“My life has been turned upside down because of unfounded allegations and suspicions. I am innocent of the accusations against me.
I have never engaged in terrorism. I am not an anti-Semite.
I have always been opposed to bigotry and violence.”
Dr. Hassan Diab, speaking at a press conference in Ottawa, Canada
Dr. Diab is a Canadian academic who lives in Ottawa. He is facing extradition to France for questioning about an attack near a synagogue in Paris in 1980. Because of the extradition request, Dr. Diab has been living under house arrest since 2009. As part of his strict bail conditions, he has to pay about $2,000 per month for a GPS monitoring device that he is required to wear at all times.
In June 2011, Dr. Diab was committed for extradition based solely on a discredited handwriting analysis report submitted by French authorities. The report claims that Dr. Diab’s handwriting resembles five words written by the suspect on a hotel registration card in 1980. Five renowned handwriting experts from Canada, the United States, and Europe found that the French handwriting analysis report is fatally flawed, utterly unreliable, and does not follow recognized methodology; in fact, the experts found that the evidence points to Dr. Diab’s innocence. The extradition judge himself described the handwriting analysis report as “very problematic”, “convoluted”, “very confusing”, and “suspect”, but stated that he felt obliged under Ontario’s interpretation of the extradition law to commit Dr. Diab for extradition. It is worthwhile to note that two previous handwriting analysis reports that allegedly linked Dr. Diab to the suspect were withdrawn after Dr. Diab’s lawyers showed that many of the writings that were “matched” to those of the suspect were not even written by Dr. Diab, but rather by his ex-wife.
In appealing the extradition judge’s decision, Dr. Diab’s lawyers argued that Dr. Diab’s committal order should be quashed. The lawyers also argued that the Justice Minister lacked jurisdiction to order Dr. Diab’s surrender since Dr. Diab is not charged with any crime in France and is merely wanted for questioning by French authorities. In May 2014, the Ontario Court of Appeal found that the extradition judge committed a number of legal errors, including imposing too high of a standard for judging the handwriting evidence to be “manifestly unreliable”. However, the Court of Appeal refused to reverse the extradition judge’s decision.
Dr. Diab has steadfastly denied the allegations against him and strongly condemned the 1980 crime. The RCMP determined that his palm prints and fingerprints do not match those of the suspect. He has offered to take a lie detector test and to answer questions from French authorities here in Canada, but there has been no response to either offer.
Dr. Diab’s case is one in which totally unreliable handwriting analysis is cited as the basis for extradition, while forensic evidence which exonerates Dr. Diab is not allowed to be considered. The issues in this case reveal the extremely problematic nature of Canada’s extradition law.
Dr. Diab has the support of numerous civil society organisations and thousands of individuals. Many organisations have spoken out against the unjust treatment of Dr. Diab. Three organizations – Amnesty International, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA), and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) – intervened on Dr. Diab’s behalf at the Ontario Court of Appeal.
Problems with Canada’s Extradition Law
Dr. Diab’s case points to glaring problems with Canada’s extradition law.
- In extradition cases, the rights of the person sought are severely compromised, and Canadian standards of evidence do not apply.
- Evidence submitted by the foreign country is presumed reliable, and the ability of the person sought to challenge the case against him or her is severely curtailed.
- The standard for extradition is so low that Canada hands people over to other countries based on evidence that is not acceptable in Canadian courts.
- Foreign countries can cherry pick their evidence and conceal exculpatory evidence.
- Canada extradites its citizens to countries that allow secret intelligence – including intelligence obtained from torture – to be used as evidence.
- There is a great divide among the provinces across Canada in how they interpret and apply the federal extradition law, and this is contrary to the fundamental principle that all Canadians should be treated equally before the law. Dr. Hassan Diab would be a free man if he was living in Vancouver instead of Ottawa, as British Columbia interprets the extradition law differently from Ontario.
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