Listen to an interview with Ivan by clicking the play button below. You can download the MP3 here.
At around 1:15 pm on Saturday, 18 October, Canadian Border Services Agents arrived at the RDP detention center, handcuffed and shackled Ivan Apaolaza Sancho, and deported him to Madrid, in Spain.
Ivan arrived in Madrid sometime later that night. A Spanish police video, showing his arrival and displaying him like a trophy, had been posted on YouTube (but has since been removed). A Spanish Interior Ministry press release has fed a media frenzy in Spain. Uncritical media reports haven't hesitated to label Ivan a "commando", paying no attention to the fact that none of the allegations against him have been in any way proven.
Ivan is now in Soto del Real prison in Madrid. This news greatly relieved fears that he would be immediately placed in incommunicado police detention, where he would be most at risk of torture or other abuse. Spanish law allows suspects to be held by police in incommunicado - secret - detention for up to 5 days, with the possibility of extension of up to 13 days with judicial authorization.
Yesterday (October 16) the Federal Court heard an application for a stay of deportation by the lawyers for Ivan Apaolaza Sancho. The application requests that Ivan's pending deportation - scheduled for October 17, 2008 -- be postponed so that the Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA) could be contested, as well as to allow Ivan to benefit from a hearing at Federal Court to contest the decision of the Immigrant and Refugee Board (IRB) in his case.
William Sloan, the lawyer for Ivan, highlighted numerous inconsistencies in the PRRA decision. On the one hand the decision does recognize the reports of numerous groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch who confirm that torture is indeed practiced in Spain against Basque prisoners held in "incommunicado" custody, while on the other hand asserting that Ivan should nonetheless be deported to Spain. Moreover, the decision does not even address the essential fact that information obtained under torture is the only proof used by the Canadian authorities, while Ivan is facing imprisonment, an unfair trial and torture.
William Sloan reminded the court that Ivan was denied the ability to contest the decision of the IRB, which declared him "inadmissible" and prevented him from making a refugee claim, as well as a habeas corpus hearing, which raised the issue of Ivan's illegal detention. The latter refusal was based on the fact that Ivan is not a Canadian citizen, contravening a previous decision of the Supreme Court of Canada (the Singh decision), and reaffirming the existence of two-tiered justice in Canada.
Presiding Judge Lagacé remarked that "incommunicado" detention doesn't seem so bad compared to the detention conditions at Guantanamo Bay! Regardless of the arguments raised by the lawyer for Ivan, it was immediately decided by the Judge that he would reject the stay request, without revealing the reasons for his decision until tomorrow because the court recording system was no longer working.
The same day, rallies took place in Montreal and gatherings in London and Beirut. A representative from the Canadian Border Services Agency in Montreal promised to urgently pass on a letter signed by nine organizations including the Ligue de droits et libertés, to Public Security Minister Stockwell Day (see letter at www.peoplescommission.org/ivan.php). In London, the Canadian High Commission, and in Beirut the First Secretary for Political Affairs at the Canadian Embassy both promised to urgently relay messages of concern to the Canadian authorities. A rally will also take place in Dublin tomorrow.
Basque refugee Ivan Apaolaza Sancho yesterday ended a week-long hungerstrike - which included three days complete fast (without water). The authorities of Montreal's Rivière des prairies prison, where he has been held for over 15 months without trial, had responded to the hungerstrike by putting Ivan in isolation, removing his clothes, glasses and books, and severely limiting his telephone access. Ivan is now out of isolation; his clothes, glasses, books and telephone access have been restored.
In a call to one of his supporters, Ivan explained that he had ended his hungerstrike in order to better prepare psychologically for the possibility of being deported and facing torture. In isolation, cut off from the outside world, stripped of clothing and glasses, he felt that he was being broken down mentally so that the physical torture later would be easier.
