Security Certificates

“Fair trial is not a right, it’s a privilege of the powerful and rich.” – Mumia Abu Jamal, Live from Death Row (paraphrase)

Mohammad Mahjoub came to Canada seeking refuge from political persecution in Egypt. Although he was accepted as a refugee, the persecution did not cease in Canada: the secret police of Mubarak’s repressive regime passed the baton to CSIS in Canada.

In June 2000, Mahjoub was arrested under an immigration “security certificate”. Although the Supreme Court declared, in 2007, that the security certificate legislation was unconstitutional, Mahjoub was slapped with a new certificate issued under a “new” (but very similar) law in 2008 and had to start all over again.

What is a security certificate?

  • Double-standard: Only apply to immigrants, not citizens.
  • Profiling: The government claims that detainees represent a potential danger, based on profile and association; the detainees are even not accused of having committed a crime and no charges are laid.
  • Guilty until proven innocent: Federal Court has ruled that presumption of innocence does not apply in these cases.
  • Secrecy: The “evidence” is not disclosed to the person arrested nor to their lawyer; instead, it is debated in secret hearings which the detainee and his lawyer are not allowed to attend.
  • Torture: Information thought to have been obtained under torture is supposed to be excluded; in practice, CSIS admitted in 2008 that all current cases would fall apart without recourse to information likely resulting from torture.
  • Low standard of proof: Government only has to show “reasonable grounds to believe” their case – far lower than in criminal courts.
  • Hearsay: Any information is accepted as “evidence” in these cases; including hearsay, double-hearsay, newspaper clippings, unsourced intelligence, etc.
  • Destruction of evidence: Until 2008, CSIS apparently systematically destroyed evidence, such as transcripts or recordings of interviews, substituting their summaries or interpretations (all current cases predate 2008).
  • Indefinite detention: In practice, people arrested under security certificates are imprisoned or put under house arrest indefinitely or even perpetually.
  • Refoulement: If upheld, a security certificate leads to deportation, even if there is an acknowledged risk of death or torture, and even in the case of accepted refugees, like Mr. Mahjoub.

Currently, three men are being held under “security certificates” in Canada: Mohammad Mahjoub (since 2000), Mahmoud Jaballah (since 2001), and Mohamed Harkat (since 2003). In 2009, security certificates against Adil Charkaoui and against Hassan Almrei were thrown out; both are now suing the government:

  • Mohammad Mahjoub (Toronto), STILL detained without charge since June 2000
  • Mahmoud Jaballah (Toronto), STILL detained without charge since August 2001 (previously arrested in 1999, released and re-arrested on same information)
  • Mohamed Harkat (Ottawa), STILL detained without charge since December 2002
  • Hassan Almrei (Toronto), detained without charge 2001-2009, STILL no apology or citizenship
  • Adil Charkaoui (Montreal), detained without charge 2003-2009, STILL no apology or citizenship