Flawed torture inquiry process should never be repeated, activist says
An inquiry looking into whether federal government officials played a role in the detention of three Canadians in Syria was flawed, unfair and secretive, a human rights activist has charged.
"This inquiry process has been so deeply flawed that we are all united in saying that it should never be used again," Alex Neve, secretary-general of Amnesty International Canada, said Friday in a news conference in Ottawa.
Abdullah Almalki, Muayyed Nureddin and Ahmad El Maati claim they were tortured while imprisoned in Syria. An inquiry was launched a year and a half ago that focuses on whether their detentions resulted from the actions of Canadian officials and whether Canadian consular officials acted appropriately in the cases. Former Supreme Court judge Frank Iacobucci was chosen to lead the inquiry.
A report is expected next week.
The process, Neve said, has been "profoundly unfair" to the men, failed to be open, and sacrificed the principles of thoroughness and fairness.
Neve criticized the terms of reference, which established that the bulk of the proceedings would be conducted behind closed doors. The government has cited the need to protect national security and quicken the inquiry process as a justification for keeping proceedings out of the public eye.
Only three days of public hearings were held, dealing only with limited procedural matters, Neve said.
Witnesses weren't examined publicly or in the presence of lawyers of the three men so they couldn't challenge allegations against them, Neve said.
Documents made available were summaries of evidence, Neve said, but only the lawyers for the three men were allowed to review them and couldn't discuss it with their clients.
"For the past four months they have not been unable to read how their lawyers sought to defend their rights," Neve said.
El Maati told the news conference that he has been very concerned from the start of the inquiry that he had not been allowed to see a single document, witness or finding.
"[We] have been completely shut out of the process that bears our name," he said.
"How can we trust the findings of an inquiry that has only heard one side of the story?"
El Maati said for the past two years, he has felt like he's "been in a prison whose bars you cannot see."
"I feel hurt, I feel frustrated and I feel fearful that when this report is released I will not be any closer to finding any truth."
All three men allege they were tortured, accused of al-Qaeda links and told by their interrogators that information about them had come from Canada.