Thursday, January 20, 2000 Court approves tool to fight terror Suspected terrorists can be deported even if they face risk of torture back home Marina Jimenez and Stewart Bell National Post The Federal Court of Appeal has handed down a precedent-setting ruling that upholds Canada's right to protect itself from known or suspected terrorists, saying this obligation outweighs the rights of individual suspects. The decision clarifies a controversial area of immigration law and paves the way for Ottawa to deport suspected terrorists --even those who face the risk of torture in their homeland. "To the extent that Canada is not already a haven for terrorists, the government has a legitimate right to ensure that it does not become such," noted Federal Court Justice Joseph Robertson in his judgment, issued Tuesday in Ottawa. "The legislation promotes the security of Canadians while undermining the ability of terrorists to operate offshore," the judge said. The decision comes at a time when Ottawa is under attack for its lenient immigration and refugee policies. The ruling is expected to facilitate the removal of at least 10 high-profile suspected terrorists and criminals, including the man at the centre of the judgment, Manickavasagam Suresh. Mr. Suresh is a refugee who was ordered deported in 1997 after being declared a threat to security. He was the fundraiser for the World Tamil Movement and the Federation of Associations of Canadian Tamils, which are listed by the United States as "known front organizations" for the Tamil Tigers. Barbara Jackman, Mr. Suresh's lawyer, argued his removal to Sri Lanka would expose him to the risk of torture and execution, and would violate international conventions and his Charter rights. But Judge Robertson found the Charter's reach does not extend beyond Canada's borders. "[Mr. Suresh] is the one who must take responsibility for the fact ... that he freely performed an indispensable role in the fight for a Tamil independence through terrorism," he said. "It was his choice to pursue that goal, not the Canadian people." Citizenship and Immigration Canada said the 92-page ruling is an important victory. "It confirms that the tools we use to combat terrorism meet the requirements of the Charter," noted Huguette Shouldice, a CIC spokeswoman. The final arbiter in this complex area of law may end up being the Supreme Court of Canada. Ms. Jackman has already said she will seek leave to appeal to the country's highest court and will also argue for a temporary stay on Mr. Suresh's removal. "The court is essentially saying that there is an absolute prohibition on anyone in Canada torturing someone, but that it wouldn't shock Canadians to turn someone over to another government that may beat them up, or hang them upside down," said Ms. Jackman, who suggests the government send these people to a safe third country. The Suresh ruling applies to another high-profile case, that of Mansour Ahani, a former member of the Iranian secret service, who has fought his deportation for seven years from Toronto's Don Jail. In a separate ruling, also issued Tuesday, Judge Robertson upheld the decision to declare Mr. Ahani a security risk and to remove him from Canada, despite the danger he may face in Iran. Mr. Ahani, 34, was accepted as a refugee in 1992, and settled in Toronto. Shortly after his hearing, he was contacted by a legendary Iranian assassin, Akbar Khoshkooshk, who demanded the two meet in Europe, threatening to retaliate against Mr. Ahani's family if he refused. Mr. Ahani flew to Europe, where Italian police arrested him outside the home of a known Iranian dissident. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service believes he is a dangerous trained assassin who works for the Iranian ministry of intelligence and security and that he was participating in a plot to assassinate the dissident. Mr. Ahani denies the allegations. The Suresh ruling is also groundbreaking in other respects. The judge categorically rejected the argument that terrorism is a vague political concept and defined it as the killing of innocent civilians. He also found that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a separatist guerrilla group engaged in a civil war against the government of Sri Lanka, fit the definition, noting the group engages in crimes against humanity, including the indiscriminate killing of civilians. "Such acts are not protected by the Charter because they are physical violence aimed at civilians," the judge said. Mr. Suresh, who was granted refugee status in 1991, was later suspected of being sent here by the Tigers to raise funds to finance weapons exports to Sri Lanka. The Tigers rely on an extensive international fundraising network run by expatriate Tamils to supply them with funds and munitions. Mr. Suresh fought his removal order, saying there was no evidence the money he supplied to the Tigers had contributed to Sri Lanka's civil war. But the judge disagreed: "Those who freely choose to raise funds to sustain terrorist organizations bear the same guilt and responsibility as those who actually carry out the terrorist acts." Judge Robertson noted that, while it is not illegal for Canadian citizens to engage in fundraising to support political causes, it might one day be. "In time, the federal government may feel compelled to adopt legislation which makes it an offence for Canadian citizens to contribute financial support to terrorist organizations," he said. Mr. Suresh has been free on bail for two years, is taking computer courses in the Toronto area and is engaged to be married to a Canadian immigrant, said Ms. Jackman. She believes his deportation would shock the collective conscience of Canadians; and notes that Canada has supported other groups that have bombed civilian targets, such as Kosovar Albanians and the East Timorese. The judge refuted this point: "It is more likely that public confidence in the refugee system and the Charter would be seriously undermined if [Mr. Suresh] were entitled to remain in Canada."
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