The Canadian government proclaims proudly that it does not condone torture, while simultaneously telling national policing and security agencies that it condones the use of information gleaned via torture. The directive tells investigators that they will be allowed to use information “that may have been obtained by methods condemned by the Canadian government.”
The two positions really actually mesh, but the Harper Conservatives don’t seem to see any issue.
The direction was given to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) around the same time in late 2010. Earlier this year, the Canadian Press obtained only information on the directive to CSIS.
Now it appears that CSIS, the RCMP and CBSA – the country’s major security agencies – are allowed to use information gleaned from torture in the event of a threat to human life or property.
In such cases, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews directed that CSIS should “share the most complete information available at the time with relevant authorities, including information based on intelligence provided by foreign agencies that may have been derived from the use of torture or mistreatment.”
The directive effectively ignores Canada’s international obligation to prevent torture of prisoners, as a signatory of the United Nations Convention Against Torture. Of course, the Harper government has had no real issues with ignoring international obligations in the past – or, in fact, Canada’s obligations to its own citizens.
The Canadian government was found to have had a hand in the torture of three Canadian men, Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muayyed Nureddin, by sharing information with Syria during their imprisonment there. The Federal Court found that Almalki had been wronged by the RCMP who labelled him an imminent threat and sent questions to Syrian investigators despite the risk that he would be tortured to answer. In El Maati’s case, false confessions obtained through torture were used by Canadian law enforcement to get search warrants.
Almalki’s court case against the government was suspended so an inquiry into his detainment, as well as El Maati and Nureddin’s, could be held.
The inquiry found that there had been a breakdown in communications between government departments and declared that the actions of the RCMP and CSIS had led “indirectly” to mistreatment of the three men. The men have still not received any official apology or compensation.
Now the Canadian government appears to be easing up on its condemnation of torture as a practice to gather information, so long as Canadian officials are only indirectly involved.
Photo Credit: Elvert Barnes