Last week Ivan was told that he would be deported to Spain on Friday, 17 October. The Ligue des droits et libertés stated that they are "greatly concerned about several aspects of the treatment Mr. Apaolaza Sancho will face in Spain: on top of secret or incommunicado detention, and on top of the practise of dispersal or continual transfer of prisoners detained for terrorism by the Spanish authorities, there is the fact that this person strongly risks being perceived by Spanish authorities as an important source of information ..." (Denis Barrette, 7 October) Spain has been criticized for its use of torture by Amnesty International, as well as European Union and United Nations human rights bodies.
Ivan's lawyers have filed for a Federal Court review of Immigration Canada's negative Pre-removal Risk Assessment (PRRA) decision, and will ask for a stay of deportation, but there is no guarantee that the Federal Court will accept the appeal or grant the stay. If the Federal Court refuses to review the PRRA, there is nothing to prevent the deportation save a direct intervention by federal ministers.
Interviewed on 30 September, Ivan explained what he is facing, "I have experience of friends, family members that have been tortured. One of the first things that I remember when I was a kid is seeing my uncle in bed after being tortured for ten days. And I have a lot of friends who have been tortured and after - because of the declarations under torture - they spend eight, ten years in jail."
He continued, "It is not only the torture. It is also the conditions that Basque prisoners have in Spain. It is the big sentences that they are given for - whatever, even if you don't commit a crime, even if they didn't prove anything, they say that you are a member of a political party that is illegal now and you can face 10 years. I could face 20 years in jail."
In May 2008, the Commissioner Louis Dubé of the Immigration and Refugee Board ordered Ivan deported from Canada on the basis of allegations against Ivan made by the Spanish state. Contrary to mainstream media reports, the government has produced NO evidence to support those allegations which would link Ivan to any crime or to the ETA (a Basque armed militant group considered by Canada to be a 'terrorist organization'). The ONLY information the government has supplied to make its case consists of unproven Spanish police warrants. And the only piece of information in these unproven warrants which could link Ivan to the ETA comes from the confession of a Basque activist which a Canadian tribunal recognized was probably obtained under torture. This is the basis on which Ivan has been imprisoned for 15 months, stripped of his right to apply for asylum in Canada, and faces deportation to possible torture and abuse.
Full interview with Ivan linked at: http://www.radio4all.net:email@example.com/2840-4-ivansancho-final.mp3
Ivan Apaolaza Sancho has been on hungerstrike since Thursday, 2 October. Since his hungerstrike began, he has been removed to a small, filthy isolation cell with no toilet, has had his clothes, glasses and books removed, and is shackled every time he is moved. By refusing to allow him to speak any language but English and French on the phone, the prison has effectively prevented him from speaking to his parents.
Ivan's lawyers were notified late last week that Immigration Canada had rejected Ivan's pre-removal risk assessment (PRRA). The negative PRRA decision whitewashes the well-documented practise of torture in Spain. The decision acknowledged that the IRB had recognized that an alleged co-conspirator of Ivan's had probably been tortured, but inexplicably went on to deny that Ivan was similarly at risk. A PRRA is the last step before deportation; the negative decision thus clears the way for Ivan's deportation. A date has already been set for his deportation: Friday, 17 October.
Ivan's lawyers have filed for a Federal Court review of the PRRA decision, and will ask for a stay of deportation, but there is no guarantee that the Federal Court will accept the appeal or grant the stay. If the Federal Court refuses to review the PRRA, there is nothing to prevent the deportation save a direct intervention by federal ministers.
Just the previous week, the Superior Court of Quebec told Ivan that, because he was not a Canadian citizen, his motion for habeas corpus would not even be heard. The Charter guarantees everyone the right to challenge illegal deprivation of liberty on the basis of a habeas corpus motion, a long-standing principle of democracy.
Ivan has been detained at Rivière des prairies prison in Montreal since June 2007 without trial. In May 2008, the IRB ordered Ivan deported from Canada on the basis of allegations made by the Spanish state, although no evidence to support those allegations was ever produced. The only information used to argue the case for deportation was contained in (unproven, untested) Spanish arrest warrants for Ivan. The Commissioner recognized that the warrants - including the only information which supposedly links Ivan to the ETA (a Basque armed militant group which is 'listed' in Canada) - were based on a confession that was likely obtained under torture.
