Canada's lower house passes amended anti-terror law that allows for indefinite detention
The Associated Press
(The International Herald Tribune)
Published: February 7, 2008
TORONTO: Canada's lower house passed a revised anti-terrorism law Wednesday that allows the government to detain foreign terror suspects indefinitely without disclosing the evidence against them.
Under the revised law, which passed by a 196-71 vote, suspects are allowed to have a special advocate appointed by the government who will have access to the evidence against them while the courts review their deportation orders. Suspects themselves will not be able to see the evidence.
The measure replaces a controversial law struck down last year by Canada's Supreme Court, which found non-citizen terrorism suspects should have a right to respond to evidence used against them by intelligence agents.
The court's ruling was suspended for a year to give Parliament time to rewrite a portion of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that provides for so-called “security certificates,” which allow non-citizens suspected of being a national security threat to be held indefinitely without seeing details of the case against them.
Under the new provisions, the detainees still will not receive such details. The special advocates will weigh the evidence and argue the facts of the case. However, they are not allowed to discuss the information with the detainee or person slated for deportation.
Canada's Minister of Justice has established a list of independent, qualified special advocates who can represent suspects. They must have at least five years of legal experience, no conflicts of interest and appropriate security clearance.
The government has been using the so-called security certicates for decades, but their use became more contentious after the Sept. 11 attacks, and more suspect since Ottawa used faulty intelligence in a case that led to a US$9 million (6 million) apology to former terror suspect Maher Arar.
In that case, the Syrian-born Canadian was seized by U.S. authorities in New York and sent to Syria for questioning about suspected ties to terrorists. He was held in a cell for a year and tortured before being sent back to Canada, where he was cleared by a federal inquiry of any links to Islamic extremists.
Six Arab Muslim men now stand accused of terrorist links under the certificates. All deny the charges. They are currently in jail or living under strict bail conditions, facing deportation from Canada.
Paul Copeland, a lawyer for two Arab men accused of terrorist links, questioned whether the revised law will be acceptable to the Supreme Court.
“I think the government lawyers are delusional if they think this will pass muster with the Supreme Court. They thought the previous legislation would,” Copeland. “Every counsel on the six security certificate cases that are still outstanding think it's unconstitutional.”
Copeland said it denies fundamental justice to the suspects, in part because a special advocate is not allowed to review the evidence with the suspect.
The new system must be in place by Feb. 23. The senate is expected to pass it as it usually rubber stamps legislation passed by the lower house.