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Anne Dagenais Guertin is the Communications and Research Coordinator of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG). Inter Pares is a founding and active member of ICLMG and sits on its Steering Committee.
Learning that Hassan Diab had returned to Canada felt unreal. And extraordinary. After all these years of fighting – first, against his extradition, and then for his release and return from France – we were worried it would never happen. Although we never stopped fighting, his ordeal had lasted so long that it had become a new ‘normal’ – our reality and his. That so many people and organizations – including the ICLMG – fought for Hassan’s rights and freedom is both beautiful and disheartening. Because even with all that support, it took years for him to be returned to Canada.
Dr. Hassan Diab is a Canadian professor who was extradited to France on suspicion that he was responsible for the 1980 Paris synagogue bombing. Hassan’s ordeal unfolded in the post-9/11 era, which has been characterized by unwarranted hostility towards Muslims, and the erosion of civil liberties in the name of the “war on terror.” French authorities did not want to appear “soft” on terrorism, so they put political gain ahead of the right to due process.
The case against Hassan stood on unreliable, anonymous evidence. Even the Canadian judge who ordered Hassan’s extradition said that France presented a “weak case” and that the “evidence” against Hassan was “very confusing, with conclusions that are suspect.” Recently uncovered court documents suggest that the Canadian Department of Justice not only inappropriately assisted the French government to make its case for extradition, but withheld evidence of Hassan’s innocence from the court and from his defense lawyers.
As a result, Hassan spent over three years in a notoriously violent prison. In solidarity confinement. Without charge.
Although it took years of campaigning, the fact that Hassan is finally back with his family in Canada, where he belongs, motivates us to keep going. Because the fight is not over.
Canadians need to come together again to push for a public inquiry into Hassan’s case. A public inquiry is necessary to get the whole truth and – we hope – to reform Canada’s unfair extradition laws. The ICLMG was created specifically to protect human rights against this kind of negative impact of the “war on terror.” We must find out how Canada could have been complicit in such gross human rights violation, and how to prevent it from happening ever again.