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Toronto (Canada)

March, 21. 2004


M. M. Afrah

In a speech at the UN Commission on Human Rights, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister, Bill Graham has highlighted over a ground I had previously covered in my TALKING POINTS in this website.

The Minister, an outspoken human rights advocate, told delegates in Geneva "if we disregard human rights we will only be creating new sources of injustice, thus sowing the seeds of future violence."

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister, Bill Graham

Other like minded human rights campaigners with support from Bertrand Kamcharan, the UN's acting High Commissioner for Human Rights, had hoped they would push through a Mexican-sponsored resolution at the session to appoint an independent expert to monitor the behaviour of governments as they crack down on groups and individuals they perceived to be terrorists.

But due to the recent Madrid bombings, concerns about terrorism have overshadowed other issues, such as human rights and the worldwide HIV crisis, which the Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister described as crisis involving human rights. "It's the development of whole societies that is threatened by this disease," he said


Recently some 30 American-Somalis living and working in the United States have been deported without charge or reason. All were shackled together on the aircraft and when they complained they were beaten and drugged.

According to news agencies, all medications were taken from them, including insulin from diabetes and anti-depressants, causing anxiety among the users. "They kept asking us if we knew Al-Itihad," one of them told a press conference on arrival in Djibouti, adding that most of them left Somalia in 1978 and became American citizens.

Al-Itihad is a home grown Islamic organization that fought against the Ethiopian army in the 1980s but the group now run out of steam and is engaged in charity work in war-torn Somalia.

Many of the deportees hardly speak the Somali language or knew anybody in war-ravaged Somalia. Unarmed, with no money or documents (their documents have been impounded by the newly created U.S. Air Marshals and the FBI before they boarded the aircraft), they were stranded and are unable to hire armed bodyguards to protect them in a country where the gun rules.

Their families are desperate to know their whereabouts as they were secretly whisked out of the United States.

It is illegal to deport citizens to a country without a functioning government, such as Somalia. But for some strange reason the story has received little attention in the Western media or human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International.

"They had kidnapped my son. I didn't even know he had been deported. I was told nothing," lamented the father of a 20-year-old who was a university student in Seattle, Washington State.

In Toronto, the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) recently issued a damning report about laws that erodes rights of the individual. The CJFE report says: "An increasingly number of countries are responding to September 11 in ways which erodes rights. Indeed, many governments are using the war on terrorism to further clamp down on critical voices within their own countries, including writers, journalists, political dissidents and even ordinary citizens.

The report says: "The USA Patriotic Act signed into law October 26, 2001 gives the Federal Bureau of Investigation (the FBI) extensive powers to wiretap anyone suspected of working with terrorists; read monitor mail and email, access to business records (freezing bank accounts); indefinitely detain citizens and conduct secret searches. The law gives the Central Intelligence Agency (the CIA) authorities to obtain all Federal Grand Jury information, including police records, wiretap transcripts and testimony without court order."

The Canadian Journalists for Free Expression believes: "that true security depends on rigorous respect for civil liberty. Restriction on freedom of expression here in Canada (Bill C-36) or elsewhere around the from enhancing security are likely to breed insecurity, as unpopular ideas whose expression runs the risk of attracting attention from law-enforcement agencies are driven into the shadows. Security measures that threaten freedom of expression could have the effect of forcing dissent underground, perhaps making legitimate dissent take forms that represent danger to society."

Press reports allege that people, especially those with Muslim sounding names or those who wear turbans and beards, or look like Middle eastern are caught between a hard rock and a hard place, trying to survive in predominantly Christian countries (North America and Europe) without being apprehended for belonging to a terrorist organization.

The press reports say that even Sikhs with their long beards and turbans have been in danger of being arrested because they looked like members of the Al-Qaeda network! Many innocent people are languishing in jails and police holding cells without access to their families or lawyers.

Many are deported to countries they had never seen or left with their parents when they were babies or toddlers. A good example is the 30 Somali-Americans mentioned above.

By M. M. Afrah©2004

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