Monday, July 9, 2012

Ramadan Solidarity Fast With Benamar Benatta

An appeal from Stop Canadian Involvement in Torture (please share and distribute widely)


As Ramadan is set to begin on July 20, we invite you to consider signing a public declaration in support of Benamar Benatta, Canada's first post-9/11 rendition to torture (September 12, 2001). While you can read more on Benamar's case at, in essence. Mr. Benatta spent five years behind bars in the United States, often under conditions amounting to torture, simply because the Canadian government falsely labelled him a threat to national security and turned him over to the U.S. as a 9/11 suspect.

As Mr. Benatta continues his often lonely struggle for justice (a struggle mirrored in many cases across Canada and the rest of the globe), we invite you to consider joining a solidarity fast with Mr. Benatta and all others seeking accountability for the crimes committed by the Canadian and related governments.

We invite those of the Muslim faith to sign their names to the document below as a statement of solidarity with fellow Muslim Benamar Benatta. We also invite those who are not necessarily Muslim to join in a solidarity Ramadan fast in support of Mr. Benatta as well as all those who continue to be unjustly, and illegally, targetted for persecution, torture, and exile in the name of "security." (If you can only fast for certain periods, please indicate that in signing the statement, i.e, fasting for this week, these days, etc.)

The statement will be publicly announced, with names affixed, on July 19, 2012. Please send your name as a signatory to

A central tenet of the Muslim faith is the idea that one is called upon to assist those less fortunate than oneself. That expression of solidarity with the poor, the persecuted, the disadvantaged, takes on added meaning during the month-long fast of Ramadan. It is during this time when Muslims, in order to feel both closer to God and to better feel empathy for those they are called to assist the rest of the year, experience the self-restraint of a sun-up to sun-down fast every day, for a month.

Muslim detainees fill the jails of the world, persecuted on the basis of their faith. Many people of Arabic, Middle Eastern and South Asian heritage and Muslim faith find themselves in U.S., U.K., and Canadian jails, often without charge or bail, on secret allegations neither they nor their lawyers are allowed to see.

In addition, survivors of torture in which those governments are clearly complicit continue seeking accountability, apologies, and compensation for the decisions of governments that have led to their torture.

This year, we join with the call from Stop Canadian Involvement in Torture to join a solidarity fast with Benamar Benatta, a refugee from Algeria who was rendered to torture by Canada to the U.S. on September 12, 2001. Mr. Benatta was subjected to torture in the Metropolitan Detention Centre in Brooklyn, New York (as documented by the United Nations and the U.S. Department of Justice) and lost five years of his life behind bars, despite the fact the FBI knew in November, 2001, that there was nothing against him.

Mr. Benatta had been racially and religiously "profiled" by the Canadian government, falsely naming him a 9/11 suspect before turning him over to the Americans, with entirely predictable consequences.

On July 20, 2006, Mr. Benatta was finally released from prison and allowed back into Canada, still wearing his prison uniform, to continue with his refugee case and to try and piece his shattered life back together.

July 20, 2012, the 6th anniversary of Benatta's return to Canada, is the start of Ramadan. As Mr. Benatta struggles to find work in his field of aeronautical engineering and continues to fight the demons of post traumatic stress disorder, he seeks an apology from a Canadian government whose own internal documents admit they are legally culpable for the decision that led to his illegal deportation and torture.

Mr. Benatta is not alone seeking such justice: numerous others who were racially and religiously profiled by Canadian "security" agencies continue their struggle for accountability as well.

During this month of Ramadan, 2012, (July 20-August 18), we the undersigned will join in sun-up to sun-down fasting in solidarity with Mr. Benatta and all those continuing to seek justice from governments that have made the conscious choice to make expendable the lives of those they illegally, and immorally, deem "suspect," and thereby condemn to the most unimaginable cruelty.


1. Write a letter to Public Safety Minister Vic Toews ( and Prime Minister Stephen Harper ( calling for an apology and compensation for Mr. Benatta.
2. Contribute to the costs of Benamar's struggle. Cheques can be made out to Toronto Action for Social Change  (put "Benatta" in the memo portion of the cheque) and mailed to TASC, PO Box 2121, 57 Foster Street Perth, ON, K7H 1R0.
3. Offer Benamar Benatta a job if you are in the Greater Toronto Area.

