Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Are you afraid yet?

Not only does Canada hold secret trials, in which neither the accused nor their lawyers know what the charges are, but now even the fact that hearings are being held is a secret - for "security reasons". Where have I heard that before? Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzalez?

I never thought that Amnesty International would have to question the legal system in Canada. What wonders the (neo)Conservative Harperite government have visited on this country in their effort to please the almighty U.S.

A new chapter in the legal drama involving suspected abuse of Afghan detainees has been playing out away from the public eye under strict, court-imposed secrecy, The Canadian Press has learned.

Amnesty International and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association applied on July 11 for an order to force the federal government to release as many as 140 pages of documents related to the handling of prisoners suspected of being Taliban.

...[L]aws allowing the state to keep documents secret are not new, said Amnesty International lawyer Paul Champ.

"Unfortunately, the Canada Evidence Act has some very peculiar provisions that were enacted after 9/11 that prohibited us from even telling anyone that we were challenging them," he said in an interview.

"They are very strange provisions that don't allow anyone to disclose the existence of a [court] application. The court registry is not allowed to disclose it. The registry has to keep our files segregated from the other court files and not tell anyone about them."

Holding hearings in secret is an affront to the justice system and to anyone who believes in the rule of law, Mr. Champ said.

"I think it would offend any Canadian, this whole idea that they can't even know about the existence of a court action."

...[M]r. Champ had asked for documents from National Defence and Foreign Affairs after officials from both departments testified in the first round of court action.

"It's unfair for the government to say there's no risk of torture without them being required to produce the documents they have," he said.

"We think they do have documents that do demonstrate they know there's a risk of torture or that, in fact, torture is going on in Afghan custody. And they're hiding behind the Evidence Act to refuse to disclose those documents."

When The Globe and Mail reported in April that detainees said they had been abused, the Conservative government insisted it was not aware of any suspected cases of prisoner mistreatment.

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