Towards a Society of Spies: Adil Charkaoui Update, June 1, 2005


Below is an account of the latest update from the case of Adil Charkaoui, who was held as a secret trial detainee in Montreal from May, 2003 until his "release" under severe house arrest conditions in February, 2005.

Efforts continue to achieve bail for the remaining secret trial detainees: Hassan Almrei receive a new consideration of bail in Toronto June 27-28, in time to mark 3 yerars and nine months in solitary confinement in Toronto; Mohammad Mahjoub's bail hearing, begun in May, 2003, creeps along at a glacial pace, with new secret hearings at which he and his lawyer have been prohibited from attending, as he marks 5 years in detention without charge this month; Mohamed Harkat is still waiting in Ottawa for the 120 day period to elapse following the upholding of his security certificate -- based solely on secret evidence -- before he can apply for bail; and Mahmoud Jaballah (held since August, 2001 on a second certificate after beating the first one in 1999), who was eligibile for bail last year, is no longer eligibile, since as a "foreign national" he must wait until the conclusion of his third security certificate proceeding to even contemplate the idea.

The Canadian government, in open and, needless to say, blatant violation of international law, continues its vigorous efforts to deport these men to torture, despite the May report from the United Nations Committee Against Torture which called upon Canada to join the ranks of civilized nations and put an end to this wretched practice of torture and execution via deportation.

Groups across Canada will join in a national day of action to end deportation to torture and stop secret trials on Wednesday, June 8. Among them: In Montreal, a 24 Hours Against Torture vigil will take place at the office of Prime Minister Paul Martin (contact: 514-859-9023, A similar 24-hour vigil will take place in Toronto at the offices of Deportation Minister Joe Volpe, with the goal of having him sign a pledge to end secret trials and stop deportations to torture (416-651-5800, In Halifax, the Halifax Peace Coalition is planning an information picket on June 8 at 5:30 pm in front of the public library (

In Vancouver, from 10:00 AM until 1:00 PM, the BC Civil Liberties Association will conduct a press conference and street

theater event at 300 W. Georgia, outside the offices of local offices of the Federal Refugee Board (contacts: Jason Gratl, BCCLA president: 604 694 1919 or Tom Sandborn, BCCLA board member, at 604 224 1182). A symbolic jail cell will be erected and a shackled and hooded prisoner will be on public display.

Later that day another event is planned by No One is Illegal, beginning at 4:30 pm in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery (contacts:, (604)682-3269 x 7149).

In Ottawa, an outdoor evening event featuring music and poetry is planned at 7 pm, Human Rights Monument (




"Towards a Society of Spies"


On 25 and 26 May, Adil Charkaoui went to court to ask permission to find books in the library for his university courses, to look for a job, and to take strolls in the park with his wife.

What happened? Nothing, really. And that is remarkable: Adil, who has had no trial and has not so much as been charged with a crime, has to go to court to seek permission to carry out the most mundane activities. And this is treated as perfectly normal by the court as well as the media and the public, both of whom are absent. He is forced to swallow the kindly paternalism of the judge ("we want you to be able to study, to work, to have a normal family life; we just need to find the means that will allow this"); to endure the impertinent invasion into what little remains of his private life; to permit a secret hearing between the Judge and the prosecution, where his requests are discussed in his absence; to calmly accept the racism of a legal system which so blatantly discriminates against him, as a non-citizen who fits a certain politically-established profile. He is forced to remain polite and calm in the face of all the humiliation and infuriating unfairness.

As we wade through the swamp of details about Adil's course-work, about the technicalities of finding a job and updating a CV, about computers that are and are not hooked to the internet at the library of the University of Montreal, the important questions, those that matter to us as individuals with self-respect, and as a society with some vestiges of solidarity, are not allowed to surface.

Instead of asking how we have come to a point where Adil is not at liberty to leave his home without being accompanied by his father, we search for mechanisms and solutions to the "problem". Why can't Adil's sister look for a job on the internet for him? Why can't Adil's wife spy on him, as his father has already been forced to do, the price of Adil's liberty from jail? (Taking the stand at a previous hearing, Mr. Charkaoui jokingly requested a salary from CSIS, since the accompaniment work prevents him from working himself, and since he is doing CSIS's job for them.) Instead of asking what happened to a fair trial, to the presumption of innocence, to equality; instead of asking whether we really want to be on the road towards a society in which family members spy on each other, and electronic tracking bracelets allow the state to monitor every detail of an individual's life, we ask if there are ways in which Adil can prepare a bibliography for his thesis without using a computer.

But at two points, more substantial questions pushed themselves into the courtroom. The crown took advantage of Adil's presence in the witness stand to question him about his public statements that the court was not independent. This gave Adil the opportunity to articulate the ways in which the security certificate process - with its secret evidence, closed hearings, and lack of review of the merits of the allegations - prevents the court from remaining independent of the political process. As the prosecutor pressed on, no doubt hoping to push Adil into a statement that could be construed as contempt of court, Adil's lawyer objected with a spirited defense of Adil's right to a political opinion. We returned to working out the mechanics of total surveillance.

Another break-through occurred when Adil told the court that he would be meeting with the UN Human Rights committee in mid-June. It seems that the UN is not only concerned about Canada's policy around deportations to torture; they are also interested in Canada's arbitrary removal of the liberty of migrants such as Adil and the other four under security certificates. Last week, the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT), concerned about Canada's failure to recognize "the absolute nature of the protection of article 3 of the Convention that is subject to no exceptions whatsoever" (that is, the absolute prohibition against deporting people when there is risk of torture), recommended that Canada bring its laws into line with the UN Convention against torture. We can hope for a similarly strong report after the Human Rights committee has had a chance to investigate the way in which Adil has had his liberty severely curtailed without trial or even charge, without knowing when it will ever end.

To increase confidence in his willingness to follow the letter of his conditions, Adil asked the court to understand that he was intent on respecting his conditions not only for his own sake, but with the awareness that his was being treated as a test case for the four who remain in prison under a security certificate. In the same vein, the lawyer elaborated on the deep insecurity in which Adil and his family are living - under the constant stress of threat of deportation where the fate that awaits him is all too brutally certain.

The decision was that Adil could use library computers which are not connected to the internet, and that he could ask his sister or father to look for a job on the internet and to fax a CV for him. Apparently the court was satisfied that these activities will not result in any breach of his conditions, nor be prejudicial to the continued existence of Canada or the safety of others in his adopted country.

In the meantime, the Coalition for Justice for Adil Charkaoui is preparing to maintain a 24-hour presence in front of Prime Minister Paul Martin's office on 8 June, to denounce the "terror of torture" to which Canada is subjecting people like Adil and his family (see below). Please join us!