OTTAWA  Nov. 8, 2013 –Working with the Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ), a Tamil-Canadian torture survivor is filing a complaint with the United Nations Human Rights Committee in a bid to get Sri Lanka to address and remedy the torture and other violations of his rights. The complaint is being filed as Sri Lanka is set to host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, boycotted by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper because of Sri Lanka’s failure to ”improve human rights conditions and take steps towards reconciliation and accountability.”

What–
Special press conference with the survivor to announce the filing, discuss the case and highlight obstacles and options in pursuing justice for survivors of torture and other atrocities
Where–
Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture, 194 Jarvis Street, 2nd Floor, Toronto, ON M5B 2B7
When–
Wednesday, 13 November 2013, at 10:30 A.M.

For more information contact:

Matt Eisenbrandt

CCIJ Legal Director

+1 (604) 569-1778

meisenbrandt@ccij.ca

Nanda Na Champassak

CCIJ Communication

613-263 4206

nanda@ccij.ca

The CCIJ Toronto Working Group and Amnesty International will be co-hosting a screening of No Fire Zone, followed by a panel discussion at the Carlton Cinema, 20 Carlton Street on Sunday, November 17th at 4:30 p.m.

No Fire Zone is the definitive story of the final awful months of the 26 year-long Sri Lankan civil war told by the people who lived through it. While the world looked away around 40,000 to 70,000 civilians were massacred – mostly by Sri Lankan government shelling, though the Tamil Tigers also stand accused of war crimes.

A chilling expose of some of the worst war crimes and crimes against humanity of recent times – told through the extraordinary personal stories of a small group of characters and also through some of the most dramatic and disturbing video evidence ever recorded. Footage which documents the day to day horror of this war in a way almost never done before: footage recorded by both the victims and perpetrators on mobile phones and small cameras – viscerally powerful actuality from the battlefield, from inside the crudely dug bunkers and over-crowded makeshift hospitals.

Speakers include:

  • Craig Brannagan, a Toronto-based criminal defence lawyer, and a Member of the CCIJ Case Team that is seeking justice for a Tamil-Canadian before the UN Human Rights Committee for alleged international human rights violations that he suffered at the hands of Sri Lankan State officials.
  • Arjuna Ranawana, a Sri Lankan immigrant to Canada, who is an experienced journalist, both in Canada, and in his native Sri Lanka.  As News Manager for OMNI TV, he has succeeded in leading a diversified team of producers and directors in producing newscasts in Mandarin, Cantonese and English for a South Asian audience, especially in Alberta.  In Sri Lanka,  Arjuna had various roles, both editing newspapers and reporting for them.

This film is part of the Amnesty International Toronto Human Rights Film Festival running from November 14th to 17th. The REEL AWARENESS Film Festival showcases some of the best human rights documentaries and feature films shown around the world. This must-see collection of films is both inspirational and informative. Join Amnesty International in protecting and promoting human rights!

For more information or to purchase tickets to No Fire Zone or other REEL AWARENESS film screenings visit AITO.

York University is holding a panel discussion on this case decided by the Supreme Court of Canada. CCIJ, in partnership with the University of Toronto International Human Rights Program, intervened in the case. CCIJ and the IHRP argued that the criteria repeatedly applied by the courts and the government of Canada concerning exclusion from refugee protection was not in line with international law.  On July 19, 2013, the Supreme Court released its judgment. The Court ruled, in line with the position taken by CCIJ, the IHRP and other interveners, that the refugee determination must be made in accordance with international criminal law. For details of the case visit the CCIJ website case page.

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2013
1:30pm – 3:30pm
McLaughlin Junior Common Room (McLaughlin 014)
McLaughlin College
4700 Keele Street
Toronto, ON
M3J 1P3

The panel is hosted by McLaughlin, Master’s Office

Philippe Kirsch Institute Logo

 

 

 

 

 

This is the first CPD session offered by the Philippe Kirsch Institute, a new social enterprise offering specialized professional development of the highest calibre & value delivered by a who’s who of subject experts. This is CPD with a conscience.

November 21, 2013, 4:00pm
Osgoode Hall, 130 Queen St. W.
In partnership with the Law Society of Upper Canada

* accredited by the LSUC for 0.5 professionalism hours and 2.25 substantive hours

Delivering this session is Judge Philippe Kirsch — former judge & first president of the International Criminal Court — along with the Honourable Ian Binnie, former Puisne Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Raj Anand, Partner at WeirFoulds, and Tina Lie, Partner at Paliare Roland. A reception will follow at 7pm.

Register for this session (digital participation is also available)

To attend the reception only, please RSVP here.

Thanks to our sponsor, Eventstream.

