Dear RightOnCanada.ca supporter,
The Harper government, a minority government that received 36% support from voters in 2006, is weakening Canada’s human rights commitments – without any mandate from Canadians to do so.
1) TORTURE: Canadians oppose torture, period. But our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Maxime Bernier, has ordered that Department of Foreign Affairs training materials on torture awareness be re-written, not on the basis of objective evidence, but for political reasons.
He has signalled that locations such as Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. and Israel be removed from the list of places of possible torture and abuse, because they are our allies, even though the United Nations, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other credible sources have documented concerns about torture and abuse in each of these places.
In our name, the government is instituting a double standard on torture. (See letter from Amnesty International.)
2) DEATH PENALTY: Canada, along with two thirds of the countries in the world, has abolished the death penalty. Up till now, the Canadian government has sought clemency for any Canadian sentenced to death in the U.S. or another country.
No more. The Harper government has decided Canada “is not going to seek clemency in cases in democratic countries, like the United States, where there has been a fair trial.”
This is a “dangerous and inhumane policy decision”, says Alex Neve of Amnesty International, pointing out that “It is grossly incorrect to assume that everyone on death row in the United States received a fair trial.”
So Canada now condones the execution of Canadian citizens in other countries, in violation of our commitment under international human rights law to abolish the death penalty. (See article below from Amnesty International.)
3) FAIR TRIAL: Every other Western country, except Canada, has intervened on behalf of their citizens held at Guantanamo Bay. This is because of concerns about the rule of law, torture and ill-treatment and fair trials.
Omar Khadr has been in Guantanamo Bay for more than five years without trial. He is accused of killing a U.S. soldier during a clash in Afghanistan in 2002, when he was 15 years old.
“At some point in the course of Omar Khadr’s detention the Canadian government developed the suspicion he was being tortured and abused,” says William Kuebler, Khadr’s U.S. lawyer.
“Yet it has not acted to obtain his release from Guantanamo Bay and protect his rights, unlike every other Western country that has had its nationals detained in Guantanamo Bay.”
Human rights are fragile. They are being thrown aside by the Harper government without any democratic process or public discussion, but instead by unilateral fiat.
All of these changes move us closer to the values of the U.S. administration. They do not reflect my values. And I do not believe they reflect yours.
Will you speak up? Rights that are not defended are lost. Silence sends a message of consent and an invitation to worse abuse.
Please send the letter to Prime Minister Harper and other political leaders now. Your voice is needed! Thank you!
With solidarity, determination and gratitude to you,
Kathleen, Peggy, Pauline and Becky for RightOnCanada.ca
Canada must not renege on its death penalty commitments
November 1, 2007
Amnesty International is deeply troubled by the recent decision of the Canadian government that it will no longer seek clemency for Canadian citizens sentenced to death in the United States and elsewhere. “Because of this misguided change in direction, Canada is now the only nation to have abolished the death penalty that will not seek clemency when its citizens face this cruel and degrading punishment in the United States,” Alex Neve, Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada, said today. “Canada must not backslide on its human rights commitments by condoning the execution of its citizens in other countries,” he added.
Amnesty International unconditionally opposes any use of the death penalty, torture or other cruel and inhuman punishments as grave violations of basic human rights. “Canada is committed by treaty to the total abolition of the death penalty and has a clear obligation to protect its citizens from execution by every appropriate means,” Mr. Neve said. “The government’s decision undermines the safety of all Canadians abroad by calling into question Canada’s commitment to protect their fundamental human rights.”
Earlier this week, a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs stated that the Canadian government is “not going to seek clemency in cases in democratic countries, like the United States, where there has been a fair trial.” The announcement reverses a longstanding policy of seeking commutation on humanitarian grounds in all cases of Canadians facing execution, regardless of the case circumstances. “It is grossly incorrect to assume that everyone on death row in the United States received a fair trial, or that mercy should be confined to cases where the trial was unfair,” noted Mr. Neve. “A fair trial is no excuse for tolerating a cruel and inhuman punishment.”
Amnesty International is calling on the Canadian government to immediately reverse this dangerous and inhumane policy decision, which conflicts with Canada’s human rights treaty commitments, with the clemency policies of all other abolitionist countries and with the worldwide trend toward the complete elimination of the death penalty.
Since 1976, 231 death row inmates in the United States have been granted clemency for humanitarian reasons, including at least six foreign nationals. Over 120 condemned prisoners have been exonerated and released after new evidence of their innocence emerged, while others have been executed despite lingering and unresolved doubts concerning their actual guilt. Hundreds of prisoners in the United States have had their death penalty convictions or sentences reversed because of major flaws in their trials that undermined the fairness of the proceedings.
Over 120 foreign nationals representing 33 nationalities are currently under sentence of death in the United States, including Canadian citizen Ronald Smith. At least 22 foreign citizens have been executed in the United States since 1976, including Canadian national Stanley Faulder. Without exception, nations that have abolished the death penalty have sought clemency on behalf of their citizens facing execution in the United States; examples include Mexico, the United Kingdom, Germany and Canada. Citing concerns over the fairness of the trial proceedings, several countries that retained the death penalty (such as Thailand and the Philippines) have also appealed to U.S. authorities for clemency on behalf of their condemned citizens.
Two-thirds of the countries in the world have now abolished the death penalty in law or practice, including every Western industrialized nation except for the United States and Japan. In 2006, 91 per cent of all known executions took place in just six countries: China, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Sudan and the USA. On November 25, 2005, Canada announced its ratification of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a treaty supporting the worldwide abolition of the death penalty. Under the terms of the Second Optional Protocol, Canada has made “an international commitment to abolish the death penalty.”