More info: Stop Canadian Involvement in Torture, (613) 267-3998,

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

UN Report Documents Canadian Complicity in Torture

UN Report Documents Canadian Complicity in Torture
By Matthew Behrens
            As the world marked the International Day Against Torture on June 26, official pronouncements from Canada were blaringly silent. Perhaps that failure to mark one of the more important days of the calendar speaks volumes about the government’s ongoing involvement in torture, an uncomfortable reality that most Canadians are unaware of, even with the filing earlier in the month of a stinging United Nations report laying out in fine detail Canada’s complicity.
            The report from the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) came on the heels of another UN report from the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter, who not only expressed concern about the growing inequality gap in this country, but also took Canada to task for what he called its “appallingly poor” record of respecting and implementing the recommendations of UN human rights organizations.
            De Schutter told Postmedia that “this sort of self-righteousness about the situation being good in Canada is not corresponding to what I saw on the ground, not at all.” His blunt statements, while drawing ire from the Harper government, also reflect the government’s record on the issue of torture.
            The CAT report points out that Canada has yet to make good on recommendations made in successive reports over the past decade that have called on this country to bring itself in line with its international law and treaty obligations. While Conservative MPs loudly protested that the UN had no right to be making such pronouncements (despite the fact that a key part of UN membership includes submitting to such reviews), the findings ultimately fell victim to the vagaries of the 24-hour news cycle.
            While relatively short, the report nonetheless provides a very good summary of key human rights issues affecting all people in Canada.            The CAT made special note of the fact that Canada has yet to implement the Convention Against Torture “in full at the domestic level”, noting that implementation is essential since “it would allow people to invoke it directly in courts…as well as to raise awareness of its provisions among the judiciary and the public at large.”
            The report is certainly not comprehensive (among those absent from it were numerous individuals seeking justice, apologies, and compensation for Canadian complicity in their torture, from Abousfian Abdelrazik – tortured in Sudan, prevented from returning home, and subject to a wholly unwarranted assets freeze –  to Benamar Benatta, rendered to torture in the US on September 12, 2011). Nonetheless, it remains a disturbing laundry list of what are clearly legal violations with serious human consequences, including within it a reminder that Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati, and Muayyed Nureddin, all tortured with Canadian complicity, have yet to receive an apology, compensation, and the systemic changes needed to ensure such acts never again take place.
            For instance, Canada was hauled on the carpet for its ongoing refusal to close the door on deportation to torture. While the government insists that its “right” to conduct such deportations is merely “theoretical,” there have been numerous documented cases of individuals showing up in prison, tortured, or murdered following their forced removal from Canada. The CAT also expressed its concern that Canada does not respect the UN’s conclusions when individuals apply to the international body for “interim measures of protection,” which would put on hold such deportations until the UN could hear in full the case at hand. The fact that Canada has ratified the Convention and thereby undertook to cooperate with the Committee is not reflected in reality, and “by deporting complainants despite the Committee’s requests for interim measures…[Canada] has committed a breach of its obligations.”
            And as seriously repressive immigration legislation has been passed, it appears those supporting the new bills failed to heed the CAT’s critique with respect to restrictions on the rights of refugees. Indeed, mandatory one-year detention without bail for individuals who arrive via an “irregular” fashion (as if refugees often have a choice of travel), along with the Immigration Minister’s discretion to designate certain countries as “safe” seriously limits the rights of whole classes of asylum seekers.
            Perhaps the most draconian of immigration measures in Canada, the secret trial security certificate process, continued to be a target of the CAT as well, especially federal efforts to rely on “diplomatic assurances” from torturing countries that torture would not be inflicted on deportees from Canada.
            While two of the five Muslim men subject to the process have had their cases thrown out – both Hassan Almrei and Adil Charkoaui have since launched lawsuits against the federal government – three cases remain, with Ottawa’s Mohamed Harkat now appealing to have his case heard at the Supreme Court in order to end his decade-long struggle to stop deportation to torture in Algeria. In Toronto, Mohammad Mahjoub and Mahmoud Jaballah, both facing judicially-sanctioned rendition to Egypt, continue to face the excruciatingly long process before the Federal Court.
            In the Mahjoub case, significantly, it came to light in December of last year that CSIS knew  most of his case was derived from information obtained by torture. Remarkably, that revelation did not put a stop to the proceedings, nor have ongoing revelations that CSIS refuses to discard information gleaned from torture. (Notably, the Committee did err in stating that Almrei’s case was based on torture). The CAT reiterated the findings of similar UN reports calling on Ottawa to use criminal law proceedings and safeguards in such cases, recommendations that remain ignored.
            Objective readers of the report might find it surprising that in the 21st century, a country such as Canada needs to be reminded, for example, never to transfer prisoners from military operations to another country where there are substantial grounds for believing the detainee would be subjected to torture.
            Among other significant findings of the CAT were Canada’s failure to exercise universal jurisdiction when it comes to apprehending those alleged to have perpetrated war crimes (readers may recall the ease with which former President George W. Bush waltzes into and out of Canada, despite legal objections filed with the Dept. of Justice). They also issue a call to repatriate Omar Khadr from Guantanamo Bay, especially given the acknowledgement by the Supreme Court of Canada that his rights had been violated by Canadian officials while at the notorious detention and torture centre. The CAT also criticized Canada for continuing to honour state immunity, preventing victims of torture from suing overseas governments.
            Importantly, the committee also took note of a number of areas not commonly associated in most people’s minds with torture: the treatment of the mentally ill in Canadian prisons, the continued use of extended periods of solitary confinement, and police use of lethal conducted energy weapons.
            And while the Canadian government argued another issue should not even be discussed, the CAT disagreed, pointing out that  Aboriginal women continue to face “disproportionately high levels of life-threatening forms of violence, spousal homicides and enforced disappearances.
            In a theme that seems to run through much of the Harper government’s conduct, mention was also made of the government’s failure to fully cooperate with the committee by submitting its replies to questions three months late. Such delay and obstruction is typical of Canadian government responses to such inquiries, and has more recently formed the backdrop to a number of military investigations. Indeed, while the family of the late soldier Stuart Langridge continues seeking answers from a stonewalling military that refuses to divulge key documents regarding the suicide of the Afghanistan war veteran, the Military Police Complaints Commission released a late June report on Canadian transfers of Afghan detainees to torture also criticized the government for its refusal to cooperate. When it came to the federal government providing information to the commission, the report concluded, “the doors were basically slammed shut on document disclosure.”
            Their refusal to allow full disclosure about torture and related issues shows the extent to which the government is ultimately afraid of democratic processes and exposure of its own seedy practices. It’s also a sign of how much governments fear popular resistance and understand that an informed public is one that is likely to resist such policies and seek substantive change.
            Among those who will be doing just that come October will be members of Stop Canadian Involvement in Torture, currently organizing a national day of speakouts and town square readings of documents such as the UN report and other findings about Canadian complicity in torture.
            In addition, a Ramadan solidarity fast with Benamar Benatta, still seeking an apology a decade after he was rendered to the US, will also be taking place.