Premier Dalton McGuinty of Ontario:
Mohammad Mahjoub's Life is Now in Your Hands
Day 72 of Hunger Strike as Secret Trial Detainee Mohammad Mahjoub Grows Weak, in Constant Pain
1. Call, Email and FAX the Premier and Demand Mahjoub be Hospitalized and that someone from his government meet with him, his family, and his support committee (see numbers and sample letter below)
2. Join the Protest Monday, September 19, 12 Noon, at 25 Grosvenor Street (two blocks north of Yonge and College in downtown Toronto), at the office of Corrections Minister Monte Kwinter, then walk to Queen's Park to demand a meeting with the Premier (if you can come a few minutes before noon that would be great!)
Friday, Sept. 16 -- Secret Trial detainee Mohammad Mahjoub, held over five years without charge or bail on secret evidence neither he nor his lawyers is allowed to see, is weak, in pain, and has requested hospitalization. On his 72nd day without food, Mahjoub is reporting that any type of movement is difficult. He experiences frequent kidney pain lasting an hour or two which comes in waves, is experiencing shortness of breath, especially at night, when he has major trouble sleeping, wakes up with chest pain, and there are signs that his blood circulation is in decline. During an attempt to take a blood test on Thursday, nurses reportedly told him it was difficult to get blood out of his arm.
"I've never seen myself like this before," Mahjoub says. "The last two days it has felt like a sharp knife going through my abdomen." Mahjoub, who weighed 225 pounds before his first hunger strike in jail (he has had to undergo several of them), now weighs 140 pounds.
Although Mahjoub has had an ultrasound and X-ray in the past few days, we are concerned that at any time, he may suffer a severe drop in blood pressure and go into a coma. He is not hooked up to any medical devices monitoring his heart, respiration, or blood pressure, so the chances of him slipping into a coma without anyone noticing are in fact quite high.
"If I am in a coma who will know?" a very weak Mahjoub said from Metro West today. "If it happens at night, they won't find me till the morning. I want people to know, I have done nothing wrong, and yet they treat me this way. Where is the evidence against me? Why do they humiliate me and my wife and children?"
Mahjoub is trying to get touch visits with his children, who are only allowed to see him through thick plexiglass and speak over crackly telephones. He is also demanding medical treatment for the Hepatitis C he contracted in jail (he has been denied a much needed liver biopsy), a leg injury, and glasses for his failing eyes.
PLEASE KEEP UP THE PRESSURE: Sample letter below to McGuinty, plus an excellent letter that was delivered in Montreal on Thursday, Sept. 15
SAMPLE LETTER AND CONTACTS
Premier Dalton McGuinty
PHONE: (416) 325-1941
FAX: (416) 325-3745
Re: 72-Day Hunger strike of Mohammad Mahjoub
Dear Mr. McGuinty
I am writing to urge you to take immediate action to meet the legitimate demands of Mohammad Mahjoub, who has been detained without trial in an Ontario prison for over five years and is now on Day 72 of a hunger strike (Sept. 16) to demand minimally decent conditions of detention. His main demands include proper medical treatment for the Hepatitis C he contracted at the jail (a prescribed liver biopsy has been denied), proper medical care for as knee injury sustained at the jail, filling a long-neglected prescription for eyeglasses, and touch visits with his young children once a month.
Given that Mr. Mahjoub is not hooked up to any medical monitoring devices, there is a real danger that his blood pressure may take a sudden drop and send him into a coma without anyone knowing before it is too late. Mr. Mahjoub has requested that he be hospitalized given his extremely weak, and painful state. He also needs authorized individuals from your government to meet with him, his family, and his legal representatives to negotiate a solution to this crisis.
*******Mr. Mahjoub has requested that you or someone from your government immediately contact his authorized representative and friend, Matthew Behrens, at (416) 651-5800 or firstname.lastname@example.org, to arrange an emergency meeting to include Mona Elfouli, who is married to Mahjoub, to reach a just and humane solution.
So far, there has been no response from Monte Kwinter, whose portfolio includes responsibility for detainees in provincial detention centres, and time is running out on Mr. Mahjoub.
Although Mr. Mahjoub is a federal detainee, he is within your jurisdiction in a provincial jail, and it is therefore your responsibility to respond to this crisis.
Montreal-based medical professionals have stated, in a letter to Prime Minister Paul Martin, that Mahjoub is at imminent risk of permanent, severe impairment, and very possibly, of death.
By way of comparison: in 1981, Bobby Sands and 9 other IRA prisoners on hunger strike died after periods varying from 46 to 73 days after sustaining severe organ damage (e.g., blindness). Several survivors of the strike remained permanently handicapped. In 1996, many Kurdish hunger strikers in Turkey died after periods of 65 to 69 days.
Please intervene immediately to try to find a humane solution to this situation. You have the power, and therefore the moral responsibility, to resolve this crisis.
Surely it is not too much to ask for a monthly contact visit with two small children and for proper medical care.
As Canadians, we pride ourselves on respecting basic human rights. Please remain true to this fundamental value. Should Mohammad Mahjoub die or be permanently handicapped, it would be to our lasting shame and dishonour as Canadians and as members of the human family.
I look forward to your prompt response to my letter and to positive action to resolve this crisis.
BELOW IS AN EXCELLENT LETTER WHICH WAS DELIVERED YESTERDAY IN MONTREAL. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION WHICH YOU MAY WANT TO INCLUDE IN A LETTER IS CONTAINED BELOW.
