Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Canada's Own Roadmap

It seemed as though some American papers took more interest than our own in the Supreme Court of Canada's unanimous decision against indefinite detention without trial. It was on the web sites of prominent American newspapers at least as quickly as it showed up on their Canadian counterparts' sites. Today the decision was the basis of the New York Times lead editorial:

"The Canadian justices rejected their government’s specious national security claim with a forceful 9-to-0 ruling that upheld every person’s right to fair treatment. “The overarching principle of fundamental justice that applies here is this: before the state can detain people for significant periods of time, it must accord them a fair judicial process,” Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin wrote.

"The contrast with the United States could not be more disturbing. The Canadian court ruling came just days after a federal appeals court in Washington ruled that Congress could deny inmates of the Guantánamo Bay detention camp the ancient right to challenge their confinement in court. The 2006 military tribunals law revoked that right for a select group who had been designated “illegal enemy combatants” without a semblance of judicial process.

"In late January, Canada created another unflattering contrast with United States policy when it offered a formal apology and financial compensation to Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen who was a victim of Mr. Bush’s decision to approve open-ended detentions, summary deportations and even torture after 9/11. Mr. Arar was detained in the United States and deported to Syria, where he was held for nearly a year and tortured.

"Instead of apologizing to Mr. Arar, who was cleared of any connection to terrorism by a Canadian investigatory panel, Justice Department lawyers are fighting a lawsuit he has brought in this country, using their usual flimsy claim of state secrets. The Bush administration still refuses to remove Mr. Arar from its terrorist watch list.

"The United States Supreme Court has ruled twice in favor of Guantánamo detainees on statutory grounds, but it has yet to address the profound constitutional issues presented by American practices, including the abuses Congress authorized when it passed the Military Commissions Act. Such a showdown does not seem far off, but Congress also has a duty to revoke or rewrite the laws that have been abused in the name of national security, starting with the 2006 tribunals law.

"Lawmakers have only to look to the Canadian court for easy-to-follow directions back to the high ground on basic human rights and civil liberties."

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