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Between 2003 and 2006, Abousfian Abdelrazik was abducted, detained and tortured by Sudanese authorities and in 2006 the UN 1267 Committee placed him on its “Al-Qaida Sanctions List". The Federal Court of Canada has found that the “recommendation for the detention of Mr. Abdelrazik by Sudan came either directly or indirectly from [the Canadian Security Intelligence Service] and that “CSIS was complicit in the initial detention of Mr. Abdelrazik by the Sudanese.” [See Abdelrazik v. Canada (Minister of Foreign Affairs) and Attorney General of Canada, para. 91.] The Court found that there was no substantive evidence linking Mr. Adbelrazik to terrorist organizations.
In 2010, Abdelrazik launched a $27 million lawsuit against the Canadian government and the former Minister of Foreign Affairs for their alleged roles in the violation of his Charter rights and his unjust imprisonment, torture and mental suffering.
In 2011, secret CSIS documents containing unsubstantiated allegations against Abdelrazik were leaked to the press. Abdelrazik believes that this leak was a direct attempt to punish him for his efforts to pursue justice and an intentional effort to intimidate him.
In response to appeals from Abdelrazik and supportive civil society organizations, in November 2011 the UN 1267 Committee removed Abdelrazik from its Al-Qaida Sanctions List.
Abousfian Abdelrazik’s ordeal began in the spring of 2003. He was arrested and detained in Sudan by local authorities while visiting his mother. Although he was never officially charged with a crime, he was detained for two different periods of time, spending a total of almost two years in custody. He claims that while imprisoned without charges, he was tortured. He left prison for the last time in July of 2006.
Although CSIS officials interrogated Abdelrazik during his first period of imprisonment, they failed to inform Ottawa or his family of his incarceration and whereabouts.
In 2006, before he was released from prison in Sudan, Abdelrazik was placed on the “United Nations Al-Qaida Sanctions List”. UN Security Council Resolution 1267 created this list together with a UN committee with the authority to place individuals “associated” with Al-Qaida on the list. Being listed has extremely serious consequences, including a global freezing of the person’s assets and a travel ban. Abdelrazik was placed on the 1267 list after Al-Qaida leader Abu Zubaydah allegedly named him while Zubaydah was in the custody of U.S. intelligence agents. It is also alleged that Zubaydah was tortured when providing this information. At present, Abdelrazik is the only Canadian on the 1267 list.
Yet when Abdelrazik’s passport expired during his period of incarceration in Sudan, the Harper government refused to issue him a new one, arguing that it could not do so because his name appeared on the 1267 UN list. However, during this same period, the coordinator of the UN’s Monitoring Team for Resolution 1267 stated that Canada had the right to repatriate Abdelrazik, regardless of the fact that his name was still on the list.
As a result of the government’s inaction, Abdelrazik was forced to spend two years living in Sudan on $100 per month, issued by the Canadian Embassy in Khartoum from a special fund for distressed Canadians. Then in 2008, Abdelrazik was forced to seek refuge at the Canadian Embassy after he received threats from Sudanese National Security Intelligence. He remained in the Canadian Embassy, forced to live in the Embassy’s gym for over a year, while his supporters fought for his right to return to Canada.
Abdelrazik was finally able to return to Canada in 2009, after the Federal Court of Canada ruled that the federal government had violated his right to mobility, protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The government did not appeal the ruling. The Court also found, based on the evidence before it, that CSIS was complicit in Abdelrazik’s torture while in Sudan.
In September 2010, the Federal Court gave Abdelrazik permission to sue the Canadian government and Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon. Abdelrazik’s lawyer reported that the government had tried to block the lawsuit by claiming that individuals cannot sue for torture, that the government has no legal duty to protect Canadian citizens detained abroad, and that Minister Cannon could not personally be named in the lawsuit.
Abdelrazik’s lawsuit claims that the government is responsible for: (1) the false imprisonment of Abdelrazik in Sudan; (2) the violation of his right to life, liberty and security of the person; (3) complicity in the torture of Abdelrazik in Sundan; (4) the violation of his right to mobility; and (5) the intentional infliction of mental suffering on Abdelrazik. The lawsuit also alleges that Minister Canon deliberately and flagrantly violated Abdelrazik’s constitutional right to enter Canada. Government lawyers deny all of these allegations and argue that they constitute “no reasonable cause of action” and/or are “scandalous, frivolous and vexations”.
Due to his status on the 1267 list, Abdelrazik was unable to travel outside the country, his assets were frozen, he could not hold a job, and it was illegal to provide him with any aid or service, which possibly included medical services. In June 2010, Abdelrazik launched a constitutional challenge in Federal Court to the regulations that implement the 1267 regime in Canada. If this challenge is successful, the regulations will be struck down.