September 15, 2005
Honourable Monte Kwinter
Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services
Government of Ontario
Honourable Anne McLellan
Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
Government of Canada
Honourable Joe Volpe
Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
Government of Canada
Re: Detention conditions of Mohammad Mahjoub
As legal and medical professionals, we are writing to urge you to take immediate action to meet the legitimate demands of Mohammad Mahjoub, detained under a security certificate, now on Day 71 of a hunger strike to demand minimally decent conditions of detention. Mr. Mahjoub was already in poor health before beginning his hunger strike, and is at imminent risk of permanent, severe impairment or death. As of today, we are informed that Mr. Mahjoub is too weak to stand up, and his eyesight is failing. He needs to be hospitalized, and also to be assured that his demands will receive serious consideration so that he will put an end to his hunger strike.
Mr. Mahjoub has been detained for over five years at the Toronto West Detention Centre, a provincial remand facility normally intended for short-term detention for those awaiting trial, serving short sentences, or awaiting transfer to a penitentiary or reformatory after trial. For over a year, he has been placed in segregation for his own protection.
Indefinite detention without charge on the basis of secret evidence flies in the face of basic principles of justice and due process. In addition, Mohammad Mahjoub and other security certificate detainees are held in conditions that are far worse than those of most convicted criminals, despite the fact that they have never been charged with any crime, much less found guilty.
Mohammad Mahjoub's main demands include proper medical treatment for hepatitis C (a prescribed liver biopsy has been denied), proper medical care for a knee injury sustained at the jail, filling a prescription for eyeglasses, and touch visits with his young children once a month.
Depriving Mohammad Mahjoub of the right to periodic contact visits with his two young children for over five years is extraordinarily punitive and a form of psychological abuse, both for Mr. Mahjoub and his loved ones. This aggravates the severe, chronic stress to which Mr. Mahjoub is subjected because he is being indefinitely detained without trial, and because he is under threat of deportation to Egypt where (according to a July 2004 assessment by Immigration Canada) he would probably "suffer ill-treatment
and human rights abuses".
We are particularly concerned about the denial of a liver biopsy,
recommended in September 2004 by a gastroenterologist, Dr. Anderson, after having examined Mr. Mahjoub. For a person diagnosed with hepatitis C (as is Mr. Mahjoub), a liver biopsy is an essential test to determine how far the disease has progressed, and therefore what treatment should be provided. Treatment for hepatitis C is only effective in about 40% of cases and has
very severe side effects, so treatment should not be undertaken unless clearly warranted. On the other hand, symptoms of liver damage due to hepatitis C may not be apparent for several years, by which time the damage can be considerable and even irreversible, often resulting in end-stage liver disease, cirrhosis and primary liver cancer. A liver biopsy is the only means to precisely establish the stage to which the hepatitis C has progressed in order to decide whether treatment should be initiated.
In a letter dated March 15, 2005, Dr. Roland Fuca of Citizenship and
Immigration Canada overruled the treating gastroenterologist's
recommendation, without having personally examined Mr. Mahjoub. Dr. Fuca writes: "It was made clear to me by CBSA that any transfer of this patient did involve considerable security risks and necessarily would result in the deployment of significant resources". Although informed that Mr Mahjoub did not wish to initiate treatment without a biopsy, he concludes that "there does not exist a medical necessity to perform a liver biopsy on Mr. Mahjoub
at this time".
Overruling the recommendation of the treating specialist without even examining the patient, largely on the grounds that the security costs during hospitalization would be too high, is very dubious in terms of professional ethics.
More fundamentally, failure to provide appropriate medical treatment to detainees (including diagnostic testing) is unconscionable. It is also contrary to domestic law and international norms. More specifically, it is contrary to the following provisions:
Ministry of Correctional Services Act (Ontario)
24 (1) Where an inmate requires medical treatment that cannot be supplied at the correctional institution, the superintendent shall arrange for the inmate to be conveyed to a hospital or other health facility.
United Nations' Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners
22 (2) Sick prisoners who require specialist treatment shall be transferred to specialized institutions or to civil hospitals. (..)
United Nations' Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment
Principle 24. (.) medical care and treatment shall be provided whenever necessary. This care and treatment shall be provided free of charge.
United Nations' Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners
9. Prisoners shall have access to the health services available in the
country without discrimination on the grounds of their legal situation.
We urge you to intervene without delay to ensure that Mohammad Mahjoub and other individuals detained under security certificates are treated in a way that fully respects their human rights and takes into consideration their status as long-term detainees, who have not been accused or convicted of any crime. More especially, we ask that you act immediately to make sure that Mohammad Mahjoub does not die or suffer permanent, irreversible damage to his health.
Janet Cleveland, Ph.D., Psychologist and Research Associate, Canada Research
Chair on International Migration Law, Université de Montréal
On behalf of:
Sharryn J. Aiken, Assistant Professor of Law, Queen's University
François Crépeau, Director of the Canada Research Chair on International
Migration Law, Université de Montréal
Amir Khadir, M.D., Infectiology-Microbiology Department, Centre hospitalier
Laurence Kirmayer, M.D., Director of the McGill Social and Transcultural
Audrey Macklin, Associate Professor of Law, University of Toronto
CC Dr. Roland Fuca, CIC
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