Saturday, February 24, 2007

The New Beacon of Freedom to the World

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Once upon a time, the United States was a country to emulate, a country other countries wanted to model themselves on. That was when America stood for individual freedom, human rights, righting the wrongs of its past, and giving hope to people all over the world.

Now the very word, America, is a fearful word, a word that terrorizes. It's a word that is more likely to evoke despair than hope. It's certainly not a country to admire for its commitment to freedom, fairness, justice under the law, or even respect for its own laws.

So it should not surprise anyone that Canada's highest court has just decided that terrorism suspects cannot be denied habeas corpus rights, or held indefnitely without charges, simply because they are not Canadian citizens -- exactly the reverse of a U.S. federal court's ruling in its decision earlier this week regarding the constitutionality of the Military Commissions Act:

Canada’s highest court on Friday unanimously struck down a law that allows the Canadian government to detain foreign-born terrorism suspects indefinitely using secret evidence and without charges while their deportations are being reviewed.

The detention measure, the security certificate system, has been described by government lawyers as an important tool for combating international terrorism and maintaining Canada’s domestic security. Six men are now under threat of deportation without an open hearing under the certificates.

“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 in the ruling.

The three men who brought the case are likely to remain jailed or under strict parole because the court suspended its decision for a year to allow Parliament to introduce a law consistent with the ruling.

The decision reflected striking differences from the current legal climate in the United States. In the Military Commissions Act of 2006, Congress stripped the federal courts of authority to hear challenges, through petitions for writs of habeas corpus, to the open-ended confinement of foreign terrorism suspects at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

A federal appeals court in Washington upheld the constitutionality of that law this week, dismissing 13 cases brought on behalf of 63 Guantánamo detainees. ...

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