NCCM endorses call for government to protect rights of Canadians detained abroad
(Ottawa – January 26, 2016) The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), a prominent civil liberties and advocacy organization, joins civil society partners and former Canadian prisoners including journalist Mohammed Fahmy, in calling on Canada to do more to protect its citizens.
Today, Amnesty International and the Fahmy Foundation released the “Protection Charter”, a list of principles meant to guide the Canadian government on how best to strengthen and improve its protections of Canadian citizens, permanent residents and those with close Canadian connections. The NCCM is one of dozens of signatories to the new Charter.
“The need for reform is urgent because while Mohamed Fahmy is now safely back in Canada, in countries around the world other individuals remain wrongly imprisoned, face the possibility of execution, have been and may again be tortured, or are at risk of other human rights violations at this very time,” reads the introduction to the Charter.
The Charter outlines 12 key areas of urgent need of reform, including enshrining the right to consular access, protecting journalists held abroad, establishing independent oversight of consular support, and providing access to justice for those whose rights were abused.
“The experiences of Canadians like Mohammed Fahmy, Maher Arar, Abdullah Almalki, Marina Nemat, Fabien Kalala, and many others, illustrate clearly that the federal government can and should do more to ensure that the principles enshrined in the Constitution, the Charter of Rights & Freedoms, and our obligations under international treaties are protected and upheld,” says Ihsaan Gardee, NCCM’s Executive Director.
“Considering that today marks the 11th anniversary of the official government apology to Maher Arar for his deportation and torture in Syria, it’s troubling that very little has been done to correct the mistakes of the past despite several public inquiries. This Charter should reenergize this necessary work.”
Several Canadians and permanent residents remain detained or imprisoned unjustly abroad including Huseyin Celil in China (2006 – present), Bashir Makhtal in Ethiopia (2007 – present) and Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia (2012 – present), among others.
“It is very disheartening for the families of those being held abroad to wait day after day for any sign that their loved one will finally be returned. They turn to the government for answers and support and all too often find very little of either,” adds Khalid Elgazzar, Vice-Chair of NCCM’s Board, and a lawyer who has worked on several cases involving Canadians held abroad and those who have been placed on no-fly lists with little to no recourse.
Several of the principles outlined in the Charter relate to current laws and government directives, including recently passed legislation like Bill C-51, Bill C-24 and the sharing of information which may have been gleaned through torture, or which may lead to it.
“This is a crucial moment for the federal government. If a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian, than it must do everything it can to enshrine that principle both within and beyond our borders,” says Gardee.
The NCCM is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit grassroots advocacy organization. It is a leading voice for Muslim civic engagement and the promotion of human rights.