Abousfian Abdelrazik, the only Canadian citizen publicly branded an al-Qaeda operative by the United States, has applied for removal from the United Nations Security Council terrorist blacklist.
The “delisting” petition is seen as an important international test case of the newly-created UN position of ombudsperson to advocate on behalf of those wrongfully labelled by the big powers.
It will also test the willingness of the government of Stephen Harper to go to bat at the UN for a Canadian citizen – cleared in writing by both CSIS and the RCMP – who was once publicly labelled a national security risk by Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon.
“It’s bizarre because if he is a national security risk, why is he allowed to walk the streets of Montreal?” said Amir Attaran, a University of Ottawa law professor. “The government is caught in a stupid contradiction.”
Yet the government also complied, without appeal, with a Federal Court ruling that it must bring Mr. Abdelrazik home and didn’t argue with the findings of Mr. Justice Russel Zinn that successive governments had trampled on his constitutional rights by obstructing his right, as a citizen, to return to Canada.
Mr. Abdelrazik’s petition insists he was labelled an al-Qaeda associate “in error and largely based on faulty evidence i.e. information from the United States obtained from Abu Zubaydah by torture.”
Mr. Abdelrazik acknowledges that he knew some Islamic radicals in Montreal in the 1990s but insists he was never a close associate. He also admits to travelling to Pakistan and Georgia, but only for humanitarian relief. He says he did not, as U.S. anti-terrorist agents claim, travel to Afghanistan or Chechnya.
Kimberly Prost, a Canadian jurist who formerly served on international war crimes tribunals, was named ombudsperson to the UN Security Council 1267 committee – named for the resolution co-sponsored by Canada in 1999 that created the blacklist. Mr. Abdelrazik’s petition will be among the first few cases she handles.
UN members states are required to prevent those on the blacklist from travelling and must seize all of their assets. The Canadian government has, for instance, taken control of all of Mr. Abdelrazik’s savings, including the pension paid to him as a surviving spouse. His former wife died of cancer.
In his 2009 ruling, Mr. Justice Zinn said “the 1267 Committee regime is…. for the listed person not unlike that of Josef K in Kafka’s The Trial who awakens one morning and, for reasons, never revealed to him or the reader, is arrested and prosecuted for an unspecified crime.”
Ms. Prost is expected to seek input from the Harper government, which, more than three years ago, already submitted a delisting request vetoed by at least one of the Security Council members – believed to be the United States, which first added Mr. Abdelrazik to the blacklist. The new delisting process is expected to take months.
Mr. Abdelrazik is also suing Mr. Cannon and the federal government seeking $27-million in damages for the six years he spent in forced exile in Sudan – including several in prison where he claims he was tortured.
Canadian government documents say he was seized by Sudan’s brutal secret police “at our request,” meaning at the request of Canadian anti-terrorist agencies, although CSIS has specifically denied asking for Mr. Abdelrazik to be imprisoned. However CSIS agents did interrogate him in a Khartoum prison.