Green Party leader Elizabeth May today submitted a petition, collected by the family of terrorism suspect Mohamed Harkat, opposing the use of Security Certificates. At the same time, she recognized the partial Federal Court of Appeal victory for Harkat.
“The finding that the rights of Mohamed Harkat were violated by the use as evidence of electronic recordings, which have since been destroyed, confirms that the Canadian justice system has survived efforts to legalize intrusions into the basic rights of the accused,” said May.
“I’m also pleased that the three-judge panel found that Harkat’s trial judge was wrong to create a special ‘class privilege’ for informers, giving them too much confidentiality and anonymity.”
With the use of security certificates, CSIS has the authority to detain a resident indefinitely and without charge on the basis of hidden information, the petition stated. It pointed out that changes made after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled Security Certificate use to be unconstitutional in February 2007 were “cosmetic.”
A judge’s issuing of a Security Certificate can now be appealed through a Special Advocate (SA) Process, but, once the secret trial has begun, a defendant’s court-appointed SA – defence lawyers with security access – requires judicial approval to speak with the defendant. This means Special Advocates are unable to properly represent their defendants.
Also, defendants are told the general outline of the government’s case, but not the details needed to allow them to challenge information, counter false allegations, or expose informants’ lies.
“Special Advocates play a limited role not only because they can’t communicate with the terror suspect, but they are prevented from independently investigating allegations or introducing new evidence into secret hearings,” May pointed out. Harkat’s case is the first to test the changes with a challenge under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The Green Party has called on Parliament to stand up for human rights by throwing out sections 83.28 and 83.3 of the Criminal Code, enacted in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, which allow police to arrest terrorism suspects without warrants and force individuals to share information in closed courts.