In January 2011, Abdelrazik applied to the relevant United Nations committee to have his name removed from the 1267 list. In June a delegation of support groups representing Abdelrazik, including labour organizations and faith-based groups, travelled to the United Nations in New York to support his application for removal from the list.
However, shortly following this initiative, on 5 August 2011, the newspaper La Presse reported on Abdelrazik’s case and referred to secret CSIS documents that had been leaked to the newspaper. These documents were reported to describe a conversation between Abdelrazik and Adil Charkaoui (a Canadian permanent resident arrested on a security certificate) where the two men discuss a plot to blow up an airplane. However, the Federal Court of Canada had found that allegations based on what appear to be the same documents, lacked credibility in the context of Charkaoui’s successful legal challenge to his security certificate. Second, as mentioned above, CSIS and the RCMP publicly had cleared Abdelrazik of any suspicion in 2007.
In spite of this, immediately following the leak, then Minister of Immigration Jason Kenney commented publicly that in his opinion the allegations in the secret document were based on “robust evidence.” Kenney further stated that groups supporting Abdelrazik and Charkaoui should “think very carefully about this.” He is also reported to have said that those who support people who the Canadian government has designated as "harmful" are misguided.
Abdelrazik, Charkaoui and their supporters were outraged by these comments and they have called for a public inquiry into the leak. They argue that the timing of the leak was calculated to damage Abdelrazik’s pending application to have his name removed from the 1267 list. They also point out that the leak occurred in the context of Abdelrazik’s lawsuits against the Canadian government. Finally, they state that they have reason to believe that high ranking government officials may have been directly involved in the leak. The government has not publicly responded to these allegations.
Abdelrazik’s efforts to remove himself from the Al-Qaida Sanctions List were finally successful in November 2011, when the UN 1267 Committee notified him of its decision to remove him from the list. This ended the worldwide restrictions on Abdelrazik’s ability to travel and on his assets. However, in spite of the UN’s decision, it is uncertain if the Canadian government will be willing to issue Abdelrazik a Canadian passport.
- 2007: CSIS and the RCMP publicly clear Abdelrazik of any suspicion.
- June 4th, 2009: The Federal Court of Canada orders the federal government to allow Abdelrazik to return to Canada.
- September 1st, 2010: The Federal Court of Canada gives Abdelrazik permission to launch a $27 million lawsuit against the federal government and the former Minister of Foreign Affairs.
- June 16th 2011: A delegation of support groups travels to New York to support Abdelrazik’s petition to the UN be removed from the 1267 list.
- August 5th, 2011: The newspaper La Presse publishes a report referring to secret CSIS documents, which had been leaked to the newspaper. These documents contain allegations against Abdelrazik that had previously been discredited in unrelated legal proceedings.
- November 30th, 2011: The UN 1267 Committee removes Abdelrazik from the Al-Qaida Sanctions List.
Role or Position
Abousfian Abdelrazik is a Canadian citizen. Originally from Sudan, he came to Montreal as a refugee in 1989 and was granted refugee status in 1990. He currently lives in Montreal.
Implications and Consequences
- Transparency: The government has failed to be transparent regarding its possible role in Abdelrazik’s imprisonment and torture in Sudan. Abdelrazik has launched a lawsuit alleging, among other things, that the government requested his imprisonment in Sudan and was complicit in his torture.
- Free speech: A smear campaign was initiated by unknown persons against Abdelrazik using discredited evidence. This campaign took place following Abdelrazik’s efforts to remove himself from the 1267 UN list and his decision to sue the Canadian government. The timing points to an attempt to punish and intimidate Abdelrazik for his efforts to seek justice in his case.
- Democracy: In a democracy, everyone is required to obey the law, including the government. When classified CSIS information about Abdelrazik was leaked to the media, it is reasonable to assume that, since only the government had possession of the information, the government itself was the source of leaks. Either the government’s own system of protecting classified information is faulty, thus permitting unkown persons to access and leak the information, or the government itself is responsible for the leaks.
- Democracy: The finding of the Federal Court that the Canadian government was, on the balance of probabilities, complicit in the torture of Abdelrazik while imprisoned in Sudan raises serious concerns regarding the government’s commitment to respecting the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
- Equality: The alleged and substantiated violations of Abdelrazik’s rights are egregious on their own terms. However, Abdelrazik’s case is only one of many other cases where Muslims predominantly of African, Middle Eastern and South Asian descent have been disproportionately impacted by the Canadian government’s national security agenda and who allege complicity by Canadian officials in the violation of their Charter rights.
Published on: 30 October 2011