is missing any meaningful discussion of the right at stake for named persons – the deprivation of liberty – and of the fundamental importance of guaranteeing the right to a fair trial for the rule of law in Canada. The Court mentions no international legal obligations. In fact, the Supreme Court stated that Mr. Harkat has “benefited from a fair process” (para 111). Mr. Harkat’s “fair process” included the use of summaries of destroyed intercepted phone conversations that were only ever disclosed to Mr. Harkat in an abridged form (paras 94 – 99) and that were destroyed as a result of “unacceptable negligence” by the Minister (para 94).

The Supreme Court ruled that the security certificate system is not perfect, but it is fair (para 110). However, making a process fairer, with the introduction of special advocates, does not necessarily make it fair. On the Supreme Court’s focus on the judge’s discretion to ensure that named persons are given a fair process, Amnesty International said, “when it comes to protecting fundamental rights, including something as essential as fair trial rights, discretion is simply never good enough.”

Most Canadians may not be personally affected by security certificates, but this is an issue all Canadians should care about. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms can only be meaningful if the rights guaranteed by it are meaningful for all. This includes suspected terrorists. The Criminal Code contains terrorist offences, which these men could be charged with.

Recently, I went to the premiere of Secret Trial 5 at the Hot Docs film festival. The documentary was a powerful reminder that there are real people subject to and affected by the security certificates. The constitutionality of the security certificate regime is not about whether the named persons are guilty or innocent. It is about a fundamental human right. In the words of Justice McLachlin herself, “the right to a fair trial is a fundamental pillar without which the edifice of the rule of law would crumble.”

More information about the Secret Trial 5 documentary can be found at http://secrettrial5.com.

 

Voices-Voix: Silencing Dissent in Canada

Voices-Voix is a national, non-partisan coalition of Canadians and organizations in Canada committed to advocating for rights to dissent and democratic space across the country. The organization was founded on April 21, 2010 when over 100 representatives from some of the country’s most reputable organizations gathered in Ottawa to discuss increasing attacks by the federal government. Decisions of the coalition are made by consensus, and today, more than 219 organizations are members of the coalition. That number continues to grow.

Recently, the organization launched a web video series — “Silencing Dissent in Canada” — which features three Canadian leaders:

Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada

John Bennett, Executive Director of the Sierra Club Canada

Katie Gibbs, Executive Director of Evidence for Democracy

As of April 2013, 81 cases of silencing dissent by the Government of Canada have been documented, including: Environment – 8.6%, Immigrants and Refugees – 7.4%, Military and Veterans – 8.6%, International Development – 8.6%, Watchdogs – 19.8%, Aboriginal Peoples – 9.9%, Women – 12.3%, and Other Targets at 24.7%.

Welcome to the rights and freedoms monitoring blog!

Bienvenue au blog de la veille sur les droits et libertés!

…a joint project of CCLA and Pro Bono Students Canada… un projet de l’association canadienne des libertés civiles et Pro Bono Students Canada…

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent CCLA or PBSC policy. Please visit CCLA’s website, www.ccla.org, for official CCLA publications and policies…Les opinions exprimées ici ne représentent pas nécessairement ACLC ou PBSC politique. S’il vous plaît visitez le site Web CCLA, www.ccla.org/fr, pour les publications officielles CCLA et politiques.

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