Tuesday, August 26, 2008

move against torture

Join the Fall 2008 Caravan to End Canadian Involvement in Torture, Southwestern Ontario, October 17-22, 2008

Join a nonviolent community on wheels for part or all of our journey as we travel through dozens of communities in a large triangular area (Toronto to Kitchener-Waterloo to London, then through Tillsonburg, Simcoe and Welland, up through Niagara Falls, St. Catharines, Hamilton and Mississauga) October 17-22.

The Caravan intends to expose and challenge the many ways in which the Canadian government is increasingly involved, both directly and indirectly, in policies and practices that result in the torture of human beings. While it is possible that a federal election may be underway during our caravan, we see this as a good opportunity to challenge all parties to commit to ending ALL forms of Canadian complicity in torture.

Additional footage of the spring caravan is available at:

This posting has details on getting involved with the caravan, why it is taking place, a city-by-city schedule, details on providing financial support for the caravan, and a list of demands. If you plan on joining us please let us know as soon as possible for so that we can cover the necessary logistics from this end. Thanks!

“On the moral and legal level torture is democracy’s ultimate antithesis. We simply cannot torture and preserve our democratic values at the same time." -- Manfred Nowak, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture

"Not our job to show [Afghan] jails free of torture, Ottawa will argue" -- Toronto Star headline, March 6, 2008

"The Canadians apparently never laid a hand on [Omar Khadr] in Gitmo. They didn't have to, knowing that the Americans had first softened him up with weeks of mental torture through sustained sleep deprivation. In this good cop-bad cop routine, the Canadian interrogators were willing partners with the Americans, complicit in the abuse of a prisoner who would likely never be found guilty of anything in Canada." Toronto Star editorial, July 16, 2008

Although Canada has traditionally been no wallflower when it comes to supporting regimes that engage in the most brutal of human rights violations (whether politically or economically), its complicity in the torture of human beings has come into sharper focus in the years following 9/11/2001. The Canadian government is openly flouting its international and domestic legal obligations NEVER to be involved directly or indirectly in acts of torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Some of the world's most vulnerable people are being abandoned in the name of "national security."

Canada has consistently been criticized by the likes of the United Nations, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other groups for the government's refusal to respect international laws governing the absolute prohibition on complicity in torture. And yet whenever there are efforts to determine the full extent of Canada's involvement -- with the intent of ending such behaviour -- they are generally shut down or held in secret.

As Manfred Nowak says, torture is democracy's antithesis. Whether it is the federal government's refusal to release documents about the torture of Canadian-captured detainees in Afghanistan; the holding of completely unaccountable secret inquiries into the torture of Canadian citizens; or the use of secret hearings and the lowest available standards of justice to deport people to torture, we see that the government's efforts to protect institutions involved in such heinous practices are actually undermining the principles of openness, fairness, and equality that are supposed to be hallmarks of democracy.

The Caravan To End Canadian Involvement in Torture follows in the path of long-distance journeys throughout history that have played key roles in social justice struggles. In Canada, there have been cross-country caravans in solidarity with First Nations struggles, long-distance walks for refugee rights, freedom rides, the 2006 Freedom Caravan to End Secret Trials, and treks by train, such as the 1930s "On to Ottawa" anti-poverty mobilization. During the spring of 2008, the first Caravan To End Canadian Involvement in Torture took place between Toronto and Ottawa, naming sites along the way that are complicit in torture. Once in Ottawa, those who had been tortured overseas confronted the Ottawa-based institutions responsible for their torture.

Such journeys are both political and spiritual pilgrimages, opportunities to get beyond the world of sound-bite politics and engage in dialogue at a slower pace.

This October will be significant for many reasons, among them:

1. October 17 marks the seventh anniversary of the first full day in solitary confinement for Syrian refugee Hassan Almrei, jailed without charge in Toronto in October, 2001 on secret allegations he has never been allowed to see or contest in a fair and open trial. Hassan would spend the next four years and three months in solitary confinement, an extreme form of cruel and inhumane mistreatment that included two full Canadian winters without heat. Hassan has spent an additional 18 months in the most expensive solitary confinement cell in Canada at the "Kingston Immigration Holding Centre, aka Gitmo North), where he remains to this day. The Canadian government intends to forcibly remove him to Syria, even though Hassan faces a substantial risk of torture if deported there. Hassan is one of five "security certificate" detainees fighting deportation to torture, all of whose secret hearings will recommence in the fall of 2008. The other four -- Mahmoud Jaballah, Mohammad Mahjoub, Mohamed Harkat and Adil Charkaoui -- are under severe forms of house arrest, imprisoning not only them but also their families. No charges have ever been laid against these individuals, and no proof of wrongdoing has ever been presented in a court of law.

