Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Mahjoub: unanswered questions

One might have thought that prisoners in Ontario jails would receive treatment at least meeting the minimum standards of the Geneva Convention. In the case of Mohammad Mahjoub, however, who has just ended a 79-day hunger strike, this was not the case.

Mr. Mahjoub has been held as a suspected terrorist, without charge, at the Metro West Detention Centre in Toronto under one of Canada's notorious security certificates for more than five years. He has been kept in solitary confinement for the past two years. His hunger strike was to obtain basic medical treatment for a knee injury and for Hepatitis C, which he contracted in jail. He has been denied a liver biopsy to check the progress of the disease. He also wanted what are known as "touch visits" from his children--hugs, hand-holding and the like.

Earlier this week, the province finally decided to give him a pair of eyeglasses, which he had requested eight months ago. They have now agreed to provide the medical assistance he needs.

It seems that you don't have to go to Syria to be tortured in prison. For torture this most certainly is. Here is the UN definition:

[A]ny act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.

Mahjoub has been deliberately denied much-needed medical attention for a serious medical condition, causing him suffering and threatening his life. Since this is not (at least, one hopes not) typical of inmates in Ontario jails, one must conclude that the test of "discrimination" has been met as well.

So let's get the answers to a few simple questions from the Ontario authorities, not to mention the federal ones who have denied him his day in court for more than half a decade and are complicit, if not instrumental, in his maltreatment.

1) Why has Mahjoub been routinely denied basic medical treatment by the authorities, contrary to the United Nations Body of Principles for the Protection of all Persons under any form of Detention, and also the UN Standard Minimum Rules for Treatment of Prisoners?

2) How did Mahjoub contract Hepatitis C? We are told that he got this deadly disease in prison, something that requires bloodstream-to-bloodstream contact. He has been in solitary confinement for two years. Mahjoub is a devout Muslim, which lets out tattooing, intravenous drug use and sexual activity, which is in any case a low risk in the case of Hep C. So how, once again, did he get it?

3) What were the "security reasons" for denying him hospitalization for a necessary liver biopsy? Is one sick man too much for the combined strength of the Metro West correctional officers, Toronto police and the RCMP to handle?

4) What are the security reasons for denying him contact with his own children? Even in Egypt, Mahmoud Jaballah, another victim of the security certificate system, was permitted family visits. Is this an attempt to break him?

5) Why has he been held in solitary confinement for two years? He was transferred into solitary after three years in the regular prison population. No one seems to have provided an answer to this question as yet. Is this a further attempt to break him?

6) Why have the mainstream media not asked questions 1-5? I’m not one of those, as some may have noticed, who refer knowingly and smirkingly to "the MSM" and pretend that the blogosphere is a real alternative. Blogging, for the most part, is enacted against the backdrop of the mainstream media, as even the most cursory examination reveals. In fact, it's generally in a relationship of dependency. Articles from the latter are regularly referenced; others are commented upon; sometimes information from disparate sources is put together in interesting ways. It's the mine, in short, where bloggers toil. But, true enough, the mainstream media often don't ask the kinds of questions that we might want asked. And they haven't done so here.

In the meantime, why not write, email or call the instigators of this on-going cruel and unusual punishment without trial?

Prime Minister Paul Martin
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6

Telephone: (613) 992-4211
Fax: (613) 941-6900

Joe Volpe
Minister of Immigration

House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6
Telephone: (613) 992-6361
Fax: (613) 992-9791
Email: Volpe.J@parl.gc.ca

Irwin Cotler
Minister of Justice

House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6
Telephone: (613) 995-0121
Fax: (613) 992-6762
Email: Cotler.I@parl.gc.ca

Anne McLellan
Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
13th Floor, 340 Laurier Ave.
Ottawa, ON K1A 0P8
Phone: (613) 992-4524
Fax: (613) 943-0044

The Hon. Dalton McGuinty
Premier of Ontario
Rm 281, Main Legislative Building
Toronto ON M7A 1A4
Tel : 416-325-1941
Fax : 416-325-7578
Email: dmcguinty.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org

Monte Kwinter
Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services
18th floor, 25 Grosvenor Street, Toronto, ON, M7A 1Y6
Phone: (416) 325-0408
Fax: (416) 325-6067
Email: mkwinter.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org mkwinter.mpp@liberal.ola.org

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