INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION OF JURISTS
'War' mentality erodes rights, report says
Western countries cannot treat terrorism suspects as though
they exist outside rule of law, judges find
Canada is among the countries that have succumbed to a war-on-terror
mentality that has infected too many states, a roving panel of judges has
Calling upon the world to dispense with any "war" mentality, the judges
say it's high time that terrorism suspects and intelligence agents cease to
be treated as though they exist outside the rule of law.
"It's time for change," they write in Assessing Damage, Urging Action.
The 200-page report, released earlier this month, advocates rolling back
many emergency powers that have been invoked globally since 9/11.
"Human rights are not, and can never be a luxury to be cast aside in
times of difficulty" concludes the expert panel, which was commissioned by
the International Commission of Jurists.
The ICJ's wider membership includes Mr. Justice Ian Binnie of the Supreme
Court of Canada. The "eminent" panel the ICJ appointed, led by a former South
African chief justice, spent three years roaming the world to study terrorism.
"I'm not aware of anything that is comparable to this document," said Kent
Roach, a University of Toronto law professor and counterterrorism expert, who
testified at the ICJ's Canadian hearings. He anticipates the report will be
highly influential, adding it is already being reviewed within Ottawa and by the
U.S. Obama administration.
Canadian investigations helped shape the findings, with the Maher Arar affair
and other controversies highlighted as examples of how polices can go astray.
From 2005 to 2008, the ICJ's panel spoke to officials, experts and victims of
terrorist attacks. The trips to Bogota, Belfast, Cairo, Colombo, London, Ottawa,
Washington, and places in between, appear to have left the panel somewhat
horrified at how history and human-rights conventions can be forgotten in times
"Intelligence agencies around the world have acquired new powers and
resources, but legal and political accountability have not kept pace," the
The panel criticizes draconian regimes in Asia and the Middle East, but
reserves some of its strongest admonitions for Western nations. "States that
previously lauded the importance of the rule of law and human rights protections
[...] are now at the forefront of undermining those protections," the report
The United States is faulted for highly controversial post-9/11 programs that
are now being rolled back. The panel points to policies like "extraordinary
rendition" and the often "sanitized and euphemistic labels" affixed to them.
The problems with such practises don't stop at the United States: Certain
European countries that publicly deplore U.S. counterterrorism practises are
privately said to be eager "markets" and "consumers" for the information that
As for Canada, the story of Maher Arar is said to be "a model of how
transnational intelligence should not be happening."
The exonerated engineer was flagged by Canadian agencies before being sent
from the United States to Syria, where he was tortured as an alleged al-Qaeda
Moroccan Montrealer Adil Charkaoui testified directly to the panel about his
jailing and continuing monitoring in Canada. Several aspects of the "security
certificate" policy he is controlled under were found to be lacking by the
Canadian officials were lauded, however, for having the rare capacity to
publicly probe their intelligence practices and past mistakes. Too few countries
do this, the judges say.
The report will not be warmly welcomed in all quarters. In Canada and beyond,
state agents complain they are increasingly shackled in the fight against
terrorism. Some conservative judges argue that there are no absolutes in terms
of human rights - that is, individual rights fluctuate with the threats faced by
The ICJ-appointed panel insists that the problem of terrorism, while very
serious, is rarely as new or exceptional as it is often presented to be.
Insisting certain rights are immutable, they argue that heavy-handed
responses to terrorism are counterproductive. "A military response to terrorism
may seem to offer a short-term solution ," the panel writes, "but often creates
Commentary by the Ottawa Mens Centre
Notice that the Globe and Mail did not allow comments to
be posted about this story?
This story has an open invitation to the reader to
conclude that Canada engages in a war like attitude that results on a chronic
and flagrant abuse of the rule of law, that is, across Canada, legal
rights are routinely removed by judges who have a pathological
tendency to flagrantly abuse their judicial discretion, in fact its dubious
weather or not, their decisions can be even called a "flagrant abuse", often its
an outright criminal offence of
"obstruction of justice" by a judge.
Two well known Ottawa Superior Court Judges who make such
corrupt decisions are
Justice Allan Sheffield
Justice Denis Power