2. October 20 is when a report on the torture of three Canadian citizens is scheduled to be turned into the government by former Supreme Court judge Frank Iacobucci. In a highly dangerous precedent designed to protect the reputation of the torture-complicit Canadian spy agencies, CSIS and the RCMP, the Iacobucci Inquiry was held in complete secrecy, and Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati, and Muayyed Nureddin were prevented from attending a single day of testimony at the inquiry into their overseas arrests, detentions, interrogations, and torture. They were not allowed to see a single document, and the shabby and disrespectful manner in which they were treated constituted a continuation of their torture. There are concerns that this report will attempt to whitewash clear signs of Canadian complicity in their torture.

3. In October, Canadian Omar Khadr, tortured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan and in Guantanamo Bay, is scheduled to have his sham military tribunal "hearing". International calls for Omar to be repatriated to Canada have been ignored by the Harper government, even as further revelations emerge about the fact that Khadr was "softened up" for CSIS interrogation by three weeks of severe sleep deprivation in the so-called "frequent-flier" torture program.

4. October begins the sixth year of limbo for Canadian Abousfian Abdelrazik of Montreal, forced by CSIS harassment to leave Canada in 2003. Abdelrazik was arrested in Sudan in September, 2003 in a jailing that appears to have been at the request of CSIS, resulting in years of imprisonment and torture. Mr. Abdelrazik is currently in the Canadian embassy in Khartoum, but the Canadian government is refusing to fly him home.

There will be lots to do each day. After breakfast, we will pack and head out to the next town, where we will disembark, pull out banners, placards, and flyers, and blanket the community with information and discussion, whether in town squares or shopping malls, at high schools, in front of MPs' offices. We will then travel to the next town, stop for lunch, and continue throughout the day with rest spots along the way. Following dinner, there will usually be an evening procession or public event. All meals will be provided for during the caravan. We do need to know as far in advance as possible of any special dietary needs/food allergies.

Each night we will sleep in specially arranged billets and/or churches or community halls and will attempt to arrange alternative billeting for anyone with special needs (please let us know about these far in advance!). We will also attempt to accommodate religious needs (such as Halal food, prayer time). We'll attempt to arrange showers where available.

What to Bring:
Sleeping bag, floor mat, pillow, change of clothes, medications, good walking shoes, re-usable water bottle, rain gear, sun glasses, a hat to protect against the sun, pocket money for snacks. Pack for the varying conditions of fall, warm and cold, wet and dry! A sense of humour will help too!

This is very much a project in the spirit of the civil rights movement. We ask those who join us to abide by a spirit of openness to all we meet, nonviolence in word and deed, and respect for each other and our opponents, some of whom we are likely to meet on the way. This is very much a community effort: we all share in the tasks of food preparation, clean-up, taking care of one another, and leaving our host spaces in mint condition!

For those who own vehicles, we hope you can contact us and let us know how many people you can take and how much trunk space you have.

The last town mentioned on each day is where we will spend the night. If you can help with putting people up for the night and possibly provide breakfast that would be great. Also, if you can help organize dinner for the caravan members, that would be great too.

You can join the caravan for a couple of days anywhere along the route. It is up to you. If you plan to join us in Stratford or Niagara Falls, for example, let us know and we'll arrange to meet you at the bus or train station.

The success of the Caravan is largely built on community involvement and support. As such, an extremely important element of the Caravan is billeting accommodations and provision of meals. Perhaps you, or someone you know, is interested in supporting the Caravan by providing a spare bed or couch for Caravan member(s) to sleep on for the night we are in your community. Help with meal preparation for the caravan members would also be appreciated. If you have space and you are willing and able to share, please contact tasc@web.ca or (416) 651-5800 to learn more about becoming a Caravan Billetor!

If you can't join the caravan, please consider making a financial contribution towards our costs. Cheques can be made out to Homes not Bombs (earmarked "caravan") and sent to PO Box 73620, 509 St. Clair Ave. West, Toronto, ON M6C 1C0.

If you'd like to join the Caravan, please contact us as soon as possible with information on how long you can join us, if you have
a vehicle, and if you will be on certain parts of the caravan and/or the whole project.

We can be reached at (416) 651-5800, or tasc@web.ca

More info: Stop Canadian Involvement in Torture (a subsidiary of the Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada and Homes not Bombs)

(some cities subject to change, so stay in touch if you are joining midway through!)

