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Canadians Detained Abroad

    August 12, 2016

    By Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada

    Two years ago, a nightmare of abuse and injustice erupted without any warning for Canadian citizen Salim Alaradi, who was living with his family in the United Arab Emirates and running a successful business selling household appliances. Security forces rushed in and arrested him at the hotel where was vacationing with his family in Dubai.

    Salim, originally from Libya, appeared to have been swept up in a wave of arbitrary arrests that were connected to wider political dynamics related to the UAE government’s political machinations in Libya. What followed was 645 days behind bars; 645 days of secrecy and abuse. Salim was originally held incommunicado, with UAE officials refusing to acknowledge he was in detention or to provide any details about where he was held. Amnesty was so concerned during those early days that we talked of his case as a “disappearance”. 

    For close to two years Salim endured torture, ill-treatment, untreated medical concerns, unfair legal proceedings, and other human rights violations. 

    February 01, 2016

    By journalist and former prisoner of conscience Mohamed Fahmy @MFFahmy11 with Amnesty International Canada Secretary General Alex Neve @AlexNeveAmnesty

    Held in an Egyptian jail for more than a year, Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy felt let down by Ottawa’s efforts to help him. Here he offers 12 ways the government can do better:

    In solitary confinement in a freezing Egyptian jail cell, with no sunlight or fresh air, my one hope was that the Canadian government was doing everything possible at the highest levels to advocate for my rights and for my release.

    I was let down.

    I am safely home now. But around the world there are other Canadian citizens, permanent residents and men and women with close Canadian connections who face dire conditions in foreign jails. They are unjustly imprisoned, held incommunicado, subjected to unfair trials, at risk of torture or under sentence of death.

    They too want to believe the Canadian government will spare no effort on their behalf.

    February 23, 2015
    by Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada. This article was orginally published in Slaw, Canada's online legal magazine. Human rights violations are always most likely to occur when no one is watching over the police, soldiers and guards who have the power and potential to commit abuses. That is certainly even more the case when secrecy is prevalent; which obviously describes the world of national security investigations and operations. That is why human rights organizations, experts and bodies – national and international – have long stressed that effective review and oversight must be central to the imperative of ensuring that human rights protection is not sacrificed in any country’s rush to uphold national security.
    November 03, 2014

    By Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada, John Packer, Director of the Human Rights Research and Education Centre at the University of Ottawa,and Roch Tassé, National Coordinator of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group.

    A timely conference on Wednesday reminded us that as debate swirls about new national security measures in Canada, vital lessons have emerged over the past decade about protecting human rights.

    In the wake of last week’s attack in Ottawa the government is rolling out proposed changes to Canada’s security laws and practices. We don’t yet know the full extent.

    On Wednesday, a remarkable group of judges, lawyers, journalists, activists, former diplomats, academics and community leaders came together in Ottawa. We were joined by individuals whose lives have been turned upside down by human rights violations associated with national security investigations, charges, arrest and imprisonment.

    October 28, 2014

    By Omar Khadr, former Guatanamo Bay detainee

    Ten years ago the Canadian government established a judicial inquiry into the case of Maher Arar. That inquiry, over the course of more than two years of ground-breaking work, examined how Canada’s post-Sept. 11 security practices led to serious human rights violations, including torture.

    At that same time, 10 years ago and far away from a Canadian hearing room, I was mired in a nightmare of injustice, insidiously linked to national security. I have not yet escaped from that nightmare.

    As Canada once again grapples with concerns about terrorism, my experience stands as a cautionary reminder. Security laws and practices that are excessive, misguided or tainted by prejudice can have a devastating human toll.

    A conference Wednesday in Ottawa, convened by Amnesty International, the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group and the University of Ottawa, will reflect on these past 10 years of national security and human rights. I will be watching, hoping that an avenue opens to leave my decade of injustice behind.

    October 10, 2012

    As media reports broke that Omar Khadr was finally being flown back to Canada via US military transport and driven to Millhaven Institution in Bath, Ontario (near Kingston) – now confirmed by Public Safety Minister Vic Toews – commentators were already asking how the case will be remembered. While extremely welcome and long overdue, repatriation is simply the start of a new chapter in this decade old saga.

    Up until now, many of us expected the battle around Omar Khadr’s transfer to be settled in the Canadian courts. While today’s transfer pre-empts yet another inevitable negative decision – the courts have consistently ruled against the government over the years – Canada is not off the hook. An explanation for the long delay is owed not just to Omar Khadr, but to the Canadian public.

    October 09, 2012

    How long was Omar Khadr in US custody?
    Omar Khadr was held in US custody for over ten years. He was detained at the age of 15 during a firefight in Afghanistan in July 2002. Although seriously injured, his interrogation started in the detention facility in Bagram. He was later transferred to Guantánamo Bay in October 2002 after he had turned 16.

    In October 2010, he was sentenced to 40 years in detention by a military commission, reduced to 8 years in a plea agreement with no credit for time served. After one further year in detention in Guantánamo, Omar Khadr because eligible for a transfer to Canadian custody in October 2011. He was transferred to Canada on September 29, 2012.