Matthew Behrens

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Matthew Behrens is a freelance writer and social justice advocate who coordinates the Homes not Bombs non-violent direct action network. His column "Taking Liberties" examines connections between national security and civil liberties. Behrens has worked closely with the targets of Canadian and U.S. "national security" profiling for many years.

Mohamed Harkat condemned by a secret system of 'justice'

It was ironic that on International Human Rights Day, Dec. 10, family, friends, and supporters of secret trial detainee Mohamed Harkat gathered with him and his wife, Sophie, to weep and reflect on three federal court decisions against him. The latest decision upheld the regime of secret hearings and judicially sanctioned rendition to torture; and Harkat's supporter's recommitted to ending what domestic and international critics have labelled a star chamber process.

Due to a system based on secret allegations that neither accused nor lawyers can contest, Harkat has, for eight years, been subject to a "security certificate," a measure by which individuals can be detained, held indefinitely without charge, and ultimately be deported, despite the risk of torture.

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Ottawa professor fights extradition for 1980 bomb attack in France

Like a number of Muslim men in Canada, Ottawa's Dr. Hassan Diab is forced to wear the ultimate symbol of state control: a GPS monitoring unit.

This tracking device, for which the impoverished and currently unemployed university professor was forced to pay $30,000 for the first year (and now $1,500 monthly), is permanently affixed to his leg, tracking his every move under strict house arrest.

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Sanctions-busting telethon supporters risked jail for Abdelrazik

Abousfian  Abdelrazik returned home to Canada from Sudan on June 27, 2009.

Viewers tuning in to Wednesday evening's rabble.ca videocast from Montreal could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled across a surreal version of the infamous PBS fund drives that annually dominate American airwaves.

Indeed, the perky pitches from energetic hosts, a phone bank of pledge takers, and a large map of Canada with pins marking the city of each donation would have seemed familiar to anyone who enjoys public television or radio.

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Poland in the torture hot seat: Is Canada next?

Photo: European Court of Human Rights. Credit: marcella bona/flickr

A little-noticed European Court of Human Rights decision regarding Polish complicity in torture may well have ripple effects on this side of the Atlantic and, hopefully, produce some accountability in the Ottawa bunkers of CSIS, the RCMP, and the foreign affairs and justice bureaucracies. In addition, its precedent would be most useful in hauling some high-profile Liberals out of their comfortable retirement to inquire about their role in the CIA-led global kidnap and disappearance-to-torture regime that has marked much of the 21st century.

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The pain and suffering behind Canada's immigration inventory

Photo: nanovivid

It's always been a symbolic reflection of Canadian refugee and immigration policy that the name of the country's largest newcomer processing centre is the Greater Toronto Enforcement Centre (GTEC). There is no official welcoming centre for those fleeing persecution and related horrors. Rather, GTEC is a machine devoted to tracking down, detaining and deporting as many people as possible who have been failed by Canada's broken refugee determination process.

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Productive week for Canada's desk torturers in Harkat, Diab cases

Photo: Mike Gifford/flickr

Two judicial decisions released last week remind us that the concept of national security is incompatible with democracy: the former almost always trumps the latter, and various enemies-du-jour are regularly created and then served up on the altar of "security." In each instance, profoundly disturbing decisions were dealt to Mohamed Harkat, facing deportation to torture in Algeria based on secret hearsay, and Hassan Diab, facing extradition to France on clearly trumped up allegations likely gleaned from torture.

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Canada's coup-supporting corporate cowboy diplomacy

Photo: pmwebphotos/flickr

When U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry bloviated last fall about officially ending the Monroe Doctrine (the U.S. belief that God grants only Americans the right to interfere with the internal affairs of other western hemisphere countries), one wonders if Stephen Harper and his foreign affairs pitbull John Baird immediately took the concept on for themselves. Perhaps they also adopted a bit of manifest destiny thrown in for good measure. How else -- other than through the lens of someone who truly feels anointed by the heavens -- can one begin to understand Harper's messianic foreign policy, one in which he and John Baird play tag-team John Waynes making the world safe for Canadian corporate profits?

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Does Ottawa believe the Salvadoran government is terrorist?

Photo courtesy of Matthew Behrens

It was down to the wire, but last week, Salvador Sánchez Cerén emerged as the next president of El Salvador on behalf of the FMLN (Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front). A legal political party since 1992, the FMLN, under which Sánchez Cerén was himself a commanding general, had previously been a political-military coalition resisting the Salvadoran death squad dictatorships whose brutal U.S.-sponsored wars of the 1980s claimed over 75,000 lives.

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CSIS still the cat in the birdcage

Photo: rubyblossom./flickr

A few years ago, Canada's bird lovers came in for some well-deserved looks of bemusement when many wondered why their cute little budgies and canaries kept disappearing every time a cat was placed inside their birdcages. After all, it was argued, cats were subject to significant and robust oversight mechanisms such as the Feline Activities Review Committee, to ensure the birds would be safe from purring predators.

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