Ivan is at risk of incommunicado detention, torture and an unfair trial if he is forcibly returned to Spain. However, under Canadian law, Ivan was stripped of his right to apply for asylum in Canada when the IRB Commissioner declared that he was inadmissable on security grounds.
Canada's Complicity in Torture:
Ivan Apaolaza Sancho has been detained without trial at the Rivière-des-Prairies detention centre in Montreal since June 2007. Ivan is a Basque refugee claimant who is accused by the Canadian authorities of having participated in terrorist activities while in the Basque Country, on the basis of information obtained under torture by the Spanish authorities. More specifically, the government is alleging that Ivan was a member of the ETA - an armed nationalist Basque group. Ivan denies ever having been a member of the ETA and also denies having committed the particular crimes of which he is accused.
In May 2008, the Immigration Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board issued its decision in this matter, ordering Ivan deported from Canada on the grounds that there are reasonable grounds to believe that he was a member the ETA a ³listed² entity in Canada.
In this decision, Commissioner Dubé relied solely on the information contained in arrest warrants issued by the Spanish authorities. NO evidence was ever filed by the Canadian authorities to sustain the allegations in the warrants. In short, the only evidence against Ivan are the allegations of the Spanish government, and there is no evidence to support those allegations.
Moreover, Mr. Dubé discounted evidence that the allegations in the Spanish warrants are based on a declaration obtained by the Spanish police though the use of torture.
While Mr. Dubé admitted that the declaration used by the Spanish authorities had likely been obtained under torture, he failed to acknowledge that the allegations in the warrants are exclusively based on this declaration.
Instead, he chose to accept the Spanish government¹s naked assertion that corroborating evidence exists, even though both Spain and the Canadian government have failed to provide any such evidence.
It has been widely acknowledged by groups such as Amnesty International, the UN Committee Against Torture, and the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture that the Spanish authorities regularly resort to the use of torture to extract declarations from suspects, particularly Basques suspected of involvement in ETA activities. Under Canadian and international law, information obtained under torture cannot be used in any judicial proceeding.
Ivan's Unjust Detention Continues:
Since then, the Immigration Division has repeatedly renewed Ivan¹s detention, relying on the same evidence obtained under torture.
Ivan¹s lawyers sought to contest his detention by way of habeas corpus first in the Superior Court of Quebec and then in the Quebec Court of Appeal. In both instances, the Courts determined that Ivan does not have the right to have his detention reviewed by way of habeas corpus and that he must content himself with the "specialized" system of substandard justice created by the Canadian government for immigration detention. This despite a recent ruling of the Supreme Court, in Charkoui 2008, which clearly stated that standards of justice should be proportionate to consequences to the individual and not dependent on a formal distinction between areas of law.
Ivan Faces Imminnent Deportation
Ivan's lawyers immediately filed an application in the Federal Court of Canada contesting Mr. Dubé's decision to issue a deportation order. On the 26th of August 2008, Judge Beaudry of the Federal Court summarily dismissed the application, providing no reasons for his decision and denying Ivan an opportunity to even be heard by the Court.
This is a shocking development: the Court has refused to even hear arguments or evidence which demonstrate that Ivan is being detained, and may be deported, on the basis of evidence obtained through torture.
Meanwhile, in early June 2008, Ivan was called upon by Citizenship and Immigration Canada to begin the Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA) process, which is the last barrier to his deportation. An Immigration Officer is currently studying the PRRA application, and a decision could be rendered in the comings days or weeks. If the decision is negative, Ivan will face imminent deportation to Spain, where he runs a very high risk of being tortured by the Spanish authorities.
As Ivan's deportation has become more and more imminent, the Courts have shown greater and greater disdain for his case, refusing to even hear it on no less than four separate occasions, despite the fact that his situation is one in which the Canadian government is directly complicit in the practice of torture.
Your support is now more important than ever!
