On the face of it, extradition may seem like a simple and rather convenient mechanism for a Canadian government to rid itself of unwanted and/or unsavoury individuals. What could possibly go wrong? An old joke among extradition lawyers suggests that the only tricky question needing an answer is whether a window or an aisle seat will be required on the plane out of Canada. And yet, the recent entanglement with China following the detention in Vancouver of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou illustrates the pitfalls that wait in legal ambush for an unsuspecting government.
Extradition is a formal and legally binding process defined in parliamentary acts and treaties between partner nations. It is not a random happening determined by political whim, nor is it a casual matter to be kicked around like a diplomatic football. Yet, when things go wrong, they go horribly wrong and result in dreadful personal consequences for individual and their families.
Hassan Diab was arrested 11 years ago by the RCMP at the request of the French government, which believed it could build a case against him as author of a 1980 bomb attack outside a Paris synagogue. Diab lost his job, was held in detention for several months, then subjected to stringent bail conditions for six years. Following numerous court hearings and legal appeals, Hassan Diab was extradited to France in November 2014.
After more than three years, it became clear that none of the so-called evidence was reliable, that Diab was in fact studying in Beirut at the time of the 1980 bombing, and that there remained no feasible avenues of investigation. Diab was released, without charge, in January 2018, after 38 months in solitary confinement.
The French prosecutors, desperate for a conviction, appealed that decision. A year-and-a-half later, there has been no final resolution and Hassan Diab continues to bear the weight of this miscarriage of justice.
Back in Canada, Diab and his many supporters began a sustained lobbying effort to determine two things: what went wrong in the whole, sad process; and how could Canada’s Extradition Act be changed to ensure that others would not fall foul of inadequate legal mechanisms. The prime minister, the foreign minister, and the justice minister all agreed that lessons had to be learned and in May 2018 an “external review” was established, to be conducted by former Ontario deputy attorney general Murray Segal.
Segal was charged with determining whether Department of Justice officials followed the law and appropriate departmental procedures in carrying out Diab’s extradition, and whether Canada should raise specific concerns with the French government about his treatment in that country.
The need for a complete public inquiry became even more urgent when a CBC investigation revealed that French fingerprint evidence exonerating Diab was not shared with Canadian officials. Subsequently, similar evidence was established by the RCMP and provided to Department of Justice lawyers who chose to conceal it from both Diab’s lawyer and from the judge conducting the extradition hearing. It is reasonable to conclude that the Department of Justice effectively condemned Hassan Diab to be extradited to France.
What, then, is causing further delay? Segal delivered his report to Justice Minister David Lametti in May 2019. Allowing for translation, and even assuming a need for time to prepare a suitable government response, almost two months have gone by and the Segal Report has yet to made public. There are concerns that, when it does ultimately appear, it may well be incomplete or heavily redacted.
The Segal Report could scarcely come at a more sensitive time. The increased attention to extradition resulting from the Meng Wanzhou case, and recent news of a U.S. request for the extradition of a retired McGill University professor, mean that the Canadian government will be more than reluctant to open an extensive public debate on the Canadian Extradition Act. With an election looming, there is every reason to believe that the Segal Report will be further delayed.
When it is eventually made public, there is zero chance that it will lead to a full public inquiry into Hassan Diab’s case. Justice will continue to be denied and some inconvenient truths will remain buried.
Roger Clark served as Secretary General of Amnesty International (Canada) in 1999. He is an active member of the Hassan Diab Support Committee and continues to work as a human rights activist.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019