Canada should follow Britain's example and seek to deport foreign terror suspects, even to states that use torture, but only after officials at the highest levels – the foreign minister or prime minister – extract assurances of humane treatment from their counterparts in the other countries...
King Abdullah of Jordan gave his assurance to former prime minister Tony Blair in the case of Abu Qatada, an incendiary preacher, and the British Law Lords said that assurance passed legal muster. Mr. Qatada is appealing the ruling to the European Court of Human Rights. (The Law Lords' ruling also permits the deportation of two other terror suspects to Algeria.) ...
Here is the box: When suspected foreign terrorists are identified, they are taken before a court and, if found a danger to the nation's security, are ordered deported. But if they can make a credible case that they will be tortured in their home country, it's almost impossible to deport them. The result is they may be held in jail without criminal charge for several years. This is repugnant, but releasing those deemed a danger to national security seems untenable.
Canada appears to prefer the untenable to the repugnant. Its courts have lost their will to hold these suspected terrorists in jail. A half-dozen suspected al-Qaeda members have been released in the past few years by the Federal Court of Canada. The civilian spy agency CSIS spends nearly $600,000 to keep a round-the-clock eye on a single one.
The Law Lords' ruling challenges the conventional wisdom of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that if you have to ask for an assurance, it won't be worth the paper it's written on. Some Canadians may share the agencies' concerns; after all, the United States has said it asked Syria for a promise that Maher Arar would not be tortured. (An independent report by Stephen Toope, now president of the University of British Columbia, found that he was.) But the Law Lords stress that the assurance needs to be made in good faith. Further, there must be a sound, objective basis for believing the assurance; and there must be an agreement on how to verify whether the assurance was kept.
The Law Lords noted that Algeria wants international acceptance as a normal civil society, and that close and growing business and security ties exist between it and Britain. “Very considerable efforts have been made at the highest political levels on both sides to strengthen these ties,” said an immigration tribunal's ruling, cited approvingly by the Law Lords. “It is barely conceivable, let alone likely, that the Algerian government would put them at risk by reneging on solemn assurances. Nor is there any reason to suppose that the British government would turn a blind eye if they did.”
The purpose of Canada's security-certificate system is to deny a place in this country to those who put its security at risk. Britain's example shows that it is possible to do so within democratic norms.