  • Friday October 17: Brampton, Georgetown, Acton, Guelph, Kitchener-Waterloo
  • Saturday October 18: Stratford, Woodstock, Ingersoll, London
  • Sunday, October 19: Tillsonburg, Delhi, Simcoe, Welland
  • Monday, October 20: Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Port Dalhousie, Virgil, St. Catharines
  • Tuesday, October 21: Vineland, Beamsville, Grimsby, Stoney Creek, Hamilton
  • Wednesday, October 22: Burlington, Oakville, Mississauga, Toronto CSIS Headquarters
We see this complicity on a number of levels (by no means a complete list):

  • The role of the RCMP and CSIS in sending questions to the Syrian and Egyptian torturers of three Canadian citizens -- Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati, and Muayyed Nureddin -- knowing such actions could result in torture.
  • Ongoing efforts by the federal government to deport the Secret Trial Five (five men subject to secret hearing security certificates) to torture in Egypt, Syria, Algeria, and Morocco.
  • The RCMP's use of “evidence” obtained by the Syrian torture of a Canadian citizen for an Ontario court application.
  • The finding by the Security Intelligence Review Committee that Canada's spy agency, CSIS, "uses information obtained by torture."
  • The role played by CSIS in harassing certain Canadians to the point where they are forced to leave the country and are then jailed, at the request of CSIS, in an overseas country, where they are interrogated and tortured.
  • Efforts to fast-track free trade deals with (and ignoring or downplaying the horrific human rights records of) countries such as Colombia. One section in the proposed Canada-Colombia agreement has been labelled the "kill a union member, pay a fine" clause.
  • The federal government's refusal to speak out against torture and other inhuman abuses at the Guantanamo Bay gulag as well as at assorted "black sites" around the globe to which countless "ghost detainees" have been disappeared.
  • Continued Canadian working relationship (teaching, training) with the U.S.-based “School of the Assassins,” which has trained tens of thousands of military officials who have gone on to commit horrific human rights abuses throughout the hemisphere.
  • Hosting CIA rendition-to-torture flights, allowing Canadian air space and refueling.
  • Transferring detainees in Afghanistan into the hands of forces (U.S., Afghan) known to engage in torture and murder of those in custody.
  • Covering up the Canadian role in the rendition of refugees such as Benamar Benatta, sent to the U.S. on September 12, 2001, who spent the next five years under conditions tantamount to torture. There has yet to be a public review in his case.
  • Deportation of thousands of women, children, and men every year to situations of potentially serious risk, and insisting that “diplomatic assurances” from torturers will be enough for protection.


1. A full public inquiry regarding the role of Canadian officials in the torture of Canadians Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati, and Muayyed Nureddin. The secret process undertaken by the Iacobucci commission, which denied access to the men, their lawyers, and the public, was wholly unacceptable and is incapable of producing fully informed conclusions and, just as importantly, holding government agencies and individuals accountable.
2. An immediate and permanent halt to all secret hearing "security certificate" proceedings, an end to all deportations to torture, and the closure of Canada's Guantanamo Bay.
3. Creation of a transparent, independent, human-rights-centred civilian oversight body for all Canadian agencies involved in "national security" activities. Findings of such a body need to be binding, unlike current agencies whose decisions can be rejected or ignored by CSIS and the RCMP.
4. End all cooperation (landing rights, refuelling) with rendition to torture flights, and institution of a full, mandatory inspection regime of all foreign aircraft landing in Canada to ensure this country is not even unwittingly an accessory to kidnapping and forced removal to torture.
5. Canada must immediately condemn the illegal detention and torture centre at Guanatanamo Bay, declare itself in opposition to the U.S.-led program of extraordinary rendition to torture and use of black sites for ghost detainees, and take such necessary steps to remove itself from international relationships (civil, military, and economic) that implicate Canada in torture.
6. Canada must work on the highest priority basis to return Canadians held and tortured overseas, from Bashir Makhtal in Ethiopia and Abousfian Abdelrazik in Sudan to Omar Khadr in Guantanamo Bay and Huseyin Celil in China, among others.
7. A real national dialogue on security, leading to the transfer of billions of dollars currently wasted on corporate welfare (for weaponsmakers and "security" businesses and government agencies) to those whose security remains unprotected, from those who are homeless and underhoused and abused women unable to access protection to those without child care and other social programs that provide true security..

"A time comes when silence is betrayal. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy, for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers and sisters." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

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