Abdelrazik: Pointing fingers and a right of return
The Abdelrazik affair gets curiouser and curiouser.
Yesterday, Canada's civilian spy agency publicly
declared itself innocent of having Abousfian Abdelrazik,
a Canadian citizen, arrested by Sudan in 2003 on
suspicion of terror links. Then who had him arrested? Is
CSIS implying that some other Canadian institution
(perhaps Foreign Affairs, which pointed a finger at CSIS
in official documents) did wrong somehow?
But the real question is why the Conservative
government has left Mr. Abdelrazik to languish for
nearly 11 months in the Canadian embassy. None of its
answers make sense. None have any credibility. And every
time Canada's objections are shown to be empty, the
government tosses up another one.
At the same time, two cabinet ministers, Jason Kenney
and John Baird, are speaking out for the release of the
Canadian Bashir Makhtal, detained in Ethiopia for two
years without charges. Why, if one detainee can be
defended, is the government doing cartwheels to find new
ways to keep Mr. Abdelrazik from coming back to Canada?
At this point, the Abdelrazik affair is not really
about whether the Sudanese-born Canadian is a terrorist
bad guy. It's about due process for a citizen. But it's
worth emphasizing that CSIS and the RCMP have certified
in writing that Mr. Abdelrazik is not a danger. Sudan
also says it has nothing on him. If Canada's own
security agencies believe he is not guilty of anything,
this country's refusal to allow him back is a terrible
comment on its commitment to its citizens abroad.
And now, CSIS is trying to put distance between
itself and the Abdelrazik affair. It asked yesterday for
an independent inquiry from an oversight body, the
Security Intelligence Review Committee. CSIS seems to be
feeling wrongly accused. A SIRC inquiry might help CSIS,
but it won't help Mr. Abdelrazik get home.
What on earth is the Canadian government doing on
this file? It declares that it cannot fly a citizen home
because his name is on a UN watch list of suspected
terrorists. Yet the UN has published guidelines saying
that countries do not have to bar entry to people on the
watch list. Some on the watch list have flown on
military flights, others on commercial flights.
CSIS, which has just been through two public
inquiries, both involving Canadians tortured in Syria
(and in one case Egypt), says its hands are clean,
implying that someone else's may be dirty. Scores of
Canadians have volunteered, at some legal risk to
themselves, to pay for Mr. Abdelrazik's flight home.
Sooner or later, the Canadian government will have to
supply some answers on this file.
Citizens have a right of return. Canada should allow
Mr. Abdelrazik to come home. His return may embarrass
the government, but that embarrassment will only grow
worse with each day that goes by.