ON IVAN'S CASE & WORSENING SITUATION IN SPAIN
Ivan Apaolaza Sancho has been detained without charge or trial at the Rivière-des-Prairies detention centre in Montreal since June 2007. Ivan is a Basque refugee who the government alleges was a member of the ETA, an armed nationalist Basque group which is "listed" in Canada. Ivan denies ever having been a member of the ETA and also denies the particular crimes of which he is accused. However, under Canadian immigration law, he has been refused a fair trial and faces deportation though no evidence has been produced to support the claims against him. Under Canadian law, because of 'security' exceptions, he is also denied the right to apply for asylum.
The decision to deport him relies solely on arrest warrants for him in Spain, which in turned are based on a confession obtained under torture by Spanish authorities. While the IRB commissioner who considered Ivan's case admitted that the confession used by the Spanish authorities had likely been obtained under torture, he refused to acknowledge that the warrants were exclusively based on this confession. Instead, he chose to accept the Spanish government's assertion that corroborating evidence existed, despite Spain's failure to produce that (or any other) evidence. The Federal Court then refused to review the IRB decision, effectively ignoring the serious questions about the use of information obtained under torture.
It has been widely acknowledged by groups such as Amnesty International, the UN Committee Against Torture, and the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture that the Spanish authorities regularly resort to the use of torture to extract declarations from suspects, particularly Basques suspected of involvement in ETA activities. The human rights situation in the Basque country continues to deteriorate. On 16 September, one of the main Basque political parties, the EAE-ANV, which has been around for 70 years, was outlawed. On 17 September, several human rights activists were imprisoned on charges of being members of the ETA. The decision has been likened to considering every Basque who has leftist ideas to be a member of the ETA.
Because he is being denied his right to apply for asylum in Canada, the last chance for Ivan is the Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA) process. An Immigration Officer is currently studying the PRRA application, and a decision could be rendered in the comings days or weeks. However, only a tiny percentage of PRRA applications are accepted; moreover, the diplomatic fall-out of recognizing the risk to Ivan in Spain would be considerable. If the decision is negative, Ivan will face imminent deportation to Spain, where he runs a very high risk of being tortured by the Spanish authorities.
On Wednesday, Ivan's lawyers will be seeking to have him released under a habeas corpus motion.
Last week, Ivan Apaolaza Sancho - a Basque man who has been imprisoned without trial in Montreal, for almost one year, under threat of deportation - was served with his "pre-removal risk assessment" (PRRA) by the federal government. By initiating this process, the Canadian government is seeking to eliminate the final barrier to its efforts to deliver Ivan into the hands of the Spanish authorities.
Last month, Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) Commissioner Louis Dubé issued a deportation order against Ivan. The deportation order is based solely on unproven allegations by the Spanish police. Ivan categorically denies the allegations and has repeatedly challenged the Canadian government to provide any evidence whatsoever to support the claims. Canada has failed to do so. Moreover, the allegations appear to be based on a 'confession' obtained under torture in Spain. While Commissioner Dubé accepted that the confession may have been produced under torture, he nevertheless approved the deportation on the basis of unsupported Spanish claims that part of the allegations came from other sources. (See full decision below.) Under Canadian law, Dubé's decision means that Ivan is ineligible for refugee status in Canada.
Spain is known to use torture on Basque prisoners. Ivan himself would be at risk of torture if deported to Spain. However, it is unlikely that Canada will stop the deportation on these grounds. In a similar case in Vancouver, Immigration Canada refused the PRRA of Basque political prisoner Victor Tejedor Bilbao last month, clearing the way for his deportation. The Immigration agent in Bilbao's case agreed that torture happens in Spain, noting that "there was more than a mere possibility [Bilbao] could experience torture or cruel and unusual treatment or punishment if he returned to Spain", but concluded that Bilbao had failed to show that it was more likely than not to happen to him. What is the life of a couple of people when relations with a NATO ally are at stake?
The PRRA process was initiated despite the fact that Ivan has asked the Federal Court to review the legality of Dubé's decision. This raises fears that the government may be fast-tracking Ivan's deportation for political reasons.
Contact the People's Commission Network: QPIRG Concordia - Peoples's Commission Network c/o Concordia University 1455 de Maisonneuve Ouest Montreal, QC, H3G 1M8 firstname.lastname@example.org
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