The CCIJ Toronto Working Group and Amnesty International will be co-hosting a screening of No Fire Zone, followed by a panel discussion at the Carlton Cinema, 20 Carlton Street on Sunday, November 17th.

No Fire Zone is the definitive story of the final awful months of the 26 year-long Sri Lankan civil war told by the people who lived through it. While the world looked away around 40,000 to 70,000 civilians were massacred – mostly by Sri Lankan government shelling, though the Tamil Tigers also stand accused of war crimes.

A chilling expose of some of the worst war crimes and crimes against humanity of recent times – told through the extraordinary personal stories of a small group of characters and also through some of the most dramatic and disturbing video evidence ever recorded. Footage which documents the day to day horror of this war in a way almost never done before: footage recorded by both the victims and perpetrators on mobile phones and small cameras – viscerally powerful actuality from the battlefield, from inside the crudely dug bunkers and over-crowded makeshift hospitals.

This film is part of the Amnesty International Toronto Human Rights Film Festival running from November 14th to 17th. The REEL AWARENESS Film Festival showcases some of the best human rights documentaries and feature films shown around the world. This must-see collection of films is both inspirational and informative. Join Amnesty International in protecting and promoting human rights!

No Fire Zone

To read more about the film or to view the trailer, click here.

For more information or to purchase tickets to No Fire Zone or other REEL AWARENESS film screenings visit AITO.

International Corporate Responsibility: The Implications of Choc v. Hudbay Minerals Inc.

In July 2013, the Ontario Superior Court found that a Canadian mining company could stand trial in Ontario for the alleged human rights violations of a subsidiary operating in Guatemala. Choc v. Hudbay Minerals Inc. may have significant impact on the domestic consideration of international corporate responsibility, for both human rights and corporate lawyers, and the clients they represent.

Community of Lote Ocho

Friday, November 1, 2013 – 8:30 AM to 2:30 PM

Strathy Smith Lyons Boardroom
Gowlings Toronto Office
First Canadian Place
100 King Street West
16th Floor

Speakers

Murray Klippenstein
Klippensteins

Cory Wanless
Klippensteins

Shin Imai
Osgoode Hall Law School

Glen Jennings
Gowlings

$145 (Legal practitioners)
$95 (NGOs, academics, other professionals)
$35 (University/articling Students)

For information or questions about registration, contact info@ccij.ca or hkeachie@ccij.ca.
Register here www.ccij.ca

Eligible for 4 substantive hours

Heather Keachie, CCIJ FellowHeather is an associate lawyer in Toronto practicing corporate law with a focus on small business and not-for-profit organizations. She holds a BA (Hons) from the University of King’s College, Halifax; an MA in international relations from the Munk School, University of Toronto; and a JD/LLB from the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto. During law school Heather was an associate editor of the Journal for International Law and International Relations, and researched and wrote on numerous areas of international governance. She also received the A. Alan Borovoy Prize in Civil Liberties.

After law school, Heather clerked at the Federal Court of Appeal in Ottawa. The next year she went to teach law at the University of The Gambia, West Africa, developing curricula and helping to launch a legal aid clinic. Her courses included Public International Law, Comparative Constitutional Law, Intellectual Property Law, and Mooting and Trial Advocacy. She also coached the first ever Gambian Jessup team, and took them to the final rounds in Washington, D.C., where they were awarded Best New Team for 2012. She recently returned from a month long field research project in Niger looking at the legal protection and educational framework available to children with disabilities.

Heather has also been involved in Canadian politics and continues to volunteer with several not-for-profit organizations in Toronto and Ottawa. We are very fortunate to have her on  board.

On January 24, 2013 CCIJ hosted a screening of Granito: How to Nail a Dictator as part of its ongoing outreach and awareness initiative. This showing at Osgoode followed other successful screenings at the University of Toronto and Ryerson University.

Granito follows the contemporary search for reconciliation and justice in Guatemala through the struggle by advocates and victims to bring charges against José Efrain Rios Montt, a government and military leader from 1982-1983.

During his reign, over 200,000 deaths contributed to the labelling of this period of Guatemala’s history as one of genocide. Charges have been brought against Rios Montt for genocide and crimes against humanity. It is this saga for justice through which Granito illuminates the decades-long legal battle that finally found footing during the first genocide case launched in a Spanish court in 1999.
Granito’s director, Pamela Yates, had filmed an earlier, classic documentary When the Mountains Tremble at the height of Rios Montt’s power. As a young documentary filmmaker, she had ranged far afield to film both the indigenous Mayan Guerrilla Army of the Poor, as well as the military that would eventually commit mass atrocities during “Operation Sofia,” a scorched earth campaign to extinguish all dissent in land disputes favouring the elite.

