May 25 2011

US intervenes to block UK-to-Canada trip by ex-Gitmo prisoner

We aren’t sure how it’s been done, but the US government has somehow prevailed on Air Canada to deny boarding in London, for a flight to Toronto, to U.K. citizen Moazzam Begg.

Begg was imprisoned (and, he says, tortured) for more than three years by the U.S. at Bagram, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo, Cuba, but was released on the orders of President Bush and has never been charged with any crime in any country.  he works with Cageprisoners, “a [U.K.-based] human rights organisation that exists solely to raise awareness of the plight of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and other detainees held as part of the War on Terror.” Begg had been invited by his Edmonton-based attorney to speak at a conference on Islamophobia in Toronto, and at other events in Motreal and Edmonton.

One news report at and in the Vancouver Sun described the basis for the denial of boarding as follows:

In a statement to Postmedia News, Air Canada spokeswoman Angela Mah said only that the airline is in compliance “with the regulations of the countries in which we operate.

“This includes matters of security, details of which by their very  nature cannot be disclosed in order to ensure their effectiveness. For flights to and from the U.S., as well as flights which may overfly the U.S. due to unexpected re-routings, we are obligated by law to enforce the U.S. No Fly List.”

That’s a bizarre statement, indicative of the degree to whihc no-fly decisions have been detached from the rule of law. What law, of which country, does Air Canada claim requires them to “enforce the U.S. No-Fly List” (by which they appear to mean, “deny boarding in London”) on a flight which isn’t scheduled to overfly the U.S.?

What jurisdiction does the U.S. claim over a U.K. citizen, in the U.K., boarding a Canadian-flagged flight operated by a Canadian corporation, licensed under Canadian law and operating under the Canada-U.K. bilateral aviation treaty, and intending to fly to Canada?

This action by the U.S. is a clear infringement of Canadian and U.K. sovereignty and U.S. obligations under Article 12 of the ICCPR to respect the international freedom of movement.

This action by Air Canada — regardless of what extra-judicial, extra-territorial, unlawful instructions it may have received form the U.s. government — is a clear breach of Air Canada’s duties under its license to act as a common carrier. If it was ordered by the U.S., that U.S. order was interference in Canada-UK relations. If it was ordered by the Canadian or U.K. government, it was probably a breach of their treaty obligations regarding common carriers under the Canada-UK aviation bilateral.

We hope that Mr. Begg will make requests to Air Canada under UK data protection law and under the Canadian Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act to find out who ordered this.

Mr. Begg is not alone: We’ve reported here and here on previous incidents in which would-be travelers (Canadian and European citizens, not U.S. citizens, accused of no crime) have been denied passage on flights between Canada and Europe on secret orders from the U.S.

At latest report, Mr. Begg planned to try again next week, this time on a nonstop polar flight to Edmonton that, unlike flights to Toronto, would go nowhere near U.S. territory even if diverted form its planned route in an emergency.

[Update: Video interview with Moazzam Begg by Prism Magazine]

2 thoughts on “US intervenes to block UK-to-Canada trip by ex-Gitmo prisoner

  1. Pingback: Papers, Please! » Blog Archive » Mexico-Barcelona flight barred from overflying the U.S.

  2. Pingback: Papers, Please! » Blog Archive » US continues to banish citizens by no-fly orders

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