Ottawa responds to UN pressure about well-being of Canadian detained in Syria – National

The federal government told United Nation officials that international human rights law does not oblige Canada to actively facilitate the return of its citizens detained in the north Syria.

Ottawa says that the obligation to respect international conventions rests mainly with the foreign state detaining people instead.

Canada made its position in an August 24 response to United Nations officials, who pressed Ottawa on the case of Canada. Jack Letts.

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Letts, 26, is one of many Canadians among many foreign nationals in Syrian camps run by Kurdish forces that have recaptured war-torn areas from Islamic State. Iraq and the Levant.

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Letts was born in Oxford, England, but the British government stripped him of his citizenship three years ago.

He became a devoted Muslim, vacationing in Jordan at the age of 18, then studying in Kuwait before going to Syria, and his family says, was captured by Kurdish forces while fleeing the country with him. a group of refugees in 2017.

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John Letts and his wife, Sally, say they have seen no evidence that their son became a terrorist fighter, adding that Jack stands against ISIL and has even been put on trial for publicly condemning open this group.

“I don’t think he was one of those people who did terrible things,” John Letts told The Canadian Press last December. “I’m convinced of it.”

Canada has repeatedly said its ability to provide consular and other assistance throughout Syria is very limited due to its lack of physical presence in the country – a position where civil society voice has been denied. challenge as a weak excuse.

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Lawyers at a London-based law firm filed a complaint against the British and Canadian governments on behalf of Letts’ parents with the United Nations.

The complaint says that the UK and Canada have breached their obligations by not taking the necessary and reasonable steps to assist young people and have violated international law by withholding consular assistance. .

It also argues that the two countries have an obligation to protect vulnerable individuals living outside their territories when they are at risk of serious human rights violations or abuses, and when actions _ or from Denial of interference _ can affect human rights.

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In a June 8 message to Canada, UN officials overseeing human rights and arbitrary detention said that while they do not want to compromise the accuracy of the allegations, they have ” serious concerns” about Letts’ continued detention “and his right to life, security, and physical and mental health” due to the harsh conditions in the camps.

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United Nations officials have requested information from Canada about what they have done to ensure Letts’ health and protect his rights.

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In its response last month, Canada said that while it was unable to discuss individual cases for privacy reasons, the safety and well-being of Canadians abroad was a top and political priority. The government aims to provide consular services in a consistent, fair and non-discriminatory manner.

But they also added that Canada believes international human rights law “does not create a positive obligation on states to protect the rights of people detained in the territory of another country by foreign entities.” “.

“Such people are completely outside the territory and jurisdiction of Canada. Instead, the obligations apply to the state whose territory the detentions occurred,” the response said.

“While this does not preclude the possibility that one state may be responsible for aiding or abetting human rights abuses in another state, it does require assistance or assistance in order to facilitate those wrongdoings. That is clearly not the case here. “

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Canada added that although it has received some updates on Canadian women and children in the camps, information on men remains scant.

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The federal government says it has been able to provide some assistance, such as verifying Canadians’ whereabouts and health status, requesting available medical care and communicating Ottawa’s expectations. that Canadians are treated humanely.

“The Government of Canada has also repeatedly made general requests affecting all Canadians in detention for Kurdish officials in Syria, such as updating their current status and having access to the right of way. phone/text access to Canadians in detention.”

© 2022 Canadian Press

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