Commons committee calls for reform of extradition law

A House of Commons committee recommends that the Liberal government undertake a “comprehensive reform” of Canada’s extradition law as soon as possible in order to avoid “further injustices” due to loopholes.

A report by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, chaired by Liberal MP Randeep Sarai, also urges the government to make administrative changes to the process for removing people to be prosecuted and incarcerated overseas.

The report adds that during hearings earlier this year, MPs heard of cases of “evidence of real harm resulting from flaws in our existing legislation and process and as examples of injustices that are likely to continue to occur in the future.” ‘lack of reform’.

Dalhousie University law professor Rob Currie, one of the longtime critics of the extradition system who appeared before the committee, welcomed the committee’s findings. “They really heard us. This shows a great understanding of the issues we were highlighting. »

Reform advocates have long highlighted the case of Ottawa sociologist Hassan Diab, a Canadian citizen who was extradited to France and imprisoned for more than three years, only to be released without even being brought to trial. for a 1980 attack on a Parisian synagogue.

Mr. Diab, who has always claimed his innocence, returned to Canada, but was then tried in absentia in Paris for the attack which left four dead and 46 injured. A French court sentenced him to life in prison last April and issued an arrest warrant, meaning he could be extradited again.

As part of the first stage of the Canadian extradition process, Department of Justice officials decide whether or not to issue what is called a “leave to proceed” at the next stage, a court hearing. If the case proceeds, a court then decides whether there is sufficient evidence, or other applicable grounds, to warrant committing a person for extradition.

When a person is ordered to be extradited, the Minister of Justice must then personally decide whether to order the surrender of the person to the foreign state.

Critics say the incarceration process undermines the wanted person’s ability to meaningfully challenge the foreign case against them. They add that Canadian judges then have little to say.

They also say that the surrender decision made by the Minister of Justice is a discretionary and political process, unfairly biased towards extradition.

Supporters of Hassan Diab have long maintained that he was in Beirut taking university exams – not in Paris – when the attack on the synagogue took place. They say fingerprints, palm prints and handwriting clear him of the crime.

MPs heard testimony from witnesses including Mr Diab’s wife, Rania Tfaily, civil society voices, law professors and Justice Ministry officials.

Among the committee’s recommendations:

  • modernize outdated treaties and withdraw those with partners that seriously violate international human rights standards;
  • lower the threshold required to overturn the presumption of reliability of the extraditing partner’s case at the committal hearing;
  • enshrine the obligation for a partner State to organize the trial of a person whose extradition is requested within one year of his surrender to the foreign State;
  • add a legal obligation for the Department of Justice to disclose to the person whose extradition is requested any exculpatory evidence in their possession or of which they are aware that could compromise or weaken the partner state’s request;
  • and give the extradition judge a greater role than that of the Minister of Justice, in particular by giving Canadian courts the power to rule on the fairness of the extradition decision, taking into account the situation of the person sought and respect for human rights by the extradition partner.

Rob Currie said a better balance between the role of the judge and that of the minister is important, as the law currently grants judges very little power in the extradition process. “Most major and important legal issues are actually assigned to the minister,” he says.

Justice Minister David Lametti’s office had no immediate comment on the committee’s report, which asked the Government of Canada to provide a detailed written response.

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