Posted: Saturday, 31 December 2011
In December 2011, Mr. Abdelrazik finally had his name removed from an infamous terror suspect watch list maintained by the United Nations Security Council.
Known as the UN 1267 list, Mr. Abdelrazik was subjected to onerous sanctions that denied him the right to work; to attend any educational or training institution; he was prevented from freely accessing a bank account and he was subject to a no-fly list.
Mr. Abdelrazik is a Canadian citizen and formerly a machinist by training. During a trip to visit his ill mother in Sudan in 2003, his ordeal began. He was detained by Sudanese authorities who suspected him of having terrorist connections. He was tortured and denied his rights, yet no charges were ever laid against him.
Successive Canadian governments failed to offer him meaningful consular assistance while he was detained and being tortured in Sudan. Under the Conservative government, his efforts to be repatriated home―a Charter Right were purposefully stymied. The Sudanese authorities concluded they had no evidence to detain him further and released him, even offering to repatriate him home to Canada―but the Canadian government refused.
Mr. Abdelrazik was left with no option but to camp out in the Canadian embassy in Khartoum for nearly a year, while the Conservative led government steadfastly refused to issue him an emergency passport that would allow him to return to Canada.
Both CSIS and the RCMP investigated his case and wrote in 2007 they had no evidence to press charges against him, yet he remained marooned in Sudan camping out the embassy compound and sleeping on plastic chairs.
Meanwhile his name remained on the UN 1267 list with its oppressive sanctions. The UN 1267 list does not provide meaningful recourse to challenge the allegations intelligence agencies claim to have, nor does it offer a fair judicial process that would allow anyone listed to defend or refute their allegations.
While the Canadian government could have simply refused to apply the UN sanctions at any time against Mr. Abdelrazik once he was finally able to return home after a federal court order was issued―they chose to keep him in a prison without walls.
The Canadian Labour Congress along with a number of affiliates (PSAC, CAW, IAMAW, CUPE, CUPW,) and labour councils came together in 2010 to challenge the Canadian government’s handling of the case.
Together, the labour movement hired Mr. Abdelrazik to tell his story and ordeal to fellow Canadians. Arrangements were made for him to do an eastern tour by car and a western tour that involved some flights ―despite a travel ban and exposing the illegitimacy of the no-fly list. The western tour included a visit to the Prime Minister’s constituency office in Calgary where Abousfian left a letter with Harper’s staff requesting assistance from the Canadian government. His request went unanswered.
The labour movement alongside a Montreal based campaign called “Project Fly Home” and thousands of other Canadians maintained that no Canadian should be abandoned and marooned abroad as was evident in this case. The combined efforts of labour and human rights groups raised the profile of Abousfian’s case with the Canadian public and the demand for justice grew.
In December 2010 on International Human Rights Day, the CLC featured Mr. Abdelrazik’s long struggle and recognized him for his work in telling his story to Canadians. The Sun Media chain attended the event and published a biased and skewed report on the case and the involvement of the labour movement.
The CLC filed a complaint with the Ontario Press Council (OPC) pointing out the Sun Media chain failed to meet the OPC’s professional journalistic standards. In a ruling by the OPC, the CLC complaint was found to have merit.
The CLC, along with a delegation of Canadian human rights groups, continued to lobby on behalf of Mr. Abdelrazik, visiting the UN headquarters in New York in June 2011 to petition the Committee to remove his name from their list. It was here that we learned the UN committee was in the process of de-listing nearly twenty Taliban combatants as part of brokered deal with Afghanistan government, yet they were unprepared to de-list Abdelrazik.
Abousfian had no choice but to rely on process to have his case reviewed by a UN appointed Ombudsperson, Justice Kimberly Proust. Ironically, Proust could only make recommendations to the same UN Security Council Committee that put his name on the list in first place.
Fortunately, the Ombudsperson after reviewing the nearly decade long file, came to the same conclusion, we had arrived at much earlier ― justice was being denied.
The CLC is pleased that Abousfian is now freed from his prison without walls and extends its gratitude to all the affiliates, labour councils and members who joined in this long campaign of solidarity with Abousfian.
We don’t always win all of the struggles we undertake on behalf of workers and in support of basic human rights, but when we do, they are profoundly important ones.