By coming under fire alongside Guatemalan combat troops, she “earned the right” to interview progressively senior officials, including Rios Montt himself. Decades later, we join Yates reviewing the original interview footage which now provides crucial evidence in legal proceedings. Rios Montt’s statements of impunity, first made at the height of his power, now help to prove his high command had established the two-way flow of information and orders from field units and operatives that underlies command responsibility perpetrating atrocities.

Rios Montt was formally charged in Guatemala in January 2012 for genocide, and is only now awaiting trial only after 3 decades of impunity. In tracing the struggle for justice, Granito shows the challenges of costs, time and politics that have forced human rights advocates to seek redress from The Netherlands to Spain and beyond. Even when a warrant had been issued by a Spanish judge, the Guatemalan government blocked any enforcement.

Granito also shows the story of the families of the disappeared. In 2005, thousands of government records were found in an abandoned police archive. Interviews with children of the disappeared and the volunteer forensic anthropologists unearth the decades-buried mechanisms of disappearances: dictatorship-era surveillance of visits to cemeteries of family seeking loved ones, and the deliberate burial of victims without identification.

One is struck by the sheer magnitude of how disappeared segments of society affect those of us that remain. Yates finds the children of the disappeared, who even now demand the truth as young advocates. Their voices belie the simplicity of childhood hopes to someday find their parents. We meet the witnesses to mass killings, waiting for decades for Rios Montt to stand trial, smiling at the dream of achieving closure even after years of living in abject poverty. And so Yates leaves us with the meaning of her title: that each granite, or grain of sand, represents the country and people of Guatemala. Granite de arena is the phrase for healing, an understanding that change cannot come from an individual, a victim or advocate alone, but only from the collective unity of Guatemalan society.

Following the film, CCIJ hosted a panel discussion featuring Prof. Carlota McAllister of the Department of Anthropology at York University and Deputy Director the Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean (CERLAC); Caren Weisbart, who lived in Guatemala from 2001 to 2010 where she served as Director of the international human rights accompaniment project ACOGUATE, and who is presently a doctoral candidate in Environmental Studies at York University; and Omar Cano, a journalist who worked for two of the main Guatemalan newspapers Prensa Libre and Siglo Veintiuno until he was forced into exile by Guatemala’s Serrano government of the early 1990s. Cano subsequently founded the Guatemalan Canadian Association ASOGUATE, a cultural association that also supports social and educational projects in Guatemala.

The lively discussion covered various perspectives. Beginning with the calculated use of genocide to destroy hope, Professor McAllister emphasized the modern materiality of victims and families; the lived experiences of continuously exhuming and identifying bodies from mass graves or living day-to day, beside known perpetrators still escaping blame.

The discussion then posed the question of how a “wall of impunity” should be faced following mass violence. Where the very institutions of government that perpetrated the violence are now tasked with supporting reconciliation efforts, tensions between perpetrators, victims and the truth continue to be driven deeper underground. One speaker raised the point that it is not so simple a matter for a country or a people to lay down the “3 R’s” of transitional justice: reparation, responsibility and reframing without sacrificing the continuity of societal ascent. For the pre-1987 dictatorship-era cases, the Guatemalan court has already made a declaration to effectively refute all past and future proceedings, such that even IACHR jurisdiction is now in question. For the youngest generations and outsiders, this enforces the myth that all conflict has been resolved.

Finally, Mr. Cano drew on his personal experiences from working as a journalist covering the killing areas and military bases. He shared anecdotes of the pressure tactics and daily threats that coerced silence with the threat of very serious consequences.

The discussion concluded on a modern note: how modern mining projects and hydroelectric dams have elicited social movements of resistance which are being suppressed by the Guatemalan government in much the same way, and often on the same land, that dictatorship-era elites had once coveted for their plantations. The present criminalization of any resistance, the speakers warned, is much more relevant from a Canadian perspective as, quite often, Canadian mining companies have financial stakes in the outcomes.

The CCIJ Toronto Working Group would like to thank the panelists; the Nathanson Centre on Transnational Human Rights, Crime and Security at Osgoode Hall Law School and the Centre for Research on Latin American and the Caribbean (CERLAC) at York University for hosting the screening; and the CCIJ volunteers who organized the event and helped to make the evening a success.

By Eric Cheng, with notes from Eden Tefferi

We will be holding the next meeting of the Toronto Working Group at Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture, 194 Jarvis Street, 2nd Floor (just south of Dundas) from 6 – 8 pm this coming Tuesday, February 12th.

We will be discussing CCIJ TWG plans for 2013. All working group members or interested partners are welcome. If you cannot attend the meeting and have any suggestions for undertakings in 2013, please email us at toronto@ccij.ca.

Hope to see you Tuesday!

Joanne Preece
Operational Manager
Toronto Working Group