Sunday, October 3, 2010

Justice Misplaced is Still Justice Delayed

Closure to the Copernic Tragedy Cannot Come at the Expense of an Innocent Man

In an opinion piece that appeared in The Jerusalem Post on October 1, 2010, Shimon Samuels of the Simon Wiesenthal Center remembers the tragedy of the 1980 Copernic attack and situates it within the wider context of anti-Semitism.

Mr. Samuels notes that efforts to extradite the suspect "have been met with delays". He goes on to assert that, "Closure can only come by Canada's extradition of Hassan Diab to face a French tribunal."

The extradition case of Dr. Hassan Diab has received scant press coverage outside of Canada, so readers may not be aware of developments in the nearly two years since Dr. Diab’s arrest. Mr. Samuels refers to "delays" but offers no explanation for why they have occurred. This may leave readers with the false impression that Canada's extradition process is somehow at fault, or perhaps that the defence has sought to drag out the legal process.

Nowhere is it suggested that the reliance of French investigators on secret, unsourced intelligence—inherently unreliable as courtroom evidence—may have significantly impeded the judicial process. Nor does the writer inform readers about the fiasco surrounding France's handwriting evidence, which the defence has shown to be so flawed that French authorities were compelled to withdraw it.

France waited more than five months—from December 2009 to May 2010—to submit a new expert report that supposedly amends the embarrassingly shoddy work of their previous analysts. This new submission was so poorly timed that the court was forced to push back the extradition hearing date by another five months—from June to November 2010. Thus, the slow response of French investigators to defence evidence has caused a delay of nearly one year.

Not only are these facts crucial to a clear understanding of why efforts to extradite Dr. Diab “have been met with delays”, but they also raise significant doubts about the merits of France’s case.

Mr. Samuels’ also unwittingly highlights how French theories about the case change like a chameleon each time reality does not fit the “facts”. In particular, Mr. Samuels repeats the erroneous “fact” that Hassan is Palestinian. French authorities discarded their carefully nurtured theory that the bomber was Palestinian once they learned that Hassan is not Palestinian, and news reports ceased to refer to Hassan as Palestinian from late 2008 onwards. Yet Mr. Samuels continues to rely on this long-discredited piece of information. This is a particularly noteworthy error, since it goes straight to the heart of France’s case, which is about establishing identity.

Justice delayed is indeed justice denied. But so is handing an innocent man over to foreign authorities merely on their say-so. Extradition is not a rubber-stamp process. According to the extradition treaty, France’s evidence must meet the prima facie standard of admissibility for prosecution in a Canadian court. By failing to provide evidence worthy of the name, the French authorities have committed themselves to an extradition process that respects neither the memory of the Rue Copernic victims nor the fundamental principles of justice that are supposed to protect citizens from potentially grave miscarriages of justice.

Closure cannot be truly achieved by prosecuting an innocent man.

Hassan Diab Support Committee