The Sri Lankan media has maliciously tried to use this judgement to present a distorted picture.

Here is the full text of the judgement


Mr. Justice Teitlebaum of the Federal Court (Trial Division) in Canada, rendered judgement, on 29 August 1997, against Manickavasagam Suresh, a Tamil activist and coordinator of the World Tamil Movement.  

Manickavasagam Suresh has been detained at the Don Jail in Toronto since October 18, 1995. 

In 1995 the Solicitor General of Canada and the Minister of Citizenship & Immigration issued a 'security certificate' against Suresh. In this 1997 ruling, the court indicated that, on the basis of evidence, which it heard in camera, and also in public, that there were "reasonable" grounds to believe that the Minister acted "reasonably" in issuing the certificate. 

In upholding the certificate, the Court made it clear that it was not deciding if the allegations against Suresh and the LTTE are true. This is because the Judge only had to determine that the Minister acted reasonably, a standard which is lower than the criminal standard of ‘proof beyond a reasonable doubt,’ and even the civil standard of ‘balance of probabilities’.  

Indeed, the secret process and the low legal standards resemble the Star Chamber of ancient England. In fact, given the political nature of the case, this also smacks of McCarthyism, which was practiced in the US in the fifties.  

The process and the law under which Suresh has been prosecuted have been criticized by international and Canadian human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, the American Association of Jurists, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, and the Canadian Council for Refugees. 

Ironically, the Minister of Immigration Sergio Marchi, who signed the certificate against Suresh, was one of the strongest opponents of the law, as an opposition party critic, when it was brought before Parliament for passage. 

The Court will issue full reasons at a later date.  

To the extent that the Court provided an explanation for its decision, it indicated, in the best tradition of the Federal Court of Canada, that it could not define ‘terrorism’ and it did not see the need to give meaning to this term, because people ‘know what it is when they see it’! 

The Court did not rule that fundraising and propaganda for the LTTE constitutes terrorism. 

The Court indicated that there was overwhelming evidence that the Tamils of Sri Lanka face discrimination, and that in some instances, this could be characterized as persecution. The judge observed that the Tamils were struggling for a homeland, but decided, that as a judge in a Canadian court, it was not his function to comment on political matters. He believed that such matters were to be determined by the people of Sri Lanka with the help of international organizations, like the United Nations, and other countries of goodwill. 

The Court refused to entertain any challenge to the constitutional validity of the legislation it applied, so that its decision has been made without consideration as to whether the provisions of the Immigration Act infringe Suresh’s right to due process, and freedom of expression and association. 

The sections of the Immigration Act used by the government to detain Suresh permit the Ministers and the Court to determine if a person is removable from Canada on the basis of association with an organization which is engaged in violence. This is so, regardless of whether the person concerned has him/herself engaged in violence or would be likely to, and regardless of the nature of the conflict in which the organization is involved. 

Suresh’s case highlights the serious human rights abuses inherent in the security certificate process. These include: 

bulletDetaining a person for an extended indefinite time without meaningful access to court to review the need to detain.
bulletSanctioning detention and deportation of a person whose only ‘offense’ has been to exercise, in an entirely lawful manner, his/her constitutional right to engage in political expression and association.
bulletFailing to provide a fair and meaningful opportunity for a person to know the case against him/her and in this case on all grounds, including a challenge to the constitutionality of the provisions of the Immigration Act.

Suresh has been adopted as a political prisoner and a prisoner of conscience by the Association of American Jurists.  

Amnesty International has expressed its concern over his detention and has indicated that if his detention continues, it would consider him to be a political prisoner.  

Suresh remains detained and faces deportation from Canada.  

Canadian Tamil associations have indicated that legal steps will be taken, including a constitutional challenge and asking the Court to protect Suresh from deportation, to ensure that his human rights are protected, and to recognize the legitimacy of the cause of the Tamil struggle for self determination.