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Amnesty International Canada Open Letter to Ministers Toews and Kenney about "Wanted by the CBSA"

    August 02, 2011

    The Honourable Vic Toews , Minister of Public Safety 

     The Honourable Jason Kenney,  Minister of Citizenship and and  Immigration                                                                 

    August 2, 2011

    Dear Ministers,

    We are writing this open letter to express Amnesty International’s concern about the approach the government has adopted to dealing with the cases of thirty individuals who have been accused of having committed war crimes or crimes against humanity and who are believed to be residing in Canada.   Their cases, including their names and photos, have been widely publicized on a government web-site, “Wanted by the CBSA”.  Five of the thirty men have since been arrested.  Amnesty International is concerned that the initiative does not conform to Canada’s obligations with respect to human rights and international justice. 

    These individuals have all, apparently, been found ineligible for entry into Canada on the basis of these accusations, and have been ordered deported.  They did not, however, present themselves to Canadian officials for deportation.  It is not known publicly how long any of these individuals have been in Canada.   Similarly none of the details about the nature, basis or seriousness of the accusations against them have been made public.

    Amnesty International does strongly support efforts by governments to ensure that individuals who have committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious human rights violations are brought to justice and held accountable.  We have long highlighted that deeply entrenched impunity for human rights violations in countries around the world is one of the major obstacles to ensuring stronger human rights protection.  We have actively campaigned for strengthened international laws and institutions in the area of international justice, including creation of the International Criminal Court. 

    We have also actively pressed for the adoption and enforcement of human rights treaties that clearly establish that through the principle of universal jurisdiction all governments have a shared responsibility to ensure that individuals who have committed such serious acts as war crimes, crimes against humanity and torture are brought to justice, regardless of their nationality or where they committed their crimes.  We welcomed Canadian law reform initiatives that have enshrined universal jurisdiction in the Canadian justice system, including amendments to the Criminal Code in the late 1980’s dealing with torture and passage of the Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes Act in 2000.

    Over the past decade Amnesty International has frequently raised concern about the fact that Canada overwhelmingly resorts to immigration enforcement measures rather than the criminal law, when faced with the attempted entry into or presence in Canada of individuals who are alleged to have committed war crimes, crimes against humanity or torture.  We have highlighted that an immigration response is problematic for two key reasons:

    * It fails to ensure that such individuals will in fact face justice.  An official process of extradition or surrender would ensure that individuals are going to be dealt with under criminal proceedings in another jurisdiction.  Deportation does not.  All the deportation guarantees is that the person  concerned will be removed from Canada.  It is entirely possible that the individual, once deported, will not face any further investigation or criminal charges.

    * It also fails to adequately safeguard against the possibility that in some cases, the individual  concerned might be at risk of serious human rights violations.  Canada’s international human rights obligations are clear – no person should be deported if he or she faces a serious risk of such grave human rights violations as torture, extrajudicial execution or enforced  disappearance.   This extends to individuals who may themselves have been responsible for grave human rights violations.  There are no exceptions.

    In addition to these overarching considerations Amnesty International is concerned about the fact that these cases have been so widely publicized in the context of the lower standards of proof and less rigorous rules of evidence that apply in immigration proceedings.  Given that no information is publicly available about the specifics of the allegations in these cases, including the source of the allegations or the seriousness of the charges, the fact that these individuals’ faces and names have been so widely publicized is of particular concern.  In addition to reputational harm, it may increase the risk they face upon deportation or put their relatives at risk.  

    Ministers, with these concerns in mind Amnesty International urges you to reassess the approach you have adopted in dealing with these cases and ensure that:

    - Safeguards are put in place to ensure that the privacy of individuals concerned is protected unless the reliability and seriousness of the charges they face clearly warrants a more public approach and all other enforcement measures have been tried unsuccessfully.

    - No individual is deported to a country where they would be at serious risk of grave human rights violations such as torture, the death penalty or extrajudicial execution.

    - Prioritizing charging individuals with relevant criminal offences, if warranted by the evidence, in Canada or another jurisdiction where a fair trial would be guaranteed.


    We would welcome an opportunity to meet with you to discuss our concerns further.


    Alex Neve                                                      Béatrice Vaugrante
    Secretary General                                       Directrice Générale
    Amnesty International Canada                 Amnistie internationale Canada                    
    (English branch)                                          francophone        

    John Tackaberry,
    Media Relations,
    Amnesty International Canada
    613-744-7667, ext 236